In the first half of the 20th century, Detroit was one of the foremost hubs of industry and engineering in the United States. For decades, the Motor City manufactured millions of automobiles for drivers all over the world. Then, the energy crisis of the 1970s forced American automakers to scale back their operations, and the city fell on hard times. Since then, Detroit has struggled to curb an economic collapse that left the city in bankruptcy in 2013.
City planners in Detroit have long identified a slow, fragmented public transit system as one of the chief obstacles to the city’s economic renewal. In 2012, the Michigan State Legislature approved the creation of a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to bridge the gap between Detroit’s two independent transit services – the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART). Now, four years later, the RTA has unveiled its plan to overhaul Detroit’s transit system to make it faster, more accessible and commuter-friendly.
The RTA’s plan focuses primarily on revamping Detroit’s bus service. New cross-county routes will be implemented to connect separate SMART and DDOT routes, eliminating the need for riders to transfer between lines and wait for multiple buses. In addition, commuter express routes will run during rush hour between the city’s most populous areas and the places with the most employers. Finally, the RTA plans to construct dedicated lanes for a bus rapid transit service to quickly move people around the city and surrounding suburbs.
The RTA is expected to ask voters to approve a $1.2 million tax levy to fund the project later this year. Many of Detroit’s residents hope that fixing the broken transit system will be a significant step forward in the city’s recovery.