According to an analysis by the Brookings Institution, nearly 40 million working-age people live in metropolitan areas in the United States that lack public transportation. Detroit and its surrounding area are no exception. The lack of public transportation has made it difficult for people without cars to travel throughout the city. Detroit is also inaccessible for individuals who live in communities bordering Detroit. The federal government is stepping in to help Michigan’s dire transportation system problem. According to the Detroit News, it’s likely that $25 million will be awarded to Detroit’s light-rail streetcar project. This funding will help Michigan’s public transportation system immensely and make traveling to Detroit a more attractive option.
The light-rail streetcar project is expected to cost $500 million and will travel up Woodward to 8 Mile Road every 7.5 minutes during peak travel hours. The car called M-1, hopes to connect to a four-line regional rapid bus system that will tie Detroit to surrounding counties.
Less than 10 percent of Detroit residents use the citywide transportation system. The current bus system has been cited as being slow and unreliable. This light-rail streetcar will make it more convenient and efficient for residents to travel to and from work. A more reliable system will also make Detroit more attractive to people looking for jobs in the downtown area with urban amenities.
In recent years, state and local leaders have discussed various methods to improve the transportation system in the city, but plans have been tabled. Three years ago U.S. officials agreed to fund M-1, yet Detroit is just receiving the funding now. Though this funding is a nice gesture, it’s not sufficient to overhaul Detroit’s transportation system. While this demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to improving Detroit and the entire state of Michigan, leaders at all levels must act in a more timely manner. A feasible transportation plan that can be implemented quickly is crucial to Detroit’s economic recovery.
This funding is the first step to connecting southeastern Michigan. However, for this transit system to be totally effective it needs to be more encompassing so that every county has access to Detroit. Implementing this transit system throughout Michigan will encourage citizens to work, visit and live in the downtown Detroit area. Increasing access to Detroit will also encourage new businesses and their future employees to live and spend time there, helping the city’s suffering economy. But this will only be possible if the public transit system is extended.
It’s clear that Michigan is in a state of transition. A large part of the success of this transition will involve connecting Detroit to the rest of the state. The light-rail streetcar project is one method of making this a reality, though more effort and money is needed to make public transportation a useful service to Detroit and Michigan residents.