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Transportation - Motor City Freedom Riders

The Motor City Freedom Riders is an organization of metro Detroit bus riders and allies, working together across the region to build a movement for better public transit service to achieve transportation freedom.

 

Motor City Freedom Riders is an organization of bus riders and allies working to promote better public transportation throughout Southeast Michigan. We organize around the principle that transportation is freedom, and that lack of transit infrastructure remains a barrier to achieving racial and economic justice. As an organization our primary goals are to improve DDOT bus service in the city of Detroit, expanding the reach of SMART in the Suburbs, and support the efforts of the Regional Transit Authority to fund and coordinate our existing transit providers across Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CARE ABOUT TRANSPORTATION IN SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN? 

Transit is an important issue because it has significant impacts on sustainability, public health, social justice, and economic development, which in turn have a major bearing on our quality of life. These issues are generally growing areas of concern among young people and so having access to a strong multimodal transportation network is becoming a priority in many cities.

IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THE REGION FACES IN TRANSPORTATION? 

The bottom line is that in this region we do not fund transit adequately, in fact our region funds transit at one of the lowest levels of any city our size in the nation. What this means is that besides major corridors like Woodward and Gratiot, many bus routes only run hourly, and don’t run at night or on weekends. While the city of Detroit operates DDOT, some suburban communities opt out of the suburban bus system SMART and have no service at all, and transferring between the city in the suburban agencies is difficult. Improving investment in these systems and coordinating their services through the Regional Transit Authority would have the biggest impact on our transit.

IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITY THE REGION FACES IN TRANSPORTATION? 

In 2016, the region voted on a Regional Transit Authority tax that failed by a very slim margin, just 1% across the 4 county area. The plan would have doubled the region’s funding in transit, and sustained the implementation of a regional transit plan over a 20 year period, including the coordination of the city and suburban transit providers. While regional leadership failed to come together around a proposal in 2018 I think we need to push forward for transit progress in 2020. Passing an RTA millage would help coordinate the DDOT and SMART increase their overall level of funding so that they could make existing services significantly more efficient and timely, while expanding into parts of the region that opt out of transit or aren’t served due to budgetary limitations.

HOW DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION ADDRESS THESE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES?

Our organizations works to address these challenges through grassroots bus rider organizing. We leverage our power as a collective of individuals and constituents to push leadership to support our cause and bring attention to the issues around transit.

Share any specific ways people can get engaged in your organization to address issues in Transportation:

  1. Sign up to become a member and receive regular updates – membership is the cost of bus fare!
  2. Donate – we have one part time organizer on staff and donations help us sustain our work!
  3. Participate in our transit organizing training to learn about the politics of transit, developing strategic campaigns, and building power for transit riders.
  4. Ride the bus to understand how the system works and what it would take for the system to serve your community well.
  5. Call your county commissioner and county executive’s office to support expanded transit – county level government has power over SMART and RTA.
  6. Attend RTA, SMART board meetings – public comments are a good way to voice your opinion directly to leadership.
  7. Attend monthly DDOT community meetings to voice your concerns and get updates from DDOT.

For more information, visit motorcityfreedomriders.org 

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