Detroit's Plan to Revitalize Public Transit

Proposals include more crosswalks in high-crash areas and upgrades to the city's bus fleet.

Proposals include more crosswalks in high-crash areas and upgrades to the city's bus fleet. Shutterstock

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The strategic plan proposes 82 steps to be completed in a five-year time period.

The city of Detroit will rehab 300 miles of streets, install 50 new bus shelters and expand protected bicycle lanes as part of a wide-ranging transportation improvement plan unveiled last week.

The Strategic Plan for Transportation, developed in conjunction with Bloomberg Associates and former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, outlines 82 steps to improve public transit in the city over the next five years.

Clustered under a handful of larger goals—among them public safety, economic opportunity and city vibrancy—each step aims to increase ridership throughout the city's public transportation system, helping to connect residents to jobs and to continue revitalization efforts across the city.

“With city services returning to levels Detroiters expect and deserve, we’ve turned our attention to leading an equitable revitalization of our neighborhoods. This includes creating and preserving affordable housing, revitalizing neighborhood commercial corridors, building and improving our parks, and ensuring that every Detroiter has access to jobs and job training through the Detroit at Work program,” the report says. “The crucial thread that ties all of these efforts together is our transportation system. We must give people more transportation choices so they can access all of the new jobs and amenities growing across the city.”

The plan aims to rectify Detroit's much-publicized transportation woes, which have been blamed for stalling progress in the city. The strong car culture there has hindered progress and kept the public transportation system from expanding in a cohesive way, making it difficult for residents to rely on transit to get from place to place. The system's problems reportedly led Amazon to overlook the city as a possible location for its second headquarters, Wayne State University's The South End reported earlier this year.

Some initiatives, including the installation of speed bumps in residential neighborhoods and updates to the city’s bus fleet, are already underway. Others, such as increasing the number of places where residents can buy transit passes and drawing new crosswalks in areas with high crash rates and high pedestrian traffic, will be implemented over time using one- and four-year benchmarks.

Other proposals include tackling the astronomically high cost of car insurance in the city by working with the state legislature, planting 10,000 trees and expanding a free-ride pilot program to transport pregnant women to pre- and postnatal doctors’ appointments.

Virtually all of the suggested improvements will require new partnerships between different levels of government as well as new funding sources.

“We will need to strengthen our partnerships with the state and region, identify new funding and spend it wisely, and rethink how we deliver transportation projects,” the report says. “We also must break down traditional silos that exist in government and work collaboratively across departments to move our culture to a place where our customers come first and we adopt the best practices of other cities.”

The plan comes in the wake of several other transit improvements, including an expansion of the city’s bike-share program and the announcement of a permanent Lyft hub in the city.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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