A diverse group of community advocates are calling on voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township to vote YES on transit in the August 2 election. Good bus and transit service is a 21st century solution that promotes justice, affordability, labor, and the environment. But it needs investment to work well. The local transit agency, The Ride, has put forward an ambitious transit expansion proposal to do just that, and it deserves voter support.
Good transit promotes justice and equity.
Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Washtenaw County are politically and socially progressive communities that claim strongly held values of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. But life in the county doesn’t always live up to those ideals. In fact, a Martin Prosperity Institute study found that Washtenaw County is the eighth most economically segregated community in the United States.
There are pockets of poverty throughout Washtenaw County, but the county’s neighborhoods with the greatest economic burden are all located in the City of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. Many residents of those neighborhoods rely on transit service to get to work, to stores, to school, and wherever they need or want to go.
“We have to show that we are serious about our values of justice and equity,” said Desirae Simmons of ICPJ, “it takes a collective investment in transit infrastructure for us to move closer to a time when anyone can get from one point to another without a personal vehicle and without having to spend so much extra time to do so.”
Good transit helps build a community that supports working people.
Better transit service can help make all three communities impacted by this change more inclusive and more affordable for working people. Transportation is the second largest household expense in the U.S. after housing – more expensive than food or health care. Many county residents have jobs that cannot be performed remotely, so must have reliable transportation to and from work.
“In addition to the positive impacts this measure will have on working families generally, The Ride’s drivers are union members and The Ride has consistently employed union labor for infrastructure upgrades, said Huron Valley Area Labor Federation President Ian Robinson. “So supporting this measure will mean more union jobs and a stronger labor movement in our region.”
Good transit helps build a more inclusive and affordable community.
Housing and transportation costs are often the two highest expenses for any household’s budget. In addition to the high cost of housing, car dependence also makes our region less affordable, but a good transit system connects working people and families with the jobs and services they need.
New affordable housing developments planned in downtown Ann Arbor and Depot Town in Ypsilanti, as well as housing along future transit corridor zoning districts, will likely mean more residents relying more often on public transit. For that to work, buses need to run more frequent and extended services than they do now – including in the evenings and on weekends.
“The Washtenaw Housing Alliance supports this millage, the long-desired investments it proposes, and the transformation it can have in connecting housing access and economic opportunity for so many in our county,” said Amanda Carlisle, Director of WHA.
Good transit is a great climate solution.
When buses run frequently enough, car owners start to rely less and less on their own personal vehicles. A good bus system gets some people out of their cars, reducing carbon emissions. A recent comprehensive literature review of studies on what works to get people out of their cars found that one of the most effective strategies is to provide good transit service. On average, a trip by bus reduces carbon emissions by approximately 45% compared to that same trip by car.
“Better transit service is a critical piece of the global clean energy transition, and it’s a key component of the climate plans in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti,” said Mike Garfield, Director of the Ecology Center. “The Ride is also planning to convert their entire bus fleet to zero-emission vehicles by 2038, which means they would have to start the transition within the time frame of this millage.”
Vote YES for the August 2 Transit Proposal
The Ride’s plan would create an Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti express bus route, decreasing travel time by 30%, and serving as a precursor to a future Bus Rapid Transit service. The plan would increase the frequency of service; expand overnight service in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township; provide in-person customer service at the Ypsilanti Transit Center; provide longer hours of service on weekends and weeknights; and provide capital for future improvements like bus rapid transit, zero emission vehicles, terminals, and more.
The Ride’s long-term plan can be read here, and the agency’s description of the ballot proposal is here.
Southeast Michigan was built around cars and trucks, and public transit has mostly been an afterthought. It isn’t easy to buck a century of southeast Michigan car culture, but Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township can start to do it now. Vote YES for transit on August 2.
For more information about the campaign to pass the ballot proposal, or to get involved, please visit MovingUsForwardTogether.com.