On November 3rd, voters in Scio Township overwhelmingly approved a new 10-year millage to expand transit services. Under the leadership of the Ecology Center and Partners for Transit the millage passed with 68% support, with all precincts voting in favor.
The millage will fund transit services that are a part of The Ride’s Five-Year Transit Improvement Program (5YTIP) and will include three new routes serving businesses and residential areas in Scio Twp. The new routes will serve Jackson Avenue-Zeeb Rd., Scio Ridge, and Scio Ridge-Liberty and will be ramped up over a three-year period. New services will also include expanded Dial-A-Ride services for seniors and people with disabilities.
“This was truly a grassroots effort from the beginning,” said Martha Valadez, Transit Organizer for the Ecology Center. “Over a year ago, we connected with a small group of committed citizens and formed the Partners for Transit Scio Township transit team. We began organizing in the community to demand transit services to improve the lives of Scio residents. We attended meetings of the Board of Trustees and made it clear that transit was a service that the community needed, convincing the Trustees to ultimately put the millage on the ballot.”
Partners for Transit built a strong and diverse coalition of Scio residents, business, labor, senior citizen and disability advocacy groups to educate voters about the importance of transit to the community. The Scio Twp. transit tram worked diligently, making phone calls, knocking on doors and making appeals to neighborhood associations and community leaders.
“Public transit is vital to building strong communities,” said Valadez. “Transit allows people to get to jobs, cultural and educational activities. It allows senior citizens and those with disabilities to maintain their independence. It strengthens our economy and provides a lifeline to our most vulnerable citizens.”
The passage of the Scio Township millage follows on the heels of the May 2014 millage increase passed by voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Twp., to fund transit expansions in the three communities, including expanded routes and extended hours. That effort, also led by the Ecology Center and Partners for Transit, passed overwhelmingly in all three jurisdictions.
“More and more communities around the country are making investments in public transit,” said Alexis Blizman, policy director at the Ecology Center, “it create jobs and builds economic vitality, reduces our carbon footprint, and improves our quality of life.” Research has shown that public transportation provides economic opportunities and drives community growth and revitalization. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), every $1 invested in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns. Research also points to the growing demand for public transportation. Demographic shifts, including millennials, who are choosing not to drive and are expressing a desire for alternative transportation options, Baby Boomers’ returning to urban areas, and a an aging population that is increasingly dependent on transit have established consistent travel behaviors that led to the highest public transportation ridership since 1956.
Next year, the Regional Transit Authority will likely give voters the opportunity to expand public transit throughout the SE Michigan region, which includes Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, along with the city of Detroit. “Expanded transit is vital to our region,” said Blizman “We need to attract talent and create jobs, but we also need to make sure that all of our citizens have access to those jobs, as well as access to all of the services they need. Residents of Scio Township will now have improved access to the benefits of public transportation service, and the people of our region deserve no less.“