By Thomas Yazbeck and Corey Rowe
Reliable public transportation options are an indispensable tool for combating climate change. In Metro Detroit, and by extension Oakland County, public transit suffers from a lack of funding compared to similar metro regions across the country. Despite this, the past decade has seen major improvements to transit in Metro Detroit.
These improvements are indeed cause for celebration, but more work has to be done to make our transportation systems efficient and sustainable. In much of Oakland County, there are no public transportation services at all, even in certain large, affluent cities. Rochester Hills, a large bedroom community north of Detroit, is one such “transit desert” where getting around without a car is virtually impossible.
In an age characterized by urban planners abandoning suburban sprawl and embracing environmentally sustainable, walkable and transit-oriented development, the situation in Rochester Hills feels anachronistic. For decades, Rochester Hills and the city of Rochester have opted out of SMART and only offered a limited paratransit service for senior citizens and individuals with qualifying disabilities. Reports of bus riders from other communities forced to walk several miles to work in Rochester Hills have so far failed to sway city leadership in favor of SMART.
The SMART millage is renewed every four years, giving transportation advocates an opportunity to push for municipal opt-ins during the 2022 election. This past summer, Rochester Riders was created with the goal of giving Rochester and Rochester Hills residents the chance to vote on opting into SMART. The organization hopes to inspire others in Southeast Michigan to pursue their own SMART opt-in campaigns. Over the course of this year, Rochester Riders will work to organize public support for transit and recruit volunteers to make a SMART ballot measure a reality in 2022.
**The Oakland County Climate Campaign is a coalition which encourages views from a variety of sources for its blog. The thoughts reflected in these posts do not necessarily reflect the views of any of the particular member organizations of the Oakland County Climate, its affiliates, or other participating groups.**