On track 

News Hits can’t tell you how pleased we are that grassroots groups and business backers have finally come together to campaign for a regional transportation system. Last week, about 35 folks from more than a half-dozen transit organizations gathered to hear Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Richard Blouse describe the dire need for a public transportation system that “seamlessly connects” Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties. Blouse, who spoke at Transportation Riders United’s (TRU) annual meeting in Detroit, said that the chamber (which has 13,000 members) has tried for several years to get political leaders from Detroit and the tri-counties to merge their transportation systems. Last summer, said Blouse, the politicos finally agreed to embrace the chamber’s transit plan. But Blouse hasn’t heard word one from them since.

“I told them if I didn’t hear back from them, I was going to go to the grass roots,” he said. “So here we are.”

Blouse laid out the chamber’s transit vision which includes three components: flexible neighborhood-based service to local stores, churches and other community facilities; regional service between counties; and a rapid transit system that stretches along high-traffic corridors. For more information, visit the Chamber’s Web site at www.detroitchamber.com.

“It can’t be just for the transit dependent. It has to be there for everyone,” said Blouse.

The business community favors a system that ensures workers can get to jobs and the community for efficient commerce, he said.

“The bottom line is that we need a world-class transit system. It is the missing link to our future growth,” said Blouse, who stressed the need for public support.

“I think you are a lot closer to success than you know,” said Ferndale City Manager Tom Barwin, who recently helped pass a resolution supporting a regional transit system. Barwin told the group that every week several Ferndale residents tell him that metro Detroit needs good mass transit.

Funding the plan is the tricky part. Blouse said that he is currently working with state legislators on finding a funding source. He also suggested a ballot initiative and assured that one could be ready by the next election.

As Blouse pointed out, Detroit is alone among major metropolitan areas without an integrated mass transit system. It’s time for metro Detroit — which spends only $20 per person on transportation compared to about $100 per person in other major urban areas — to get on board. For more information on how you can help join the campaign for regional transit, call TRU President Karen Kendrick-Hands at 313-885-7588 or Claudia Berry at the Detroit Regional Chamber at 313-596-0329.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or cguyette@metrotimes.com

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