Attempts to map out mass transit throughout the metro Detroit area seems to be losing momentum and changing direction especially since last month Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Gov. Rick Snyder and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood agreed to scrap the $528 million M1 Rail project — a proposed light-rail system along Woodward from downtown Detroit to the city limits at Eight Mile Road — in favor of a regional rapid-transit bus system.
Yet to determine the need for mass transit, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) conducted a recent mass transit survey last year.
“The survey information is important because it gives basic information of what systems are being used and rider specifics,” said SEMCOG Director of Transportation Programs Carmine Palombo. “When devising any transit system, the data provides much more updated information as well as information to transit operators and SEMCOG to help us do our planning work.”
Survey results reinforce the need for transit systems in the region. The systems surveyed included: Detroit Department of Transportation, Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, University of Michigan Transit Service, Detroit People Mover, Blue Water Area Transit and Lake Erie Transit.
The questionnaires rounded up information about passenger demographics and trip details. The key preliminary findings found that over 222,000 boardings occurred on the region’s bus system each day and about half of transit usage occurred on 10 percent of the system.
Of the 14,000 active bus stops surveyed, 800 of them (or 6 percent) served 50 percent of daily regional ridership. The vast majority of transit trips (85 percent) either began or ended at home and 54 percent of the trips were work or university related.
About 84 percent of respondents walked to or from the bus stop, while 75 percent of the transit riders were frequent riders (between 3 and 7 days per week). Fifty-two percent of riders reported that they required no transfer to complete their trips, while 36 percent required one transfer.
According to the survey, more young people used transit. More than one-third of the riders were between 18-years-old and 25-years-old.
Moreover, 90 percent of the riders did not receive any fare subsidy. Fares from 8.2 percent of riders were fully paid by employers, while 1.9 percent of riders received partial financial assistance.
Of those surveyed, 20 percent were unemployed. Forty-six percent of riders did not have a valid driver license and nearly 52 percent of riders did not have access to any vehicle. Moreover, 86 percent of riders were from households with annual income less than $50,000 and 40 percent were from households with less than $10,000 income.
It was also found that nearly 40 percent of those surveyed would like service to be more frequent. One-third expressed they would like extended service hours, whether that was an earlier starting time for service or a later end.
“We are waiting like everyone else to see what happens next with mass transit,” Palombo said. “LaHood is coming back into town in a few weeks and we’ll get more information at that time.”