Mass Transit

As our roads become more congested, a common criticism is that instead of widening roads, we should be increasing public transportation services. This seems to be a popular solution to some who are looking for ways to get those "other guys" off the road.

Traditional Mass Transit


Traditional public transportation, found in more densely populated urban areas such as New York City or even parts of Detroit, may not provide an immediate solution for our road congestion problems in Oakland County. Due to the diverse commuting patterns resulting from the various work sites in Oakland County, commuter rail lines would probably not be able to serve enough trips to justify the cost of running them in most parts of the county.

How do we know this? Past surveys of employees at major work sites in Oakland County have identified those neighbors who work near where you work. How many people might catch the same bus as you, and how close would a normal bus stop be to all of your homes? What incentive would there be for you and your neighbors to walk that distance, wait for a bus, and wait while riding it for the bus to pick up other riders along the way?

Other Options


There are, however, less conventional forms of public transportation that are more convenient, more flexible, and thereby may be a more viable partial solution to our congestion problems. Those alternatives are sometimes referred to as paratransit, and include such things as carpools, vanpools, dial-a-ride, subscription bus services, taxis, jitneys, etc.

Carpools


Obviously some people are already involved in such things as carpools and vanpools. Note the park and ride lots at the I-75 interchanges.

The regional planning agency, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), offers a service to employers in Southeast Michigan. SEMCOG staff will survey employees at larger work sites to see who would be interested in participating in carpooling or vanpooling.

The addresses of the interested individuals are then matched by computer, and those people living close to each other or on a common route to work are put in touch with each other. If there are enough people in one area to support a van, arrangements are made for leasing a van with the cost being shared by the riders. One of the employees volunteers to be the driver in return for reduced cost or personal use of the van.

Paratransit


Dial-a-ride service is provided in Oakland County, principally for the elderly and handicapped. A paid driver is provided and riders call in, sometimes a day or more in advance, to receive the service.

Subscription bus service is similar to dial-a-ride. Commuters sign up to be picked up at or near their home every morning and delivered to a specific destination. A return service is provided at a given time in the afternoon. The driver and vehicle may then be used for dial-a-ride type services during mid-day.

Can more be done with all these various forms of paratransit, and could it help with our congestion problems? Yes, a lot more could be done, and it could help (although not solve) our traffic problems.

Funding


Higher fuel prices are an obvious incentive. If employers were to start charging for parking spaces, that would help also.

Unfortunately, many of those individuals who voice their support for these more unconventional services assume that all those "other" people clogging up the roadways will use them, but they will not have to.

Providing services for the "other guy" seldom works. Many of us today enjoy the privacy and relative convenience of our own cars. What would it take for YOU to give up that privacy and convenience?