‘No more exclusions’: Chakusola Guinn

Chakusola Guinn is an Oakland County resident with something to say. Chakusola has been riding DDOT & SMART buses since 2004, and unfortunately has not always had the smoothest experiences. Chakusola lives in Royal Oak, finding SMART routes and the DDOT Woodward bus constraining. She is fed up with the gaps in Oakland service, and is ready to have her voice heard. 

Chakusola (far right), with OCHN staff & TRU intern Andre

            Despite almost exclusively riding the bus for years, the limited service in Oakland County is still a present challenge for Chakusola. “Riding is restrictive. You always feel like you are on a curfew, and there are things you end up not being able to participate in”, Chakusola explained. She is an active community advocate, and is disappointed she is unable to attend City Council meetings, simply because she cannot get there.

            “All the areas where I go, they stop at a certain time….I know people who have lost their jobs due to the bus schedule”. 

            Chakusola currently serves on the Community Advisory Committee at Oakland Community Health Network (OCHN). She is both a service beneficiary, and an active board advisor.  To make OCHN meetings, Chakusola luckily catches rides from partner non-profit Freedom Road. Still, her riding the bus for other life commitments can be difficult. For example, If Chakusola sees a specialist at DMC, her return trip is over 4 hours. 

Smarty the Beta Fish

            “It can be depressing, realizing you need a car around here”, Chakusola expresses. While posing unique challenges, not all of Chakusola’s transit perceptions are negative. “People on the bus are kinder”, she claims. “We have our own little concentrated nomadic community….where you don’t feel so isolated on the bus. Riding has expanded my worldview”. 

            Chakusola has made good friends on the bus too, humans and animals alike. A few years ago, Chakusola would regularly stop by and visit Smarty the Beta Fish, an office pet owned by a SMART employee at the Royal Oak Transit Center. Although he has since past, Chakusola remembers Smarty well. “He was the best; I would always say hi to him and his owner”. 

            Like so many others, Chakusola sees the gaps in Detroit transit, and is ready to advocate in 2020. “It has to be a community effort”, she stresses. “We must tell our politicians, no more exclusions!”. With grassroots efforts, hopefully there will be future transit expansions in Oakland County, and Chakusola can more easily get where she needs to go.