Public Transit is a Critical Part of the Climate Solution
September 26, TRU was proud to go to the Capital as part of the Climate Rally for for our Future: Day of Action with more than 300 public health, environmental, youth, and justice advocates and activists from across the state.
While the primary focus was on energy policy solutions to the climate crisis, Megan was invited to speak on the steps of the Capital about how transit is also a vital aspect of the climate solution. Throughout the day, our team talked with more than thirty legislators and their staff, sharing information and calling on legislators to take concrete action to advance transit as a climate solution. TRU’s policy recommendations follow, or it can be downloaded as the Climate Day Handout.
For Michiganders to drive less, less, policy makers need to provide convenient, attractive public transit.
Michigan leaders must take bold action to provide the sustainable, attractive public transportation we need.
INVEST IN GREAT TRANSIT
As President Biden says, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.” Michigan leaders say they value equitable, affordable climate solutions. Yet investment in transit has been flat for decades.
Michigan should invest $1 billion a year in transit, rail, and safe walking and biking. That’s roughly double what’s spent now, but still just 15% of MDOT’s total budget.
Restore state investment in Local Bus Operating back to 50% of local operating costs – or about $360 million a year. This will enable the state’s 77 transit agencies to provide the consistent, reliable transit Michiganders need.
Make transformational investments in rapid transit and rail to seize upon the enormous potential for corridors including Woodward, Washtenaw, and Michigan Ave to become even more vibrant, walkable, and attractive magnets where people want to live, work, and play. And upgrade Michigan’s existing rail infrastructure to conveniently link passengers among Michigan’s cities and towns.
SUPPORT CITIES AND METRO REGIONS
Many Michigan cities and metro regions want to invest in great transit but are held back by the state. Lawmakers need to change state laws to enable local communities to make the investments that are right for them.
Amend RTA to allow more flexibility. The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan was created by state law and needs amending to allow fewer than four counties to invest together and to allow counties with countywide transit to focus on urbanized areas in future RTA funding measures
MODERNIZE MDOT PRIORITIES
A modern Department of Transportation does much more than fill potholes and build roundabouts; MDOT should provide an affordable, equitable, climate-friendly transportation system that works for all Michiganders.
Direct and fund MDOT’s Office of Passenger Transportation to measure Michiganders’ access to public transit, then to explicitly work to support transit expansion throughout Michigan, implementing the MI Healthy Climate Plan commitment to “increase access to clean transportation – including public transit – by 15% a year.”
Prioritize people over pavement. Given our stagnant population, MDOT must stop widening roadways, even for so-called “flex lanes.” Instead, regulate roads to prioritize the safety of people who walk, bike, and use wheelchairs, not the convenience of car drivers. And appoint MDOT and Transportation Commission
leaders with substantial multimodal experience.
These investments and policy changes can put Michigan on track to provide all Michiganders the affordable, accessible transportation choices we all deserve, while finally making Michigan transportation part of the climate solution.