Just try it out
The bus has always been on Paul Jones IIIs’ mind, even when he wasn’t riding Paul grew up on Detroit’s Northwest side, yet the bus was not a part of Paul’s lifestyle growing up. “My dad rode in the 70’s & 80’s…but [growing up] during pre-bankruptcy Detroit, getting on the bus was not likely to happen,” Paul explains. He was unfamiliar and hesitant, yet Paul still decided to try riding the bus around Wayne State campus one day.
Paul claims just “trying it out” was all it took to become a semi-routine rider.
“When I moved to Midtown, there was a lifestyle adjustment. I couldn’t get around. So I became more familiar with the different transit options. I found out about the free bus passes Wayne State gives out and started riding”.
Paul’s first ride helped deconstruct his preconceived notions and utilize public transportation during his first years at college.
Look at the bigger picture
Beyond a new way to get around, riding the bus has become a critical issue for Paul. An urban planner by trade, Paul is concerned with equitable design in city planning. Currently beginning a Master’s in Urban Regional Planning at the University of Michigan, Paul concludes that Detroit transit infrastructure needs simultaneous protection and improvement.
“Transit never feels like its prioritized in Detroit. The [political] agenda is written by the auto industry… working towards autonomous vehicles”.
To achieve equitable mobility, Paul thinks advocates must “look at transit within the bigger picture. All things need to work efficiently in a transit system.” And to Paul, the intersection between race and transit equity is a highly visible part of the picture.
“With transit in Detroit, you have a first-person view for how race impacts decision-making power and development investment.” For Paul, adding racial dynamics to transit conversations illustrates “where dollars go” for developers and City officials. “Finding the place transit has in the broader mobility conversation is our biggest hurdle”.
Paul also serves as an Innovation Analyst for the City of Detroit’s Department of Innovation & Technology. In this position, Paul utilizes “innovative research practices and human-centered design” to ensure city services are reaching constituents. “Most recently, I have been investigating Detroit families access to quality after school programming, making sure the city does a better job of providing such services,” he describes.
What does TRU mean to you?
Despite being new to TRU’s Board of Directors, Paul has already been a deeply insightful presence. With his sharp questions and calm demeanor, Paul brings a strong sense of advocacy to TRU.
“I got involved with TRU because TRU is a community of people who want “this thing” [transit], that works so well in other places, in Detroit” he says. “Being on the board is an opportunity to have meaningful discussion towards that goal”.
Meeting and collaborating with other, perhaps experienced transit advocates has also been a board highlight. “It is reassuring to know people have been doing this work as long as they have. Its’ important to learn from them”. The board welcomes Paul’s enthusiasm and likewise looks forward to also learning from his advocacy experiences.