Transit Tuesday Talk 2023 Series

Throughout 2023, TRU hosted a series of Transit Tuesday Talks bringing transit leaders, riders, advocates, and allies together to explore important transit issues facing the Detroit region.

Future Events:

Transit Tuesday Talks will be on hiatus in December and January as TRU hosts our Holiday Party and our big State of Transit annual meeting on January 30.

Our Transit Tuesday Talks in 2024 will be partnerships focused on the many ways transit benefits and intersects with so many other aspects of our lives. These may include:

  • The needs of our allies with disabilities for great transit;
  • Transit’s role in poverty alleviation;
  • How transit impacts health care and public health;
  • The role of transit in economic and workforce development;
  • and much more.

What topics would you like to hear more about? Send your ideas to Deb @!

Past events:

November 14: State Policy Solutions

On Tuesday, November 14, we hosted a virtual event focused on state transit policy solutions to transit troubles, featuring:

  • Michigan’s Chief Infrastructure Officer Zach Kolodin on the Governor’s efforts to maximize federal funding, including for rail and transit
  • Michigan House Transportation Appropriations Chairman Ranjeev Puri on incorporating transit into state budget priorities
  • Joshua Winslow, staff for State Representative Jason Morgan on their bill to boost local bus operating funds

A significant amount of the funding for transit and rules surrounding transit come from State of Michigan decisions. The current Michigan legislature has been incredibly productive in many areas, but less so transit. This events explored TRU’s new Transit Action Agenda for Michigan and ways state leaders seek to start making Michigan into a leader on transit, rail, and more.

Read a recap of the event, watch the video, or review the Twitter thread.

October 24: Regional Transit Planning

  • What plans exist for improving the region’s transit?
  • Who makes these plans?
  • And how can you get involved in shaping them?

In October, we met up in Dearborn and online and heard from leaders of RTA, SEMCOG, and SMART about their regional transit-related planning efforts.

Read our summary of the event or watch the full video.

September: Rural Community Transit

There are transit needs and transit providers in every corner of our region. We talked in June about the most urban of transit areas. In September we talked rural transit.

We heard directly from the agencies providing for the mobility needs of seniors and our neighbors with disabilities in rural areas of our region, exploring how they’re addressing expanding needs of our aging population and how the Oakland County transit millage is supporting that service expansion.

Presenters included:

  • Eli Cooper, Oakland County’s Transit Manager
  • Julia Roberts, current Planning & Innovation Director with RTA and former Executive Director of Western-Washtenaw Area Value Express (WAVE)
  • Lynn Gromaski, Executive Director of North Oakland Transit Authority

August: Your Turn!

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Ferndale Project for an in-person discussion about the transit topics on your mind.

About 20 people met up at Ferndale Project’s fabulous outdoor patio on Tuesday, August 15 and shared transit thoughts, ideas, challenges, and concerns.

Special thanks to Ferndale Project for hosting us and donating beer to help TRU raise money to fund the event!

July 18Active Transportation & Safe Streets!

Nearly every transit trip starts or ends with a walk or bike ride, modes which are also critical parts of a safe, reliable, and effective mobility network. So July 18, the Transit Tuesday Talk series focused on active mobility and safe streets with special guests:

  • Ferndale Mayor Melanie Piana, talking about their transformation of Woodward;
  • Adriel Thornton, Executive Director of metro Detroit’s bike share MoGo Detroit;
  • Todd Scott, Director of the Detroit Greenways Alliance.

Where: The Detroit Main Library

June 20Downtown Mobility & Parking

With so many big events happening in downtown Detroit, July was a great time to check in with downtown transit providers QLINE and Detroit People Mover, both of whom are making numerous changes to better serve their riders and the downtown community.

And since 1/3 of downtown is covered by parking, yet people continue to whine about finding parking, we were also pleased to be joined by a leader of Detroiters for Parking Reform!

A big thanks to our speakers:

  • Lisa Nuskowski, President of M-1 Rail, which runs the QLINE
    • Been doing a lot to improve reliability of service, now running every 15 minutes 72% of the time (?)
    • Instituted the first dedicated transit lane, which has been very successful and may be expanded
    • Instituted traffic signal prioritization which has trimmed 10% off their trip time without harming other traffic
    • Recent rider survey should a great diversity in the race, income, residency of riders as well as their trip purpose and other transit ridership
  • Robert Cramer, Detroit People Mover General Manager, shared:
    • Will have all stations back open as of June 26, when Times Square will re-open
    • Focused on clean, bright, welcoming stations with better street signage and wayfinding information
    • Ridership is around 40% of pre-pandemic
    • Working with RTA to move the D2A2 stop to their Grand Circus Park station
    • Exploring ways to combine fares with DART but costs for tech overhaul remain prohibitive
  • Francis Grunow, Detroiters for Parking Reform shared
    • There is no constitutional right to free parking, despite how some people act
    • An obsession with providing parking has gutted much of what made downtown great, eliminating some 40% of downtown buildings
    • Irrational parking requirements should be eliminated
    • Parking should be priced appropriately so there are always spots available and the revenue provides neighborhood benefits
    • Over-parking is a symptom of insufficient transit, density, and walkability

Review the slides for the QLINE presentation (coming soon) and the rest of the presentation, including these parking reform images:

May: Oakland County Expansion

In May, we met up in Pontiac for an update on SMART’s expansion throughout more of Oakland County in partnership with Oakland Forward!

  • Where: At the Baldwin Center, 212 Baldwin Street in Pontiac
  • When: Tuesday, May 23, 6:00pm
    • Networking reception starts at 5:45pm (for in-person attendees)
    • Program starts at 6:15pm
  • Hosted by
    • Transportation Riders United
    • Oakland Forward
      • Pontiac Councilman Mikel Goodman, also of Oakland Forward, says transit “is a very important critical thing to many of us, especially living in Pontiac.”
  • Speakers Include
    • Dave Woodward, Oakland County Commission Chair
      • “2023 is going to be the year in which we move the conversation about whether a specific community has access to transit, to how we make transit better for everyone.”
      • There’s gonna be sidewalks in Bloomfield Hills on Woodward. It’s a public right of way
      • The regional opportunity to–no pun intended–hit the accelerator on improving public transit in this region is real,
    • Bernard Parker, SMART Vice President of External Affairs
      • Parker’s kids’ generation don’t think cars are cool. It’s a generational shift
    • Eli Cooper, Oakland County’s first Transit Manager
      • Eli Cooper talks about how eager he is to get to work on transit expansion in Oakland County.
      • Let him know where you want to see service! He emphasizes we should share his email:
      • They’re looking at bus stops. No one likes standing next to a stick in the mud and getting their feet wet at the bus stop.

We took rider and other audience comments and questions as well:

A regular rider said: “I have seen multiple people lose their jobs in real time because SMART can’t put a FAST bus on Woodward.” SMART pays drivers $19/hr while Ann Arbor pays about $30. SMART drivers “have been off contract for six months.”

April 18 – Transit as Climate Solution

Around Earth Day, TRU and allies discussed how public transportation can be a critical part of the solution to the climate crisis with policy actions by state and local leaders.

Because two of the biggest decisions you can make to reduce your carbon footprint: choosing where you live, and how you get around. Transportation is the biggest source of carbon emissions in the US! We need cleaner, greener transit options

Special thanks to our speakers:

  • Gregg May, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin
    • Shared the need for walking, biking and transit to make our cities more efficient & less carbon-intensive.
      • 21% of vehicle trips are less than 1 mile – a comfortable walking distance for many people
      • 24% of vehicle trips are between 1-3 miles – an easy bike trip
    • A study of Midwestern climate plans & transportation plans found that cities framing the conversation around reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled made the most progress
      • The best plans name specific goals, have time-bound targets, integrate climate & equity considerations, and “talk to each other” with the same consistent goals across all plans.
  • Charles Griffith, Ecology Center
    • Served as co-chair of the workgroup providing transportation recommendations to the MI Healthy Climate plan – which includes increasing access to public transit by 15% a year
    • Electrification has to come along with a reduction of VMT and mode shifting to transit & active mobility.
    • Electric vehicles are part of the climate solution, since they’re more efficient at converting stored energy into motion. Michigan is already moving away from fossil fuels, and EVs will become cleaner as the fossil fuel grid is replaced by cleaner energies.
  • Paul Jones III, UM Planning Masters program and TRU Board
    • Presented a UM Masters report – “Evaluating Funding for Public Transit to Advance Michigan’s Climate Goals”
    • State laws limit transit funding,
      • State trunkline funds can’t be spent on anything transit or multimodal-related in Michigan.
      • Local funding in MI is limited since we can’t raise local sales taxes – other cities and states have an easier time funding transit
    • Transportation policy and funding decisions of the past do not need to define Michigan’s future! Recommend:
      • Restore and expand state investment in transit
      • Modernize MDOT’s org structure and decision-making
      • Make way for great transit in Michigan cities

March: DDOT

On March 28, we went to Detroit’s Eastside Community Network to focus on DDOT, with special guest Mikel Oglesby, Detroit Director of Transit. He provided extensive, detailed updates and took questions on:

  • The DDOT Reimagined planning process,
  • The driver shortage / bus no-show crisis,
  • Bringing more of paratransit in-house,
  • Electric buses, and
  • How DDOT fares in the City budget.

Check out the presentation slides for more details

First Transit Tuesday Talk – February 21 – on Transit Funding

This first event was Tuesday February 21 from 6-7pm on Zoom focused on transit budgets, including

  • What it takes to get buses and drivers providing riders to tens of thousands of riders each day,
  • How Detroit, the region, and the State of Michigan have funded transit over time,
  • What we can learn from how other metro regions fund their transit,
  • What it will take to provide sufficient stable funding for the transit our communities need,
  • And what YOU can do to join the fight for the transit funding we need!

Review the Transit Funding slides here