Macomb County voters have the opportunity to reaffirm their support for SMART, the county’s transit provider. Public transit grabbed the headlines at a time of rising gas prices and inflation. The need for alternative transportation is greater than ever. SMART meets this need. Let’s keep rolling.
When I moved to Michigan to work for General Motors, I didn’t own a car. I started taking the SMART bus to the GM Technical Center in Warren. But I never rode alone. A community gathered at bus stops on Van Dyke Avenue and Twelve Mile Road. When I missed my stop at home, the driver let me off as soon as it was safe and gave me specific instructions on how to walk back.
A few riders were engineers like me. But most wore the uniforms of janitors, food service workers and other blue-collar jobs. They are the ones who ensured the operation of the Tech Center and propelled the economic engine of the region. They cannot do their work from home.
It’s no surprise, then, that GM CEO Mary Barra and former Ford CEO Jim Hackett were among the local business leaders who issued a letter calling for transit improvements from our region. Despite popular perceptions, the auto industry has always supported public transit for one simple reason: it connects people to jobs. When companies struggle to attract workers with reliable transportation, SMART helps them make recruitment easier.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, every dollar invested in public transit produces five dollars in economic growth. Macomb County residents, even if they don’t use public transit, continue to benefit from their investment in SMART.
As an automotive engineer, riding the bus meant more than saving money. It was a chance to start my career, to be proud of my work and to feel welcome in a new community. Eventually, my first paycheck became a down payment on a car.
But not everyone at the bus stop had that option. For people who cannot afford or cannot drive a car, SMART enables them to fully participate in the community. It’s the difference between contributing to our economy or fighting in the shadows.
In addition to its regular bus routes, SMART also provides essential transportation for seniors and people with disabilities through its small Connector buses and community partnership programs. For these residents, and for Macomb County as a whole, SMART is a vital lifeline.
SMART continues to expand its services and adopt new technologies. Its ridesharing app Flex has been a hit, especially near Hall Road. Flex offers on-demand rides for two to eight dollars per ride, a bargain over the $20 or more charged by Uber.
SMART’s Community Partnership Program enables cities and townships to manage special services that work best for their residents. For example, Richmond-Lenox EMS, a partnership of several northern communities, offers rides to and from the metropolitan airport – a valuable amenity for any city.
By staying in SMART, Macomb County can meet its mobility needs in innovative and flexible ways.
Although I now own a car, I continue to use the bus occasionally. Sometimes I want to avoid high gas prices or downtown Detroit parking fees. Recently my car needed repairs after a minor collision. So I took the Gratiot FAST bus, an express route from Chesterfield Township to Detroit. The bus arrived on time and the driver was courteous and professional. Even on weekends there was standing room only.
I was so happy that me and the rest of my community had this option. Let’s keep it and improve it.
Macomb County needs public transit. Working families, seniors, people with disabilities and businesses depend on it. Throwing away our investment in SMART would ruin thousands of lives and businesses. To keep Macomb County a growing and thriving community, vote YES on SMART mileage this year.
Calley Wang is a mobility technologist with General Motors in Warren and a transit advocate with Motor City Freedom Riders.