Reliable transit critical to fight unemployment

Lorna Utley

People cannot get to work without reliable transportation.

At Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, we have one driving focus: We put people with employment challenges to work. We have been a leader in southeast Michigan’s fight against unemployment for more than 95 years. In the four-county southeast Michigan region — Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne — that means fighting against a disjointed, disconnected regional public transit network.

Currently, 92 percent of jobs in southeast Michigan cannot be reached in an hour on regional public transit. That means that without access to a car and the ability to pay to maintain it, people in southeast Michigan have no reliable way to get to work.

The problem gets even worse if you live in one county and work in another — as many people in southeast Michigan do. The current system’s limited effective cross-county transit routes make it nearly impossible to reliably travel across county lines, whether you’re trying to get to a job, the doctor or the airport. A lack of county connections severely limits opportunities for people based on where they live in the region.

This makes it incredibly hard for individuals in difficult situations to get a job and provide for their family, simply because they cannot check a box that says, “I have reliable transportation.”

Opportunity is abundant in southeast Michigan’s four counties, yet too many people are still unemployed, while open jobs remain unfilled. There are people ready to fill these jobs — if we can connect them. Far too many job centers and communities are underserved, or have no public transit service, thanks to southeast Michigan’s disjointed regional transit network.

This is a problem that has hurt southeast Michigan for much too long. Connecting our communities will benefit everyone — whether you ride the bus daily or not. Business owners, employees, seniors and people with disabilities all would be better off with reliable transit service.

The RTA of Southeast Michigan’s Regional Master Transit Plan is the solution to southeast Michigan’s transit woes. By connecting the four counties with seamless service, residents will be able to take advantage of all the opportunities throughout our region.

The plan will connect nearly 2 million existing jobs, as well as 23 colleges, 310 schools, 22 hospitals, more than 100 grocery stores, more than 410 parks and 47 libraries.

We must unify Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties to connect people to jobs, increase economic development, enable independence for seniors and people with disabilities, and improve the overall quality of life in southeast Michigan.

Lorna Utley is president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit.

Learn more about how connected regional public transit will benefit you, your family and your community by visiting RTAMichigan.org/masterplan