Letter: Uber can’t replace public transit

Re: Daniel Howes’ Sept. 30 column “Could ride-sharing be Detroit’s transit future?”: Extolling the virtues of ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber took an interesting twist, proposing that ride-sharing services could and should replace public transportation.

That’s unfortunate, because public transit is the ultimate ride-sharing service — done to move large numbers of people to and from work, school, doctors’ appointments and much more — all with maximum efficiency.

In fact, “transit is the backbone of urban mobility,” according to Emily Castor, the director of transportation for Lyft, one of the best-known ride-sharing services in the country. A recent study by the American Public Transportation Association also revealed that “the more people use shared services like Lyft and Uber, the more likely they will use public transportation.”

Ride-sharing and a reliable regional public transit system that connects communities in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties — as proposed by the Regional Transit Authority — will enhance and complement each other’s services and values. They are not — and should never even be considered — mutually exclusive.

The bottom line in our region is this: 92 percent of the jobs in southeast Michigan require more than an hour’s commute. The regional transit proposal on the ballot in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties next month dramatically strengthens the frequency, reliability and connections between our communities. In addition to Bus Rapid Transit, extensive cross-county connectors and more frequent and streamlined service, the plan also calls for a significant increase in specialized transportation services for those who can’t drive – people with disabilities and seniors who no longer feel comfortable driving. Reliable regional transportation will help these seniors and people with disabilities maintain their independence while still getting to the doctor, running errands or visiting family.

Let’s remember that voting yes for regional transit on Nov. 8 will ensure we connect southeast Michigan with the ultimate reliable and frequent ride-sharing: regional public transportation.

Paul Hillegonds, chair of Board of Directors

Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Mich.