Transit Task Force rolls out survey

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published February 27, 2018

File photo

ROYAL OAK — Despite a failed regional transit proposal, a Royal Oak task force is pressing on to address what it views as transportation system gaps.

The Transit Task Force recently launched a survey to glean public input in order to steer its focus. The group wants to know what residents would want if the city had a local bus system.

The survey is available online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/rotransitsurvey_cg. To find out where to obtain print copies, call (248) 246-3201.

In January 2017, the City Commission identified developing a public transportation plan as a goal for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Marie Donigan, former state representative and former city commissioner, chairs the task force.

She said Royal Oak voters approved the regional transit proposal in 2016. However, voters in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Washtenaw counties defeated the proposal to allow the Regional Transit Authority to levy 1.2 mills to fund mass transit.

The 12-square-mile city of Royal Oak currently partners with the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation and also offers its own senior bus transportation system, but Donigan said she thinks the city can do better.

“We want to figure out if we should stop talking about it or if we should keep talking about it,” she said.

The survey also asks about parents’ interest in using a possible local bus system to send students to school. The district nixed school buses after not enough students rode them to justify the half-million-dollar price tag, Donigan said.

“We want to know what the interest is,” she said. “We’re not inventing a new program or new government agency. We’d be working through SMART and the programs we already have to see how we can provide better service.”

One option the task force might consider is a ride-sharing model of transportation similar to those used by Uber or Lyft, she said.

Donigan said she expected the survey-taking window to last a couple of weeks. After that, she said, the task force intended to host at least one open house for the public and, ultimately, make a recommendation to the City Commission about what to do moving forward.

City Manager Donald Johnson said the survey is part of preliminary planning and that the future of a local bus system remains unclear.

“There’s a lot of things we just don’t know,” he said. “To me, I think we need the better regional transit to make the local make sense.”

Both Donigan and Johnson said the dial-to-ride format of the senior transportation has drawbacks, as users have to make an appointment in advance. They also highlighted thatwhile the SMART bus system is a viable option, getting to and from the pickup and drop-off locations is problematic for some users.

“We need a way to get people to their homes,” Johnson said. “(We also don’t) have a bus you can count on being on a certain corner at a certain time.”

For more information about the Transit Task Force, visit www.romi.gov/1275/Transit-Task-Force.