“What’s in it for us?”
That’s the question some Macomb County residents are asking about the new plan for regional transit in the metro area. Some of our elected officials in Lansing are asking it, too.
It’s a fair question, and one I think I can give a good answer for. As a Macomb County Commissioner and sales executive for a leading local landscaping company, I know a thing or two about the dynamics of growth in the region— all the way down to the grass roots. As a resident of Shelby Township, I represent one of the region’s fastest-growing communities, and I’ve spent some time considering what residents and businesses are looking for.
So what does transit offer Macomb? It is simple: business, jobs, and prosperity for the long term.
Done right, modern rapid transit acts like fertilizer for communities. Places that have it get higher property values and the biggest share of new growth. You don’t need to go to the coasts to see that, or even to Chicago. Just visit Cleveland and look at the construction happening along their new bus rapid transit line: $3 billion over the past four years. Gratiot and M-59 could get the same “shot in the arm” if we follow their example.
Like with most good investments, it takes time to cash-in on all those benefits. Rome wasn’t built in a day — neither was Warren, Sterling, or Shelby. But even in the short term, there are plenty of reasons Macomb could use transit.
For one thing, we have a growing population of senior citizens. Most of them worked long and hard to own their own homes. They should be able to keep them without getting stranded. Next to family support, the best way to ensure this is safe, reliable transportation.
Then there’s the issue of gasoline. Do you know what it will cost next year? I don’t, but I’m betting it will be more. The less money Macomb families have to spend on fuel, the more money stays here in the county, and out of the hands of foreign oil cartels.
There will always be some who disagree. But if they tell you people don’t need to get around the region, or won’t take transit, or won’t pay for it, tell them to take a look at the facts. According to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, more than 150,000 Macomb residents commute to work in Wayne and Oakland. Nearly 5,000 people already ride the Gratiot SMART bus every day. And nearly three-fourths of Macomb voters supported the last SMART millage proposal.
That’s why the Macomb County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to support regional transit. We want a more prosperous county where more people want to put down roots. The best way to do that is to prepare the ground for growth. For Macomb’s sake, we hope our legislators in Lansing will listen to local voices and give transit the green light.
Macomb County Commissioner, Co-chair of the Economic Development Committee