Pre-Proposal

PRE-PROPOSAL

1. Media Artifact

Link to media artifact(s) giving background on the issue. Please list the title of the artifact(s) and then make the title(s) a link to the page in the MSC site where the artifact has been posted. You may include media artifacts made by other MSC members, if relevant, even if they are not authors of this proposal.

 

2. Persona and POV statement

Persona: 

Persona name: Jim Storm
Age: 53 
School/occupation: Unemployed 
Location: Detroit, Michigan 
 
Quote“I had to wait an hour for one yesterday!”
 
About:
  • Does not own a car and therefore relies on walking to public transportation stops 
  • He worries that he may not be able to afford a car and cannot rely on public transportation
  • Used to take the DDOT bus to work and service times were unreliable and would constantly show up late 
Goals:
  • Able to travel wherever he needs to in Detroit without owning a car 
  • Wants a reliable bus station implemented in Detroit without having to wait for hours 
  • Wants to be able to have a jobs in the suburbs or parts of the city that were previously out-of-reach more plausible for those who don't have a car

 

POV Statement:

  • User : Jim Storm 
  • Need: Needs transportation to commute 
  • Insight : 53-year-old man with not enough disposable income to buy a car, leaving him with no guaranteed method of transportation to work, causing him to be unemployed 
 

 

3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: Detroit should take a look at what Portland has done and mirror their solution. In Portland, the key to making public transportation attractive to users is that it’s practicable, affordable for riders and was well integrated into the city. The most utilized form of transportation is the MAX,  a privately owned light-rail system. With over 97 stations in Portland, the practicality of the MAX cannot be understated. Even though I lived 30 miles away from the city, a station was just a mile away from me and could take me straight to downtown all for the price of $1.25. Instead of driving to work, my parents simply took the MAX. The Max was able to solve the main issues that Portland citizens had, something the Michigan state government needs to take note of. 

SOLUTION 2: With the Connect Southeast Michigan narrowly defeated in 2016, the solution is already in place. One of the most pressing arguments among individuals was that public transportation would hike up taxes too much, especially for individuals who wouldn't be utilizing it. Rather than driving up taxes, the state department should allocate a slight percentage of the money used to rebuild roads for public transportation. As there'll be fewer cars on the road due to this, the roads won't face as much stress as they once did, so they won't need as much funding. 

SOLUTION 3: Finally, Michigan should look to completely expand its transit network so it connects Southeastern and Southwestern Michigan. With at first testing a pilot system to asses the demand of such a situation, this issue will become a state issue as it will connect two of the biggest cities in Michigan, Grand Rapids and Detroit, to each other. Since it will cover such a large distance, a rail cannot be used, but rather a sprawling bus network will be needed. 

 

BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS

Context

Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal: Act 387 of 2012 

"AN ACT to provide for certain regional transit authorities; to provide regional public transportation; to prescribe certain powers and duties of a regional transit authority and of certain state agencies and officials; to authorize the levy of an assessment and to provide for the issuance of bonds and notes; to collect certain taxes; to make appropriations; to provide for the pledge of assessment revenues and other funds for bond and note payments; and to repeal acts and parts of acts."

This act led to the development of the Regional Transit Authority of Michigan which was created in 2012 to coordinate public transportation efforts and fund county-wide projects among Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland, and Macomb county, which makes up metro-Detroit. This act has given the RTA the means to create a public transit system, but it can only done so with public approval. 

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:  Whether some individuals are too old, too young, physically on financially unable, public transit is the only way for them to travel within Michigan. Currently, there are many cities within metro-Detroit that are simply untraversable with the current public transportation. With such little funding currently allocated to public transit, lives for those who rely on public transportation has become increasingly difficult. According to governing.com, through census data they found that 25.3% of households don't own a car. For these individuals, public transit is fundamental to their daily life. With a shifting trend among the youth that they aren't as likely to own a car, it makes sense to invest in a comprehensive public transit system in metro-Detroit. The ripples of such a system won't just aid students in Michigan, but even employers, as this will lead to workers having a reliable alternative to reaching work. This will primarily aid those living in Wayne County who are of lower socioeconomic status, but the beauty behind public transportation is that it is open to all. Ideally, with ongoing traffic issues within metro-Detroit, we would see public transit being adopted by individuals who have the means to drive but are searching for a more functional approach to reach work, leading to reduced emissions. 

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal? Born and raised in Portland, Oregon for the first ten years of my life, there were many aspects of my life that I missed once I moved to Troy, Michigan. From a winning basketball team to accessibility and public transportation, these were just a few areas that metro - Detroit was lacking compared to my hometown. If I wanted to go downtown to watch the Pistons play and I didn’t have my car, the only feasible alternative was to call an Uber instead. That's when I started questioning how life was for those who didn't have a car. My high school was open to all districts and even though it was based in Troy, many of my peers would come from the city. Transportation was a major issue for them, as there was no public transit available from Detroit to Troy. Seeing their struggles made me question why such a large metropolitan area such as Detroit did not have a functioning system in place when many cities with lower population had so. 

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

For my service activity, I volunteered at Books for a Benefit. Reading has always been a passion of mine and I've always love to share it with others. On Sundays, we would volunteer at the Glacier Hills Senior Community Living Center and read to the various seniors. Visiting a retirement home was very saddening, as these seniors were subject to the same daily routine and didn't seem to have much going on. While conversing with some of the seniors that I was reading to, I found out that some of them choose to come to Glacier Hills after they were physically unable to drive. Completing daily activities was too much of a challenge and the fact that they couldn't be dependent on the public transportation system meant that they no longer had the ability to take care of themselves without being able to drive. My service activity presented to me how important having a car is in Michigan. For those who don't have a car, completing even the most basic tasks become a challenge. 

Consultations

Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1:  One of the biggest advocates of public transportation in metro-Detroit is the Transportation Riders United. I had the opportunity to speak to an individual on the team, and they spoke to me about how close the 2016 plan was to getting passed. She told me that it wasn't that the plan wasn't feasible, but rather it was internal politics that kept the bill from getting added as a proposal to be voted on. Public transportation has emerged as a partisan issue, which Republicans typically seeing it a waste of scarce resources and a costly expense, while Democrats wanting to increase taxes to create the infrastructure. Within the metro-area, Macomb and Oakland were heavily against such a bill from being passed. One of the main reasons why is that residents felt that they would be paying for a service that they themselves wouldn't be using, but rather those in Wayne County would be the primary beneficiaries. There has been a lot of miseducation spread amongst residents about this bill and it has influenced people's opinions about public transportation. After hearing her mention that the funding was only coming from a few counties, I asked why her why this wasn't a statewide issue since this service would be encompassing multiple counties. She told about the Regional Transit Authority that was established in 2012, and they were given the autonomy to raise taxes to create a wide-spreading public transportation network. While the state pledged 25% to any proposal they raised, it would be up to citizens of these counties to pay for the rest. Finally, I talked to her about the failures of the QLine in Detroit and what an effective model would like. Ideally, it would be a multifaceted approach of both high-speed buses and a rail system that would be the most effective in Detroit due to its lower urban density. 

CONSULTATION 2: I talked to my high school teacher who resides in Ferndale, Michigan and didn't have a reliable means of transportation for a short period of time. He attempted to take several buses to reach our high school, but the public system wasn't reliable at all. Some days the bus would show up 15 minutes before it's scheduled time and other days, it would pull up 30 minutes late. This inconsistency was infuriating to my teacher and he quickly switched back to driving to school. While mentioning this story to me, he was concerned about the general population within Michigan that didn't have access to a car and how they were able to reach to and from work on time. 

CONSULTATION 3: While attempting to find sources to formulate a plan about public transit across Michigan, I came across an article written by Wendell Cox from the Mackinaw Center of Public Policy, criticizing the need for public transit in Michigan. I was interested in learning what caused him to be so against public transportation in Michigan, so I contacted his consulting agency Demographia to learn more. What he said really changed my perspective on how I should analyze what it means to have effective public transportation. He told me that I should focus in on what percentage of people use public transportation as a means to get to and from work and how low that percentage is in Detroit. Additionally, he stated that since Michigan's population density is much lower than other large urban centers, it doesn't make sense to invest so much money into a system that wouldn't be accessible to the majority. His viewpoint exposed me to the counter-arguments I would face while proposing this bill. 

 

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

Cassie's posts on Physical Infrastructure aided me in focusing on the scope of my project on what benefits of public transport I should hone in on. The benefits of public transport cover a wide range of sectors - from simply a practicality aspect, improving inequality, or even limiting carbon emissions. Cassie's posts highlighted the recently approved state budget plan that would allocate over $400 million to improving roads. One of the reasons why roads have deteriorated so much is that they simply are overused, as there is no alternative to driving in Michigan. Improving these roads is only a short-term issue. With Michigan's horrid winters coupled with the vast traffic on highways, it makes sense why these roads are in such bad shape. Through Cassie's post, I realized that I should focus on the crumbling roads and inequality present inherently in Michigan rather than possible environmental effects. While not to diminish the value public transportation could bring to limiting carbon emissions, I believe that if I have a bill that's grounded in the value it could bring to individual citizens than it would appeal more to them than rather a bill centered on environmental effects. 

Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

My research process revolved around analyzing inefficiencies around me and understanding what legislation was being passed to solve these issues in my community. Traveling in Portland, Oregon last year, I found how practical and affordable transportation was there and was wondering whether Michigan had plans to create a sprawling public transportation network to connect various cities. In doing so, I found that Michigan had a bill called the Connect Southeast Michigan Transit plan, which proposed creating a rail line between Ann Arbor and Detroit. However, this bill was narrowly shut down. While attempting to find what factors of the bill caused it not to pass, I found out that public transportation was usually a partisan issue, with your stance dependent on your party lines. One of the main pieces that helped me understand why was actually Hasan Minhaj's Netflix show titled "Why Your Public Transportation Sucks" and it focused on how the billionaire Koch brothers spent their vast fortune creating a nation-wide smear campaign to shut down public transit because their money was tied to the automobile industry. Digging into the Connect Southeast Michigan plan, I found that the basis of the plan was something I agreed with, but its presentation to the public is what caused issues, as it alienated residents from certain counties.  

 

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

While my classmates provided an opportunity to bounce ideas and fine what topics interested me the most, I worked on this project by myself and take responsibility for all that has been created. 

 

FORMAL PROPOSAL

The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS... 66,000 households in Detroit lack a car and don't have access to a mode of transportation 

WHEREAS.... Detroit's per capita transit investment in metro areas of a population greater than one million in comparison to other cities across the US is the third-lowest out of 41 cities 

WHEREAS.... the average annual auto insurance premium across the country is $1,427, but drivers in Michigan pay $2,610 on average, while Detroit motorists pay $5,414 on average. 

WHEREAS... poor transit access is linked to unemployment, low income, and low economic mobility

WHEREAS... areas such as Rochester, Novi, Plymouth and Livonia are currently unserved despite their net population totaling over 200,000

WHEREAS... the QLine is recovering less than 10 percent of its expenses from fares and has failed to address the lack of access between the suburbs and Detroit

WHEREAS... Only 3 percent of residents have easy access to a bus that runs every 15 minutes or less.

WHEREAS... Every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates more than 50,000 jobs.

(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1. While the failed 2016 plan called Connect Southeast Michigan narrowly failed to be voted on by the public, one of its core proponents was to create a rail system between Ann Arbor and Detroit. While Oakland County has the most amount of commuters to Detroit with just over half a million, Ann Arbor could serve as a pilot program with the already existing infrastructure in place to limit the cost among taxpayers. Up until 1984, Amtrack used to operate a rail service from Detroit to Ann Arbor. Similar to the Max system in Portland, after the system has gained traction with riders, it can be expanded to incorporate other areas. 

2.  With Detroit so spread out, to complement the rail, increased bus service should be used, as there are currently many gaps in our system. One of the biggest complaints about the QLine, which operates as a streetcar in downtown Detroit is the speed. To tackle this issue, some cities have been pushing for dedicated lanes solely to buses to increase speeds. Alongside more frequent service, this would greatly increase the number of riders utilizing public transportation. 

3. While this solution is much more innovative, a pilot program could be launched to test autonomous shuttles as a means of transportation. Instead of using buses, these shuttles could be incorporated within Detroit and serve as essentially an Uber for its riders. By enabling riders to dictate where they want to go, it will increase access to the number of jobs they can reach, and directly take riders from Point A to Point B. 

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. Why will residents who don't utilize shuttle feel the need to fund a public resource they won't use?

2. How will the implementation of a vast public transportation network within Detroit impact a city built off the car industry, and will it lower sales?

3. How can we ensure that a public transportation system will serve its purpose even though Detroit's urban density is much lower than other large metropolitan areas that have successfully implemented public transportation?

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from? Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

Funding will need to raised to create such a large infrastructure. Because of the establishment of Regional Transit Authority, the majority of the funding will have to be raised from taxpayers in these areas. With my consultation with a member of the Transportation Riders United, I found that the state's budget will cover up to 25% of the costs. To reduce the cost and ensure that this increase in public transportation will be operational in the long-run, the Regional Transit Authority should look into a public-private partnership with companies that are willing to invest in this model. In Portland, this model was used and it has achieved great success, as both institutions kept each other in check, so they were operating efficiently and even constructed the rail below the given budget. Analyzing companies that endorsed the 2016 Connect Southeast Michigan Plan, the Regional Transit Authority should approach companies such as Ford, GM, Blue Cross Blue Shield, DMC and DTE Energy, who were proponents of the plan to unite and establish a partnership. Additionally, 49.5% of residents voted in 2016 that they were willing to incur a slight tax for a robust public transportation system to be developed, so by increasing property taxes, this could provide the funding needed to develop the system. 

References: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_Pm_XBsrP_Ydp8HlkmnnnanelzaVSSmG/view

https://www.detroittransit.org

http://www.rtamichigan.org/wp-content/uploads/FISCAL-YEAR-2020-Budget-Narrative-8.19.19.Public.pdf

https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2019/06/17/proposed-michigan-house-budget-slashes-public-transit

https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2018/02/28/study-finds-detroit-drivers-pay-nations-highest-auto-insurance-premiums

https://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20111214/FREE/111219951/from-light-rail-to-rapid-buses-regional-leaders-try-to-catch-up-to-a

https://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20170907/news/638316/autonomous-vehicles-to-shuttle-bedrock-staff-in-downtown-detroit-pilot

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.




 

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