By Matt Helms
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
It won't be easy or cheap, but creating a new bus rapid transit system could help metro Detroit restore reliability to public transportation, attract new riders and spur economic redevelopment, national experts said at a forum this morning in Royal Oak.
Gov. Rick Snyder's office and other regional leaders hosted the meeting at the Ford Education Center at the Detroit Zoo to encourage support for the proposal to build a bus rapid transit, or BRT, network on 110 miles of major roads in southeast Michigan and establish a regional agency to operate it.
Supporters say the idea is a strong, regional agency that would force coordination and efficiency on overlapping city and suburban bus providers and create the basics of a greatly improved public transportation system connecting Detroit to key suburbs, Metro Airport and Ann Arbor.
It would provide a new form of rapid transit the region has never had, but supporters say one of the biggest benefits of the proposal is the promise of greater stability and coordination among existing bus providers. The regional agency would have broad power to manage and coordinate routes among Detroit's existing city and suburban bus systems and could withhold federal funding from those that don't cooperate.
Representatives from transportation agencies in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Cleveland told how the speedy, modern rapid transit buses helped improve service and boost ridership. Cleveland, like Detroit a Rust Belt city many had written off, has seen $4.3 billion in economic development along Euclid Avenue, equivalent to Woodward in Detroit.
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