Rochester Hills residents split on public transportation

Rochester Hills city council president Mark Tisdel

by DREW HOWARD

Rochester Hills City Council members discussed the implications of a new public opinion poll on the future of public transportation in the city during its most recent meeting on Monday, May 6.

Discussion around the topic kicked off following a public comment presentation by a local Oakland University graduate, who asked that the city consider putting smart transit on the next ballot.

The OU grad, who now commutes to Wayne State University by public transit at the Somerset Collection in Troy, said such services are lacking in the Rochester and Rochester Hills area. Public transportation allows for students like himself to maximize their productivity, he said, and can be used as a tool to better connect communities.

“I know there might be some residents that share some concerns with how the city will pay for this,” the student said. “I still think it should come to the ballot. If residents decide it’s not a priority right now and choose to vote accordingly, that’s OK. But for those of us who see it as a community benefit, I do believe it should at least have a chance.”

Mayor Barnett took the opportunity to announce the results of a new public opinion poll on public transportation in Rochester Hills. Conducted by OU’s Public Affairs Research laboratory, the study asked recipients the following: “Would making public transportation available on select major roads in Rochester Hills have a positive effect on the community?”

The results show that the community is almost evenly split across the board, as 38 percent agreed, 30 percent were unsure and 31 percent disagreed.

Residents proved to be less supportive of public transit when asked how much they’d be willing to pay for such services – only 5 percent said they’d support it at $200 or more. According to Mayor Barnett, the average resident would end up having to pay around $250.

“I think that’s the battle – that cost value benefit discussion that needs to happen,” Barnett said. “Maybe a few more people believe public transportation is good for the city than don’t, but that number that they’re willing to pay for is 20, 30, 40, 50 dollars, not 200 to 250. Many of the houses in our city would pay 400, 500 for public transportation.”

City Council President Mark Tisdel also chimed in, adding that Rochester Hills was not designed to be a pedestrian friendly city. “With the exception of the Brooklands, which was the first built, nothing resembles a straight line or grid,” Tisdel said about the city’s road grid. “That’s intentional. It’s to depress, or retard, pedestrian traffic.”

He continued: “Throughout the country, successful mass transit starts with pedestrians. If you have to get in your car to drive to a public transit access, there’s a great probability you’ll just drive all the way to your final destination.”

Implementing a public transit system in the city will take a forward-thinking and creative approach moving forward, Barnett added.

“I think the traditional methods of public transportation, as Mr. Tisdel articulated, struggle here,” he said. “But when you talk about public transportation more in the realm of an Uber-like scenario, there’s more possibility for that.”

The Rochester Hills City Council will meet next on Monday, May 20 at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Auditorium.