Detroit’s Sprawl King: Transit Expansion Plan Would Be a “Job Killer”

We’ve been following Detroit’s efforts to remake itself as a less car-dependent, more sustainable city, with great interest.

Detroit City Council President Gary Brown (right) has proposed a regional sales tax to preserve and expand transit. Meanwhile, Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson (left) says the tax would kill jobs. Image: Transport Michigan

There seems to be a growing understanding in the Motor City that bikeability, walkability and improved transit service are imperative to remake the economy and reverse the city’s infamous urban decay. So much so that private investors have put forward much of the funding for the city’s new light rail line.

But one person who doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo is Brooks Patterson, executive of Oakland County, which is north of Detroit. The region’s self described sprawl king is once again impeding progress.

The situation this time? Budget shortfalls are forcing severe cuts at the city’s already beleaguered transit system. A proposal was recently floated to impose a 1.25 percent regional sales tax to make up for the shortfall, reports Joel Batterman at Network blog Transport Michigan.

But Patterson, in his infinite wisdom, has dismissed the idea, saying the tax would be a “job killer.”

Batterman responds:

Three decades after dissension between Oakland County and Detroit stymied a regional transit system, the same dynamic continues to stall progress today.

The notion of a regional transit tax as a job killer is absurd. Sales taxes are among the most common methods for funding transit in the United States, used by major metro areas from Chicago to Denver to Seattle. Last we heard, all three of these regions had better employment statistics than Detroit, and it was a good deal easier for workers there to actually reach their jobs, something that remains a thus-far-impossible dream for thousands in metro Detroit.

If Patterson and Team Sprawl want to know who the real job-killers are – the transit obstructionists who thought they could sit high and mighty while Detroit crumbled under their weight – perhaps they should consider a look in the mirror.

We’ve written before about why it’s so important that Detroit have a regional transit system. The region has one of the highest rates of job sprawl in the nation, and one of the highest central-city unemployment rates as well. Cuts to the transit system will make make it even harder for the region’s underutilized labor to seek employment. Talk about a job killer.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Plan Philly reports on a new analysis that found Philly’s central city residents save an average of $600 per month in travel costs over their exurban counterparts. Boston Biker weighs in on the city’s crackdown on motorized bicycle use. And Bike Portland presents the results of a Los Angeles study that found the practicality of cycling was strongly tied to the local transit system’s accommodation of cyclists.