University of Michigan Gateway Ford School

Public Mass Transportation in West Michigan: The Case for Expanding Services

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April 2017

David W. Baker

Abstract

This policy research paper explores the issues of public mass transportation in the region of West Michigan. It considers the current state of public mass transportation in the region. An effort is made to look for and uncover disparities between perceived needs and desires on the one hand, and actual provision and availability of services on the other. As well, this paper compares and contrasts the West Michigan region with other areas of the state, particularly the populous South-east Michigan region to look for regional inconsistencies and/or deficiencies. Consideration is given to local intracity transportation services, as well as local intercity services (moving people between core metro areas and local satellite cities), and longer-haul services to transport people between major metro areas within Michigan. Analysis and arguments are supported by data from the Michigan Public Policy Survey, as well as other sources of data and information. As helpful for comparative purposes, the experiences of other regions are considered, such as the recent effort and public referendum to establish a robust regional transit authority in the several counties of South-east Michigan. The paper concludes with broad policy recommendations for enhancement of public mass transportation in West Michigan, and suggests next steps for further researching and refining policy goals.

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