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  • Kevin Elliott

SMART pitches mass transit to Rochester Hills

Officials with the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) on Monday, March 12, presented an overview of their public transportation services available to the city.

Rochester Hills is one of nine communities in Oakland County that have opted out of the SMART bus system.

Robert Cramer, deputy general manager for SMART, said a survey conducted in October of about 400 likely voters in Rochester and Rochester Hills found about 46 percent of participants contacted said they would likely support a one-mill SMART property tax. However, he said about 49 percent said they would likely support the millage, after hearing general information about costs and possible services. Of those responding, he said about 83 percent had no opinion or strong opinion about SMART.

"What we took from this is that people are looking for more information about SMART and what public transportation looks like," Cramer said. "Those answers were based on very brief descriptions, so we think there is opportunity for more information to be shared."

Cramer said about 70 percent of people that ride SMART do so to get to and from employment, with a good portion of the rest being seniors or disabled riders. He said service types in Rochester Hills could include park and ride services, which received support from about 58 percent of those surveyed; OPC and SMART Connector services, which received about 70 percent support; and fixed-route buses, which received about 48 percent support; and other mixes of services, such as dial-a-ride services, which provide curbside service within 45 minutes and within about 10 miles, and other specialized community partnership programs.

Fixed-route services include local, regional, park and ride routes and SMART's new FAST service. Connector Services include reservation-based curbside small bus service for all residents, while ADA para-transit is service for approved disabled riders near bus routes.

Rochester Hills resident Scott Struzik said he uses SMART's FAST Service to get to his job at Quicken Loans in downtown Detroit. He said he drives about 15 minutes from his house to the park and ride bus stop at the Troy Civic Center, on Big Beaver, then uses time he would be driving to study, work or relax.

"It has improved my quality of life and increases my free time by over six hours each week where I'm not driving," he said. "In the coming years, I-75 will be under construction, and that will have a significant impact on people commuting to downtown Detroit."

Rochester Hills City Council President Mark Tisdel said a one-mill levy would amount to about $3.3 million in Rochester Hills. However he questioned whether there was that much of a need in the city, or whether that need was closer to $1 million.

"If this does get underway, and you have that expense, how do you get out of it," Tisdel asked.

Cramer said communities may opt out after joining the system at the discretion of city council, which could make a motion to the Oakland County Public Transportation Authority (OCPT), which would accept the motion and allow the city to leave when the cycle is finished.

Rochester Hills Councilwoman Jenny McCardell said she believes there would be support for SMART in the city, and that a one-mill levy for public transportation is lower than what is paid in many other cities. McCardell suggested the city form a study group to look into the possibility of public transit and what it would look like in the city.

"We could talk about it and see what you want to get accomplished, and we could see if we could get that done," Tisdel said.

Council ended the discussion without a formal motion or further discussion about forming a study committee.

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