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  • Kevin Elliott

Committee to investigate public transit

The Rochester Hills Public Safety and Infrastructure Committee will be looking into what a public transit option might look like in Rochester Hills, city council members said on Monday, March 26.

Council announced the committee review after two residents voiced their support for a committee study into public transit following a March 12 presentation to city council by the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART).

SMART Deputy General Manager Robert Cramer said at the March 12 meeting that a survey conducted in October found about 46 percent of participants said they would support a one-mill tax levy for SMART services. About 83 percent of the 400 survey participants had either no opinion or no 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."

Rochester Hills resident Scott Struzik, who serves on the Public Safety and Infrastructure Committee, 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."

Council president Mark Tisdel, who after the March 12 meeting joined Struzik in his crosstown commute, said before and after the ride that the city likely has a $500,000 or $1 million need for public transit, but the available option is a $3.3 million fix.

"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.

According to SMART, about 70 percent of people who ride SMART do so to get to and from employment, with a good portion of the rest being seniors or disabled riders. Cramer 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.

Councilwoman Jenny 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. Council on March 26 said the committee has not yet met since the March 12 meeting.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said the city is open to a discussion on public transit, but that any decision has to make sense to the community.

"In the 12 years that I've been mayor, I haven't seen the conversation go as far as this before," he said.

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