News Story

Four-County Bus Tax Failed in 2016; Politicians May Go For Three Counties In 2020

Bus ridership declining in region, and more people walk to work than ride

Ridership on Detroit city buses is down significantly, as is use of municipal bus services in the surrounding metro area. A recent survey found that more people in the area walk to work than get there by riding a bus.

The regional bus system known as Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, or SMART, has seen its ridership drop from 13.3 million in 2008 to 9.0 million in 2018, a 33% drop.

The number of riders using Detroit Department of Transportation service has fallen from 39.1 million to 23.6 million over that same 10 year period, a 40% decline.

The combined cost of both systems was $281.2 million in 2018.

According to the 2018 American Community Survey produced by the U.S. Census, more people walk to work than take public transportation in the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn metropolitan area.

The population of the region covered by the survey is 2,013,112 people age 16 years and older. Just 1.3% of that population used public transportation to commute to their place of business, while 1.4% just walked to work.

Meanwhile, Crain’s Detroit Business reported that leading metro area officials are looking to put a regional property tax millage on the November 2020 ballot in Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties. If a measure were approved by voters next fall, the tax increase would fall on home and other property owners in those three counties.

In 2016, voters in those counties, plus those in Macomb County, rejected a similar proposal for a 20-year, 1.2-mill transit millage. Voters in Wayne and Washtenaw counties approved the measure, which was narrowly defeated in Oakland and defeated by Macomb voters, 60.1% to 39.9%.