Aug 2, 2004
DDOT (in the city of Detroit) and SMART (in the suburbs) have recently been cited or sued for a number of failures concerning the disabled.
Almost 20% of Metro Detroit's 4.2 million residents qualify as disabled. And most of them rely heavily on public transportation to get around.
Many have no other option than the buses. As anyone who depends on buses to hold down a job knows, the two Metro Detroit systems are unreliable. Almost half the buses' wheelchair lifts or ramps are broken and can't be used. Some riders have reported having to let three or four buses pass them by before finding one with a working lift or ramp.
Door-to-door bus service has been cut back, leaving more people relying on connector bus systems which take disabled riders from their homes to regular bus stops. But the connector buses are often several hours late – if they come at all.
Some communities in the Detroit area are not included in the SMART system – and this leaves everyone in these communities without any public means of transportation.
The problems are not new. But they have gotten worse as the state of Michigan continues to CUT funding to local communities for their bus systems.
Even now, with the bus systems being sued, the Michigan legislature is still considering bills to cut public transport funding even more. Of course, the politicians say they don't have the money. At the same time, they continue to expand tax breaks to corporations.
Cities like Detroit have done the same thing – give corporations big tax breaks, even while they complain that they have no money to continue basic services for people in the cities. DDOT just laid off over one hundred workers – which means the problems will get worse, not better.
The state of public transportation in the Metro area is a scandal. The current spotlight put on the system because of the recent suits simply highlights a problem that the whole working class shares, whether or not we usually use a bus.
Government has a responsibility to provide basic services for the whole population – and especially for its most vulnerable parts.
A government that doesn't do this has no reason to exist.