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Citizen Detroit

Why I relied on rides from friends/coworkers/random folks-- and still do-- despite my support and use of the DDOT/SMART systems: Reliability

Photo of Kasey Chockalingam
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Michigan Central Station

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From a middle school in Morningside, after working a 10-hour day, I was fortunate enough to get a ride from a coworker who lived in Midtown. She drove out of her way, obviously.

I was able to to make it about 15 minutes early, in fact! I wanted to attend an event hosted by Citizen Detroit regarding the census, involvement, and ideas for community engagement. I wouldn't have been able to make it on time from Mack/Balfour to 14th Street if, even I were to take the most efficient routes. Aside from the fact that there weren't frequent buses running from the East Side to Midtown, Downtown, etc., the ones that did run were (and still are) unreliable/inconsistent in terms of timing. Rides are reliable. Fact (based on experience in Detroit without a car for 1 year): Uber/Lyft/Lime/Bird/Your Friend/A Neighbor/Grandma are reliable entities when it comes to transportation.

That is even with the ability to track the bus in real time, using various apps and GPS services. There is so much variability, which can cost hours sometimes. So, I had no options other than to beg for a ride again, pay for an expensive uber/lyft, or not go to the event. That's including the transit+ option, which allows you to plan routes using public transit combined with lyft/uber options. 

I was able to attend the event, and even met Sheila Cockrel (admittedly I did not who she was before meeting her)! I learned so much about the census, what it funds and impacts, and why 2020 will be so important.

Now imagine someone who wanted to go experience this free event, but was unable to because the busses wouldn't get there on time. Tough luck, huh?

I luckily found a ride back at 9 pm with someone who also lived close by on the East Side. This person was a coworker of a colleague who I had met literally 3 minutes before asking for a lift. Our conversation was great and he inspired me to stay close to the work that is being done in this city regarding mobility/mass transit. Again, without a ride, it would've been quite the time-consuming and uncertain hassle at night to get back home.

I also realized that the last time I was in the area-- other than St. Patrick's Day for a second-- was when Ford announced their revitalization of Central Station. I remember seeing Big Sean, the children's choir, and feeling so excited for the opportunities that would come because of their investment in the community. I still have that excitement because I've ridden DDOT/SMART for a year since moving to Detroit. I've seen some minor improvements, but there is a lot of work to be done in terms of connecting the whole city, reaching as far as we can, and creating a future of mobility for all. 

I plan to be here for at least another few years, and I would love to be a part of the micro mobility, connected-vehicle, efficient-transport revolution! I'm looking forward to learning so much more in the coming months.

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Photo of Alexander Hoffmann

Hey Kasey Chockalingam this is such a great story and it's so important for these kinds of stories to be told as we look into the future of mobility in the city. I'm Alex, a facilitator with the challenge. I am curious what could be added or adjusted in the Michigan Central Station Area to make for a more reliable system? Do you have any areas that you see as needing more support to connect the city? What does Detroit look like and what kind of opportunities do you see with a better connected city?