Royal Oak seeks community feedback on potential for improved public transportation

The city of Royal Oak's Transit Task Force wants the opinions of its citizens.

As Royal Oak officials seek to improve the city's public transportation options, the newly formed Transit Task Force has released an online survey to better understand the wants and needs of the people. Answers gleaned from the survey could lead to the creation of a municipal bus system, an increase in SMART bus service, or something else entirely.

While the answers to Royal Oak's public transportation questions are not yet known, the city has learned one thing: That public transit is an issue worth addressing. Though the metro Detroit region as a whole voted down a 2016 millage to fund a Regional Transit Authority, more than 31,000 Royal Oakers voted yes on the millage, representing a positive vote from more than half of the city's population overall.

Marie Donigan, chair of the Transit Task Force, served on the Royal Oak City Commission from 1997 to 2004, and later became a State Representative. Donigan says that she's seen the same issues come up year after year, and Royal Oak now has the chance to address them.

"After twenty years, we're still talking about public parking issues downtown," she says. "If we took any of the energy we've spent on parking and instead spent it on public transportation, we might actualy get a transit system."

Whether the city creates its own branded bus system or increases SMART bus service, the goal is to better connect local routes to regional ones. According to Donigan, the newly-launched FAST bus service is making stops along Woodward Avenue every 15 minutes, the best service she's yet seen. The question, says Donigan, is how to better connect downtown Royal Oak to a regional service like FAST.

Royal Oak residents can take the Transit Task Force survey on the city's Facebook page.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.