A Detroiter’s Words Advocating for Smart Transportation Investment

PurcellAt SEMCOG’s Assembly June 20th Let’s Save Michigan listened to many community members voice their opinions about the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan.  Each of these people spoke from the heart, and we were impressed and moved.  We tracked down one of those forward-thinkers – Noah Purcell, a metro-Detroit freelance writer, graduate student and transportation advocate – and we are proud to share the comments he made to SEMCOG, unfortunately, without Purcell’s beat poet cadence:

“I’ve heard talk of extreme positions, and surely the Detroit metropolitan area is in an extreme position as we continue to see our demographics skew older and older.  When I think of my former classmates from West Middle School and Rochester High School or my graduating class from The Roeper School who have moved and thrive out of state it makes me shudder when set upon the backdrop of policy, such as these proposed widening projects, which offer Millennials more of what pushed Gen-X to leave.

Are these roads in need of repair?  Absolutely.  I echo Governor Snyder’s own sentiments that we should fix it first.  But to lock our future into the results of the past is not the way forward.  The results of our past have seen our state lose population, our demographics dangerously mushrooming. We need growth in this region and without youth there is no growth.

The governor too speaks often of place making.  The city of Detroit is the biggest place we have and the continuing influx of young professionals who are increasingly making their homes in the city underscores this point.

But, the message sent to our youth in widening these freeways is that Detroit is a glorified weigh station between Toronto and Chicago. What’s to stop them from following that freight out of state?

It is truly lamentable that these funds are silo’d. That we can not directly divert them into public transportation and it surely scares me when I hear talk that not taking the federal government’s money will cause those funds, like our youth, to go out of state. But I say a bad deal is a bad deal no matter how much matching funds are on the table.

I agree with SEMCOG executive director, Paul Tait.  It is important to look 25 years down the road, it does seem like a long time when thinking of the need to forecast what the population and jobs situation will be in the future. That forecast should take heed of the ongoing vibrancy here in Detroit, the urban core of our region. We should factor in the investments our business leaders are making to bring jobs to the city and buoy public transportation.  I see, as the governor and the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce see, a Detroit, which empowers the region. This vision is absent in the notion of widening our freeways in lieu of fixing them first. I see a tacit message to the Millennials to follow Generation-X out of the state and again this makes me shudder.

Fix these roads, make them shine, but please, please reconsider these widening projects, they will only widen the gaps in our region and make our resurgence harder to attain. Thank you.”

Click here to see a video of Noah’s comments at the SEMCOG Assembly

Contact Noah at fd1178@wayne.edu