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Transportation in Detroit | The Kerner Report 50 Years Later

This is a chapter from the Kerner Report: 50 Years Later, written collaboratively by 2018 Humanity in Action Fellows in Detroit. 


The importance of public transportation in Detroit cannot be overstated. Despite its legacy as a stronghold of the automotive industry, the struggle for expanding public transit has been an uphill climb. A defining moment of this struggle is the less than one-percent defeat of a Detroit Regional Transit Authority ballot proposal during the November 2016 election. The ballot proposal outlined a regional plan which would have connected residents across Southeast Michigan, specifically Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties. 

In describing the failure of the proposal, many cite regional politics as a primary cause, with leadership in Oakland and Macomb as major players in blocking regional transit. Since then, transit activists have advocated for short-term improvements to existing systems, as well as plans to address long-term need throughout the city.

Transit is hardly an issue that functions in isolation. Transit activists have--time and again--raised concerns about access to jobs, public safety, over-policing, economic growth, and overall quality of life. As recent as this month, plans to include a new ballot proposal for the November 2018 general election were thwarted, as the RTA funding committee failed to come to the necessary 5-0 decision for it to make the public ballot.

Auto insurance is another key transportation issue in Detroit. While Michigan has higher auto insurance rates than any other state, Detroit has higher auto insurance rates than any other city nationwide.1 The average premium in Detroit is nearly 400 percent higher than the national average.2 Often, Detroiters pay more than $3,000 annually in car insurance alone.3 These enormous costs can make car ownership prohibitively expensive and help explain how 25% of Detroit households do not have access to a car.4


This issue has received significant attention among candidates running to be Michigan governor, with all three Democratic candidates calling for an end to redlining. Redlining allows auto insurers to set rates based on factors other than one’s driving record (e.g. zip codes). In Detroit, a 139 square mile city that lacks efficient public transportation, it is absolutely critical that residents have access to a car. By reducing auto insurance rates, this will be more possible.


1. https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2017/05/06/detroit-car-insurance-expensive-cost/101374948/

2. https://abdulformichigan.com/autoinsurance

3. https://www.freep.com/story/money/business/michigan/2014/11/23/detroit-auto-insurance-rates-premiums/19411987/

4. http://www.governing.com/gov-data/car-ownership-numbers-of-vehicles-by-city-map.html

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United-states United States 2018


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