Motor City Freedom Riders raise money for mass transit

Photo caption: The Garden Bowl on Woodward Avenue, taken by Amanda Rahn. Posted: 9/26/2017  12:48 a.m. EST
  • The group hosted a bowling night at the Garden Bowl to raise funds to support their efforts to put transit back on the ballot in 2018.
  • They hope to get the measure approved in 2018 through voter education and grassroots organizing.
  • The $4.6 billion regional transit proposal narrowly failed in 2016.

Catching a late lunch on a weekday in Ann Arbor and making it back to Detroit in time for an evening class might be easy for drivers, but for Wayne State students who rely on public transit, it’s a bit more challenging.

That won’t be the case for much longer if the Motor City Freedom Riders have a say.

The organization kicked off their 18 by ‘18 fundraising drive, the goal of which is to raise $18,000 by 2018 in support of mass transit, at the Garden Bowl located within the Majestic Theater on Sept. 25.

The group, which was founded in 2014, advocates for more efficient and equitable transit for metro Detroit residents by pressuring local representatives and educating voters on potential transit options. The effort to reintroduce the transit expansion to the 2018 ballot comes after a narrow and highly publicized loss on the $4.6 billion regional transit plan in Nov. 2016.

For Wayne State students, more efficient transportation systems could mean more savings and an easier time getting to class due in part to better bus routes and timetables and not having to deal with the campus’ parking challenges. Another major benefit would be for students without cars who rely on a bus system built for a standard 9-5 worker, as opposed to a student with a more flexible class schedule.

“I think young people in particular are affected by the lack of transit in our region because we’re the least likely to have cars,” said Mason Herson-Hord, a member of the Motor City Freedom Riders. “Southeast Michigan in general has been hemorrhaging youth population to other cities with better transit systems. Having effective and reliable public transportation is really essential.”

Mason Herson-Hord speaks on how young people can support mass transit in Southeast Michigan. Video by Amanda Rahn.

Herson-Hord said the fundraising dollars will also go toward community education on mass transit in the form of three courses in October, November and December in an effort to get more residents informed and engaged with the transit expansion.

“The first session will be on the political landscape of transit in metro Detroit and the historical reasons behind our fragmented and inadequate transit system […], the second one will focus on community organizing skills, and the third will focus on how we run strategic and effective campaigns[…] like the institutions and actors we need to put pressure on,” he added.

WSU 2016 graduate of the industrial design program Idrees Mutahr is another member of the Motor City Freedom Riders. He said he wished he had considered public transportation as an option for his commute from Dearborn to Midtown while he was a student.

“I just wish that I had considered [public transit] as an option,” he said. “I didn’t ride buses much during college but I used to buy parking passes for like $300 [when I was a WSU student]. Even people who want to hang out down here don’t because of parking, and that’s a big thing for the university.”

To learn more about the Motor City Freedom Riders, visit their Facebook page or website.

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