Flint, MI—Auburn Hills City Council has voted to opt out of SMART bus service, which may leave Flint Mass Transit Authority riders without a regularly scheduled public transit option to Detroit by the end of the year.
Despite opposition from transportation activists and some public commenters leading up to the 5-2 vote, the council ultimately decided to shift from SMART service to a more localized transportation solution for its elderly and disabled residents at its Feb. 21 meeting.
“While we are disappointed, SMART respects the decision made by the Auburn Hills City Council to opt-out of SMART transit services,” said Dwight Ferrell, General Manager of the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, or SMART. “Unfortunately, due to this decision, SMART will proceed toward eliminating all SMART services in Auburn Hills by the end of the year.”
The council’s vote to redirect resources may impact roughly 4,000 public transit riders who use an hourly MTA route between Flint and Great Lakes Crossing each month. SMART’s Great Lakes Crossing stop in Auburn Hills is the MTA’s sole connection point to SMART bus service and therefore its only connection to Detroit.
City of Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel said opting out of SMART was made with the city’s needs in mind.
“First and foremost, considering opting out of SMART is not because Auburn Hills is anti-regional transit,” he said. “To the contrary, we are interested in transit, but transit that best serves the needs of our community and directs our financial resources to that end.”
Harmony Lloyd, Flint MTA’s chief operating officer, said that at least for now, riders on the Flint-Detroit route won’t have to worry.
“We will continue to provide express service from Flint to Great Lakes Crossing providing the ridership does not fall significantly due to this change,” she said. “MTA has a great relationship with SMART and will work with them to determine if there are other possible options for connecting,” Lloyd said.
Beth Gibbons of SMART’s education and marketing team said SMART will work with Flint MTA to identify viable connections for Flint-to-Detroit riders and connect customers “to other SMART routes in our service area.”
Prior to Auburn Hills City Council’s decision, Lloyd had said there was no solution for Flint MTA passengers looking to get to Detroit as yet.
Gibbons confirmed SMART services in Auburn Hills will continue to operate as scheduled until December 31, 2022, meaning Flint MTA riders will have a connection to Detroit at Great Lakes Crossing at least until the end of this year.