Flint, MI—With the aid of a new federal grant, the Flint Mass Transportation Authority will conduct a study to improve its route designs and increase ridership in the wake of COVID-19.

“During COVID, we saw a dramatic decrease in ridership,” said Harmony Lloyd, Chief Operation Officer for Flint MTA, who estimated the public transit provider saw a nearly 60 percent decrease in ridership during the pandemic. “But also we know that over the past several years, populations in Flint have shifted, and there’s been pockets of development throughout the city.”

Lloyd said that the grant-supported study will help “make sure that (Flint MTA) routes are serving the people where they need to be served” given Flint’s population shifts and development, but it does not mean the organization plans to eliminate areas of service.

“I don’t want people to be concerned about that,” Lloyd said. “This is just actually looking at is there ways to better serve people by making some shifts, possibly even adding service in areas that may not have it right now.”

The $260,000 grant for the study was awarded through the U.S. Department of Transportation and made possible through the American Rescue Plan Act, according to a June 13, 2022 press release from Congressman Dan Kildee’s office.

“When we invest in our public transit, we improve efficiency and reliability for families and seniors who rely on public transportation to go to work, pick up kids or see the doctor,” Kildee said in the release.

Lloyd said the Flint MTA is currently putting together a request for proposals from consulting firms who wish to support the study, which includes seeking Flint residents’ feedback on the city’s transportation needs.

“We are going to do a lot of community input sessions and go into neighborhoods and talk to people that are current riders,” Lloyd said. “And then also ask people that maybe stopped riding or who have never ridden and ask them, you know, ‘What is it you’re looking for as it relates to transit?”

Lloyd said that she expects the study to take around 18 months once a firm is contracted. She said Flint MTA has seen a slight improvement in ridership, especially within the last few months, but is currently operating at around 40 percent reduced ridership compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....