Livingston County has been referred to as a crossroads, at the intersection of the two major highway arteries, US-23 and I-96. These “super-highways” provided the opportunity for many of us to live in rural and suburban areas and still tolerate long commutes to employment centers 20, 30 and 40 miles away or more. Families live in beautiful homes in developments, towns and small cities that are direct descendants of Norman Rockwell paintings complete with Friday night football and BBQs on the deck.
However, our county is rapidly changing, growing and aging. Few children stay in the county after they are grown, and little housing is affordable to young families. Companies don’t have enough employees who are local. We are becoming more urban and more congested, and high-traffic volumes without sidewalks or bike trails/lanes make non-motorized travel difficult and dangerous.
Changing Demographics in Livingston County: Between 2000 and 2017 our county’s population grew 21 percent, and by 2045 it is projected to grow another 27 percent. Senior population in our county is projected to increase 500 percent between 2000 and 2030.
There is no comprehensive transportation plan to respond to these changing needs, UNTIL NOW.
Many cannot “get there” without public transportation: Approximately 10% of Livingston County’s residents have a disability and many seniors cannot drive. Also, 21 percent of all Livingston County households are considered “ALICE” (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) and 6 percent live below the poverty line, making auto ownership and maintenance a major challenge.
In June, AECOM and MKSK, two highly regarded consulting companies, were contracted by Livingston County to complete a broad-based transportation plan that responds to the changing demographics and congestion, and to the needs and wishes of our county’s residents.
This study is long overdue.
Across the nation, mobility options like bike networks, express buses, streetcars and trains are providing new services and options that change the way of life in their communities. Seniors are more able to age in place. Mobility options attract young professionals who fuel economic growth. We only need to look as far as downtown Detroit to see that such a mobility-driven environment creates enormous investment and attracts thousands of millennials. In many regions across the nation — from small cities to large — mobility options have become the norm.
But this is not the case in Livingston County.
Grand River is approaching gridlock. Over 75 percent of our working residents commute to jobs outside the county, but there is no scheduled bus service and very little commuter service; instead, our residents endure congestion, risk of accidents, and texting drivers to get to work.
Twelve times every day, the Michigan Flyer — a beautiful, comfortable bus — travels through Livingston County on the way to Detroit Metropolitan Airport; but it doesn’t stop for our residents. It’s time for us to decide if we want to stay stuck in an “auto only” world in which we drive everywhere, fight traffic and hunt for parking, or do we want mobility options like other vibrant communities across the nation.
We are at the crossroads.
The Livingston County Transportation Coalition is a group of about 100 organizations and individuals who are educating and advocating for better and more transportation options. We would like to see a network of bicycle trails starting near our homes for travel, fitness and recreation; better dial-a-ride service to all corners of the county for access to health care and other core needs for all residents; scheduled bus service, including express commuter services to job centers both within and outside of the county; and express bus service to Detroit Metro Airport.
If you would like to see any or all of these services, it’s time to speak up. The easiest way to do so is to fill out an online survey.
Later this year, the planners will present options at public meetings that will allow all of us to react to those alternatives.,
Finally, if you would like to stay informed about transportation issues and activities, you can join the Livingston County Transportation Coalition by emailing me at email@example.com.