Detroit Regional Transit Study: A Study of Factors that Enable and Inhibit Effective Regional Transit

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

economics - finance, land use - transit oriented development, organisation - governance, place - north america, policy - equity


Regional transit, Metro detroit, Controlling factors, Leadership and politics, Media and public opinion


An interdisciplinary team of six faculty members and six students at the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) conducted a comprehensive study of the factors enabling or inhibiting development of effective regional transit. Focusing on Metro Detroit and four peer regions—Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, and St. Louis—investigators examined six key variables in transit success: 1) leadership and politics, 2) governance and law, 3) finance, 4) transit-oriented development (TOD), 5) equity and access, and 6) media and public opinion. These elements were studied in the context of Detroit transit history with respect to lessons learned, recent developments in Metro Detroit, and comparisons and recommendations. The team employed a nontraditional research methodology driven not by numbers but by the narrative of firsthand experience. They conducted in-depth interviews with more than 60 leaders in transit advocacy, development, and operation from five regions across the country, seeking the type of insight acquired almost exclusively through personal experience. • The interviewees included: • Current or previous CEOs of four regional transit authorities (RTAs) and more than 25 key staff members of RTAs • Six RTA board members, including three board presidents • Five MPO leaders of transit development in their regions • A wide variety of stakeholders/advocates, including leading figures in business, education, labor, campaign consulting, and media • Government leaders, including legislators, mayors and mayors’ staff The team then undertook the task of curating, organizing and assembling this accumulation of wisdom into cogent analyses that form the foundation of this report. This document provides and overview and summaries of key findings in all six areas of focus. Six separate reports explore each area in greater depth.


Permission to link to this report has been given by Mineta National Transit Research Consortium, copyright remains with them.