On February 21, the Auburn Hills City Council met at 7 p.m. to vote on SMART Bus transportation. The board voted 5-2 in favor of disabling the SMART Bus system.
Prior to the vote, Auburn Hills residents and surrounding area participants read public comments to council in an effort to persuade them to keep Auburn Hills opted for the SMART program.
As a result of the vote, the SMART Bus transportation system, which connects many cities in the Detroit metro area, will no longer run through Auburn Hills. This includes the University of Oakland campus, where the SMART bus was the only remaining form of public transportation for staff and students after the elimination of the Bear Bus in 2020.
The SMART bus will continue to exist until the end of the year, but after 2022 it will be phased out. However, during the council meeting, the idea of a transport alternative reserved for the elderly and disabled was raised.
Board members proposed replacing the SMART Bus system with a voter funded service which would take place from Monday to Friday. Members say this service will be cheaper than opting for the SMART Bus service.
It is not yet certain that the proposed alternative will be implemented. Residents will have the opportunity to vote on the alternative transportation service in the August ballot.
“The board has voted to eliminate SMART mileage from the ballot in 2022,” said Jeremy Johnson, Speaker of the OU Student Congress (OUSC) Legislative Assembly. noted. “SMART will still be around for the rest of the year, but voters won’t have a chance to vote yes or no on continuing the program with their tax dollars.”
Without the SMART bus, many Auburn Hills residents and OU students who relied on the service will have to find affordable alternative transportation.
Accessibility of transport on campus has been an ongoing conversation at OU since returning to campus after distance learning and many are particularly concerned about transportation during winter weather. If voter-funded alternative transportation is not approved, eliminating the SMART bus could be another barrier for students with disabilities.
Disability Support Services (DSS) at OU works one-on-one with students to meet their individual needs and accommodation. However, student transportation is not a service facilitated by the DSS department, and students are currently responsible for their own transportation.
“Some administrators have said they are open to a new transit system on campus,” said OUSC Vice President Murryum Farooqi. noted. “In terms of the actions of the OUSC, we are exploring what this means for us and what we can do. We absolutely want to secure student transport.