MDRC in the News

Why Wayne State Is Offering Free Public Transportation to Students, Staff

The Detroit News


Detroit — Aloni Brantley is living at home with her mother as she commutes to campus during her freshman year at Wayne State University.

While her family recently got a car, they previously had to rely on others for transportation for more than a year. Brantley’s mother, LaWanda Parker, said ride-sharing services, such as Lyft, fluctuate and can cost upward of $30 for a one-way trip to some locations within the city.

That’s why Brantley, 18, was thrilled when she recently found out Wayne State is offering bus rides around the city to students and faculty for free. The savings on even affordable public transit options can add up, she said.

“I know it’s only a dollar or two,” said Brantley, a Detroit resident who is planning to major in art with a focus on photography. “But I can use those $2 to save up for something else. A lot of kids my age are trying to get cars or saving up for a laptop or new headphones. I could also buy a quick snack on campus with $2.”

Wayne State University this fall is unveiling the largest transportation program in its history by offering free public transportation to students, faculty and staff. It is also the most significant effort to promote public transportation in the region, transportation experts say.

The new program offers free transportation on bus lines operated by the Detroit Department of Transportation and Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, along with free transportation on the QLine, Detroit’s streetcar, and MoGo, Detroit’s bike-sharing service…..

…..Robert Cramer, SMART deputy general manager, said some of the region’s community colleges have made students aware of public transportation options, and a few large employers such as Bedrock Detroit and Stellantis are working to provide public transportation options to their employees.

But Wayne State is pioneering an effort that could lead to a significant impact on the college and region, Cramer said…..

…..Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent programs for the Detroit Regional Chamber, also applauded Wayne State’s move since it follows a recent report identifying transportation among the myriad barriers faced by low-income and first-generation Detroit students to finish higher education. The report, by New York-based education and social policy research group MDRC, concluded that more work still needs to be done to improve the retention and completion of students enrolled in the Detroit Promise and Detroit Promise Path, programs providing free tuition for Detroit high school students.

“We know (Wayne State’s new transportation program) will help Detroit Promise students, but it also will help retention for all students,” Handel said…..

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