Rochester Hills Candidate Could Set Pro-Transit Precedent

Ravi Yalamanchi announces his candidacy last year.

Asked about James Robertson a couple weeks ago, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said the Detroiter “sets a wonderful example” by walking 21 miles to work. However, he didn’t think his city’s people would be willing to pay for SMART bus service. “That would be an underdog to pass in our community,” he told the Detroit Free Press, saying he only received a couple calls asking for bus service each year.

Ravi Yalamanchi disagrees.

In a strongly worded op-ed in the Oakland Press this week, the former Rochester Hills City Councilperson – who’s now running for Rochester Hills mayor – put forward an unequivocal response to Mayor Barnett.

“Do we need public transportation? Simple answer: yes,” he wrote. “The demand for it is not limited to one or two people calling Rochester Hills city hall, and definitely it is not the case where nobody needs it. The assumption that there is no demand is a fallacy. It is lack of vision and ability to understand the benefits of a good public transportation system.” Continue reading “Rochester Hills Candidate Could Set Pro-Transit Precedent”

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Freedom Riders Kick Off DDOT Right-to-Know Petition Drive at State of the City


Last night, the Freedom Riders kicked off our petition to the Mayor outside his State of the City address at the Redford Theater. The petition calls on the Mayor to make his work on the DDOT bus system publicly accountable by including DDOT performance measures on his Detroit Dashboard.

Mayor Duggan has called fixing DDOT his number-one priority, but the Dashboard – a weekly summary of efforts to improve city services – does not feature regular DDOT performance information. In 2014, DDOT showed halting progress, but it’s critical that we hold the Mayor to his promise to fix the system once and for all, so Detroit has the quality bus service its citizens need and deserve.

We found a receptive crowd of citizens and officials outside the theater. We collected about a hundred signatures, including one from Mayor Duggan’s sister-in-law, and distributed fliers to hundreds more. Our main priority is collecting paper petitions on the buses and beyond – contact us at motorcityfreedomriders [at] to obtain copies – but you can also sign the online version at this link.

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Calling the suburban conscience: to help people like James Robertson, get your city into SMART

robertson-bus livermore-1995 SMART parade

The extraordinary story of Detroit’s James Robertson and his 21-mile post-bus trek to work in Rochester Hills has ricocheted around the world and inspired an outpouring of donations to help Robertson buy a car. But as Stephen Henderson of the Free Press and our allies at Transportation Riders United have noted, there are thousands of other people who undergo similar – if somewhat less lengthy – endurance tests in consequence of our failure to invest in transit.

Robertson’s story points up several different issues in metro Detroit’s transit tangle. At the end of the day, though, there’s one key action that can help to make things right: Residents of suburbs that “opt out” of SMART need to get their elected officials to bring buses back to their communities. Want to be part of the solution? Read on. Continue reading “Calling the suburban conscience: to help people like James Robertson, get your city into SMART”

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