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.”

Yalamanchi noted that even in Rochester Hills, “32 percent of households have income less than $50,000 and 14 percent have income less than $25,000.” Moreover, he said, “public transportation is not just for low-income individuals,” noting that he himself would prefer not to have to drive to his job in Flint, where he heads a community development organization.

We’re hopeful that Rochester Hills residents and other SMART “opt-out” communities will follow Yalamanchi’s call to action, on the principle that “every community should be integrated.” Incumbent Mayor Barnett hasn’t decided yet whether to run again. Whatever happens, it will be fascinating to watch how the debate plays out.

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