Auburn Hills Transit: Call to Action

SMART bus routes are essential. Let Auburn Hills City Council know you support our current transit system!

Submit a public comment to the City Clerk

Phone: (248) 370-9402
Be sure to state that you are submitting a public comment to be read into the record during the February 21st City Council meeting.

Speak during in-person public comment

Monday, February 21st, 7:00pm
Auburn Hills City Hall
1827 North Squirrel Road

Additional contact information for Auburn Hills City Council is available here.

Press Coverage:

WDET: Auburn Hills to vote on whether to opt out of SMART

Tune in on Monday, February 21st at 9am for a live discussion on Detroit Today.

Flint Beat: Flint residents could lose only regularly scheduled public bus service to Detroit

We need YOU to speak up in support of SMART. If you live in Auburn Hills, your voice is especially important.

A SMART bus on Auburn Road passing by Auburn Square Apartments.
Route 790 in Downtown Auburn Hills, October 2020.

Tell Auburn Hills to #StaySMART.

Recap: Local Transit Workshop

On February 7th, Auburn Hills City Council hosted a workshop followed by a formal meeting. At this workshop, the Mayor and the majority of council members accepted a recommendation from the Local Transit committee to opt out of SMART. Our friends at Transportation Riders United provided coverage of the meeting.

This decision will not be finalized until the next City Council meeting on Monday, February 21st.

The goal of Rochester Riders is to have the same level of access to transit in Rochester and Rochester Hills that exists in neighboring cities. An Auburn Hills opt-out not only would hurt our efforts to get bus service in Rochester, but would also leave current bus riders without connections to many important local job centers.

Why this issue is critical

SMART, Metro Detroit’s suburban public transportation provider, has served Auburn Hills and its surrounding communities for decades. As of January 2022, bus routes connect Oakland University, Oakland Community College, Stellantis (formerly Chrysler Tech Center), downtown Auburn Hills, and Great Lakes Crossing Outlets to other locations across the region.

SMART offers multiple fixed routes as well as Flex microtransit service in Pontiac and Auburn Hills.
SMART will lose important stops along three bus routes if Auburn Hills leaves the system.

Auburn Hills sits east of Pontiac and north of Troy, serving as the northernmost anchor of FAST Woodward, one of SMART’s three express routes between downtown Detroit and the suburbs. Much like the roads on which they operate, these routes are the major arterials of the SMART system network.

But if Auburn Hills city leadership has its way, this will change soon — and it’s up to us to protect these critical transit connections from being lost.

Auburn Hills Residents Love SMART!

SMART’s operational funding is renewed by a vote held every four years. In Oakland County, city councils decide whether they will let their communities vote to renew service. Since the millage was first collected, an overwhelming majority of Auburn Hills residents have voted to retain SMART.

In the past three millage votes (2010, 2014, and 2018) the “YES” vote won in every city precinct. With this in mind, we feel that any attempt by Auburn Hills City Council to exit SMART without a public referendum is a violation of democratic principles.


The City of Auburn Hills has supported SMART over the past decade by a wide margin of residents.
(Source: Oakland County Clerk / Register of Deeds)

Regional Impacts of an Opt-Out

In October 2020, FAST Woodward was extended from the Phoenix Center in downtown Pontiac to Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, one of Metro Detroit’s busiest malls and tourist attractions. It’s more than just a destination, though: Great Lakes serves as the sole transfer point between the SMART network and the Mass Transportation Authority in Flint. Thanks to Auburn Hills, one can travel from Flint to Detroit entirely via regularly scheduled public transit.

This connection allows many Metro Detroit businesses to employ Genesee County residents, and vice versa.

A FAST bus at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets.
A regional MTA motorcoach departing downtown Flint for Great Lakes Crossing.

What About Rideshare?

People eager to re-imagine traditional public transit will be quick to point out that rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft are available. This is an inferior option to scheduled bus service, and here’s several reasons why:

  1. Rideshare is expensive.
  2. Rideshare is not a scheduled service.
  3. Rideshare does not offer the same environmental benefits as conventional public transit.
  4. Private rideshare services are not ADA accessible.*

Jarrett Walker, a renowned transportation planner, spells it out in The Atlantic: “The Bus is Still Best.”

Does this look affordable to you?
Flex is SMART’s fully ADA accessible last mile solution. It is offered exclusively to communities with scheduled bus service as a complementary option with fixed pricing between $2 and $8 per trip, no matter the distance. Auburn Hills will lose this service in addition to fixed routes if they opt out.

* Lyft and Uber do offer accessible options, “Lyft Access” and “UberWAV”, but neither is available in southeast Michigan.

The Student Perspective: Oakland University and OCC Auburn Hills

Bus shelter in front of university clock tower
The Route 790 shelter at Oakland University.

SMART is the only means an Oakland University or OCC Auburn Hills student without personal transportation has of traveling independently.  Oakland University’s shuttle service was discontinued in 2020. Without SMART’s Auburn Hills routes, students living in the OU dorms will be essentially trapped on campus.

Detroit Transit is Evolving

Before 2018, the FAST express-service routes to Detroit from the suburbs didn’t exist. Their ease of use and high frequency drew in a lot of new riders that had never traveled by bus before. In May 2019 DART came online, eliminating all transfer fees between SMART and DDOT buses and introducing contactless payment. As of fall 2021, Wayne State University students ride SMART for free. Change is happening rapidly, and our bus system is only getting better.

If Auburn Hills isn’t part of the SMART system, essential transportation won’t reach people who live, work, and study there. We need YOU to tell Auburn Hills City Council how important SMART is for the city and the region – a booster of economic productivity, personal growth, and an essential lifeline for seniors and people with disabilities.

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