In Clinton County, a lack of mass doesn’t preclude mass transit

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By Diamond Henry
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

DEWITT — Small cities don’t usually have a lot of traffic flow, but not everyone owns a car. So how do the citizens of DeWitt get to where they need if a car isn’t an option? Clinton Transit is how.

Compared to larger cities like Lansing or Detroit, DeWitt’s need for a large transportation system is not necessary.

“We are different because we don’t have a big population in DeWitt; we have about a population of 76,000 in all of Clinton County,” said The director of Clinton Transit Dawn Benson.

The blue, eye-catching buses of Clinton Transit — founded in 2001 by the county and based in St. Johns — are small, but that’s because it’s a dial-and-ride service.

Map to the Clinton Transit Center

Map to the Clinton Transit Center

“The bus routes aren’t the same every day; they are determined by those who call and need a ride. We go to your house and pick up, and we go to your house and drop you off,” said Benson.

The service isn’t exactly free. According to Benson, everyone who boards pays a fare ranging from 50 cents to $5, depending on certain discounts such as whether they are a senior citizen or a person with disabilities. It’s also operated through a property tax millage, contributions from the state, and FTA federal funds.

The routes can go to any address in Clinton County and certain parts of Ingham County, most of the Greater Lansing area and all bus stops for CATA, Greater Lansing’s mass transit service.

While it’s not surprising, it’s not common for small cities to have a big form of public transportation because it is not needed.

Kenneth Boyer, a professor at Michigan State University and an expert in transportation economics, weighed in.

“Dial-and-ride services are pretty common in smaller cities. Infrastructure for transportation usually tends to be for roads and parking because rural areas are usually exclusively dependent on cars,” said Boyer.

Boyer also explained the breakdown of how dial-and-ride services are usually paid for.

“They’re usually never paid for 100 percent from the fare box; the rest usually comes from subsidies. Where the subsidies comes from depends on the company,” said Boyer.

Neither the city of DeWitt nor DeWitt Township has a department of transportation outside the transportation for schools.

As for whether the city of DeWitt should install its own, bigger form of public transportation, Boyer believes it’s questionable.

“It would be up to the city and if they wanted to develop with different subsidies,” he said. “Whether or not it’s worth it, that’s a good question.”

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