Matthew Nahan, MSW ’14, is a champion for transit solutions. He serves as Director of Development at the Detroit Bus Company, an L3C whose mission is to create equitable transportation opportunities for the people of Detroit. In addition to providing engaging guided city tours and bus charters, the Bus Company operates the Youth Transit Alliance (YTA), all with its fleet of colorful, biofuel-powered buses.
In a role he began in the summer of 2014, Matt interfaces with key stakeholders, forging cross-sector partnerships with organizations such as United Way and Detroit Public Schools, with a strong focus on fund development for the YTA. Across Detroit, there are hundreds of after-school programs and many youth simply do not have a safe mode of transportation to access these programs. The YTA provides a beautifully simple solution: It picks students up from school, takes them to their after-school program, and then brings them home, right to their door.
But YTA is more than just a bus ride, says Matt. “YTA is an activator of participation and a multiplier of resources. YTA unlocks the broader benefits of these wonderful programs by creating a safe, trustworthy option for students and families.”
“I’m amazed every day at how transportation has the ability to bridge the gap of the “macro”, the “micro”, and the “in-between” to impact people’s lives. With the Youth Transit Alliance we’re taking steps to break the cycle of poverty. It’s community safety, it’s community development, it’s youth development, and it’s economic development. If more and more children are safely transported and engaged, it creates greater economic security for families, local community, and the City as a whole.”
Matt’s journey to the Detroit Bus Company began with his participation in the 2014 Social Impact Challenge, which brought multidisciplinary teams together to develop strategies to improve transportation access for Detroit neighborhoods. Matt and his teammates’ proposal for a micro-transit social enterprise was the winning concept. This proved to be a pivotal experience for his career path and sparked a passion for the power of transit. “I would be doing something completely different had I not been part of the Social Impact Challenge.”
“The Challenge is all about collaboration. Working with a business student, someone from public policy, an urban planner, and then all having dialogue around [this social issue], you are challenged to step outside your norm, and you’re going to go into the workplace better prepared. If you’re a business person, you’re going to have to talk with stakeholders that don’t speak your language, and being able to diversify how you approach these interactions has unbelievable value.”
This skill-set is serving Matt well in his current role; YTA itself is a cross-sector collaboration – funded by the Skillman Foundation and operated by the L3C in coordination with Partnership for Youth, Congress of Communities, and numerous after-school programs.
He also credits collaboration as one of the drivers for the City’s recent momentum.“One of the reasons that Detroit is on such a great trajectory now comes from a willingness to collaborate. Detroiters want to see Detroiters succeed.”
To learn how you can support the transformative work of the Youth Transit Alliance, contact Matt directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-626-0066.