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Transit Decision 2016: Funding for Southeast Michigan

Election Day is quickly approaching, and with it brings major decisions around our nation’s public transportation funding. Voters across the country will be faced with ballot initiatives set to determine the future of their city’s public transit systems.

In one of our most recent blog posts, we discussed the $200 Billion in national transit funding on the line and how a number of cities are hoping to improve their local infrastructure, economies, and overall quality of life as a result.

In our “Transit Decision 2016” series, we’ll dive into the cities facing these critical decisions by taking a look at the current issues they face, how they plan to improve public transit, and what the future may hold.

In part one of the series, we put the spotlight on southeast Michigan:

A more unified approach to regional transportation could soon be coming to southeast Michigan — if their voters approve it.

The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) is leading the proposal for a $4.7 Billion plan to link public transit among counties surrounding the Detroit area. Specifically, this would mean improvements for Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw County, MI.

RTA is coordinating with four different transit organizations, including the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT), the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority (AAATA), and the Detroit People Mover to bring this plan into motion.

With this plan, RTA wants to implement a number of changes:

  • A Detroit to Ann Arbor passenger rail
  • A Bus Rapid Transit (Buses with dedicated right of way and priority signaling)
  • Four Commuter Express Routes
  • Expansion of the local bus service
  • Universal Fare Card
  • Express Airport Routes from various surrounding cities

With these changes comes a price tag (20 year property tax increase adding $1.20 in taxes for every $1,000 of taxable value on a property per year), but RTA is committed to bringing this right back into the community.

In the proposed plan, 85% of the money collected would be spent in same region it is collected. RTA also expects the funding to have a $6 billion economic development impact for the community.

When asked about the decision to add the vote to the ballot, Wayne County Executive, Warren C. Evans, showed excitement for the proposed changes:

“Today’s decision was a major step forward in moving our region towards a world-class regional transit system. Today’s vote also makes progress on an intractable problem that has dogged this region for 50 years.”

The real question is, will the voters see the value?

The plan originally met opposition last month after officials in Oakland and Macomb counties raised concerns, including the total revenue from the plan that would be going back into the community. After these and other items were addressed, transit supporters and local businesses’ encouragement brought the plan back to life and onto the voters’ upcoming ballots — so it’s future may be promising after all.  

However, only time will tell if this plan can make its way across the finish line.

Interested in southeast Michigan’s story and want to hear more about how other cities are trying to move transit funding forward? Stay tuned for part two of our series..