Regional Transit Plan Blocked from Going on Ballot

Andy Meisner Treasurer TOPRegional Rust Belt Ad late FridaysTransit Plan Blocked from Going on Ballot

(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 28, 2016)

Detroit, MI – Plans for a $4.6 billion regional transit system were expected to go to the ballot for a vote of the people in November, but board members from Oakland and Macomb Counties have blocked the measure at the request of their respective County Executives.

The proposal required at least one person from each county voting to put it on the ballot, and today at a public meeting there was no support from Oakland and Macomb.  There could still be an emergency vote if done within the next week.

garden16_G Aimee Ergas_AugustThe plan was unveiled in June, and includes many transit options including:

~Bus Rapid Transit along Woodward, Gratiot, Michigan Ave. to the Detroit Metro Airport, and Washtenaw Avenue between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

~Regional Rail to connect Ann Arbor, Ypsillanit, Wayne, Dearborn and Detroit New Center. This connects to the Amtrak service that already exists between Pontiac and Detroit, and that extends West beyond Ann Arbor to Chicago.

~Cross-County Connector bus routes.

~Commuter Express Routes including along M-59 and I-75 from Detroit to Auburn Hills.j and d ad

~Airport Express service will provide express service to Detroit Metro Airport

~New and expanded local bus services

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson issued a lengthy statement outlining objections:

“Oakland County today refused to support a regional transit plan request that would have collected $700 million in taxes from 40 communities over 20 years but provided only $79 million worth of services in return.

The request to support the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) plan, which excludes more than half a million county SaharaNEW02residents from the proposed service area, would collect $1.26 billion from county residents through a 1.2-mil tax for 20 years.

“This isn’t the plan that we were looking for,” Chuck Moss, one of Oakland’s two representatives, said during a public meeting in Detroit. “This is not a regional transit plan; it’s a regional taxation plan. It’s a plan without transportation. No taxation without transportation.”

Oakland County was joined by representatives from Macomb County, who also refused to support the tax proposal. Board approval was required in order to send the millage request before the voters in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties and the city of Detroit. Oakland and Macomb each had two representatives and each voted against putting the issue on the November ballot.

Oakland County will push for a legislative solution in Lansing as it continues to seek a regional master transit plan that provides transit services for all residents and businesses in the four counties and Detroit and a meaningful seat at the table when it comes to BubbleTea Adapportioning local transit funds.

“The current regional master transit plan abandons more than half a million Oakland County residents in 40 of our communities, leaving them with little or no transit services but demanding they pay more than $700 million in taxes over 20 years,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “I support regional transit, but I won’t be stampeded into a bad deal.”

Oakland County detailed its continuing concerns on July 5 in a 19-page memo sent to RTA staff. The memo responded to the RTA’s Draft Regional Master Transit Plan released on May 30 which outlined a $4.6 billion, 20-year master transit plan that would be funded by a 1.2-mill tax.

“It called for 40 of our communities to pay 1.2-mil tax for 20 years – in exchange for nothing,” Patterson said. “Then they said we’d get $79 million back for a $700 million investment. You do the math.”

MBREW draft oneCounty staff spent the month of June dissecting the plan and consulting with local officials and experts. In its memo, the county asked for specific guarantees that the services promised would be delivered. The request was essentially ignored.

Prior to the May release of the plan, Oakland County had expressed concerns to the RTA since November of 2015. Few of those concerns were answered in the RTA’s Draft Regional Master Transit Plan released in late May 2016 for public comment. Prior to the release, only snippets of the plan were provided for review.

In the meantime, a number of Oakland County communities passed resolutions opposing the RTA’s plan. Highland Township, which straddles M-59 where the RTA has red lined transit service in its plan, said in its resolution, “The Township opposes the RTA Master Plan because it only benefits a few select communities in Oakland County.”

Patterson agreed. “I won’t sacrifice 40 communities on the altar of regional cooperation,” he said.

Oakland County has joined Macomb County in demanding a meaningful seat at the RTA ChamberAd_02table when it comes to voting for and apportioning local transit funds. Right now, it takes a simple majority vote to change the apportionment of transit funds.

The county has already witnessed that others are willing to abuse that simple majority.

In order to get Oakland County to agree to a pilot program of extending hours of service provided by Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transit (SMART) on Gratiot and Woodward, Detroit RTA representatives claimed to have the votes to change the apportionment of local transit dollars from 52 percent for SMART/48 percent for the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) to 70 percent/30 percent in favor of DDOT further eroding the suburban transit service.

“When others are willing to use the simple vote majority to squeeze us and play politics, it just isn’t going to work,” Patterson said. “We need to garden16_G carl grant augustchange it to a voting model like the Cobo Authority or SMART where it requires an affirmative vote from each county and the city.”It appears the change in the RTA board voting requirements for apportioning local transit funds can only happen through the Michigan Legislature.“We only get one bite at the apple on getting the RTA plan right,” Patterson said. “I’d rather take the time to get the details right than be saddled with a system that doesn’t work well because some were willing to abandon the interests of almost half of Oakland County’s residents.”A timeline of County Executive Patterson’s on-going support for regional transit:

  • 1995: Patterson supported Act 196 which allowed for the creation in each county an sidebar012balloonratesauthority to levy and collect taxes to support SMART. He worked with the Board of Commissioners to get the SMART millage on the ballot. He has supported every SMART millage renewal since.
  • 2001: Patterson backed the creation of the Detroit Area Regional Transportation Authority (DARTA) which ultimately was vetoed by Gov. John Engler.
  • 2004: Patterson joined the leaders of Macomb and Wayne counties and the city of Detroit in the Regional Transit Coordinating Council (RTCC) in order to create DARTA. A court decision threw out the RTCC law because of a legal flaJacks Adw in the legislation. Gov. Jennifer Granholm reneged on a promise to fix the RTCC legislation.
  • 2008: Patterson joined the regional leaders to move forward again on creating a regional transit authority. He worked with representatives from Gov. Rick Snyder’s office to pass the legislation to create the RTA.”

This story will be updated as more information is available.  Learn more about the RTA at

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