New $5.4B regional transit plan costs more, adds more destinations

Posted on March 16, 2018

A new 1.5-mill, 20-year metro Detroit regional transit plan Wayne County Executive Warren Evans presented Thursday promises more service for more areas in southeast Michigan than the plan rejected by voters in 2016.

But with political opposition from officials in Oakland and Macomb counties and a higher cost than the previous effort, the plan that Evans presented to the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan board will have substantial hurdles to overcome if it is to make the November ballot.

The proposal, dubbed Connect Southeast Michigan, promises to raise $5.4 billion over the life of the millage and leverage an extra $1.3 billion in farebox, state and federal monies.

According to information provided by a Wayne County official, the cost would be about $118 per year for an average household in the RTA area.

The plan — an increase from the 1.2-mill ask in 2016 — does not include the types of changes, such as shrinking the taxing and service areas, that would require legislative action. But each of the four jurisdictions — Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw counties along with the City of Detroit — can essentially veto the effort in the end. A simple majority RTA board vote, if it comes at a future meeting, would send the plan out for public comment.


A map of new transit services proposed in the
After his presentation to a packed crowd at the RTA meeting, Evans reiterated an earlier call to let voters have their say on the plan, but he also highlighted the failure of metro Detroit to invest in its public transit on a level comparable to other regions.

“I hear a whole lot of people saying they want transit, and they understand even with this increased millage, if it occurs, we’re still closer to the bottom than the top in terms of what we pay for transit, even with the 1½ mills. This doesn’t put us in any great shape nationally. It doesn’t even get us in the middle of the pile, but it gets us on the map,” Evans said.

The plan met with almost immediate pushback from Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

“We’re a strong no on this plan for basically the same reason we were no before except it’s even worse (now they’ve add $800 million to it). … That’s a pie-in-the-sky plan by Warren Evans. I like him. He’s well-intentioned. I don’t think he’s connected to the public on this one,” Patterson said. “The plan they had before failed just by a narrow margin so rather than come back with something bigger and more expensive why not reduce the existing plan, and who knows what you might accomplish?”

The 2016 measure lost by about 18,000 votes out of more than 1.8 million cast.

The new effort is also expected to meet opposition in Macomb County, where Executive Mark Hackel and county commissioners have injected a debate about prioritizing road repairs into the transit discussion.

Not surprisingly, however, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan offered his support:

“The regional transit plan presented to the RTA Board (Thursday) by Wayne County Executive Warren Evans connects the entire region and I enthusiastically support the RTA considering it. Residents of all four counties deserve an opportunity to vote on it this fall.”


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