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Is regional transit in Southeast Michigan dead?

SMART bus in downtown Detroit

In September 2017, we reported on the state of the Regional Transit Authority's efforts at funding a regional transit system after a ballot initiative in 2016 narrowly failed to pass. Unfortunately, it looks increasingly unlikely that the system will be funded anytime soon. 

In his annual State of the County speech, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said that only those voters who use the SMART bus system should be included in the millage vote. Some of the Oakland County cities that voted 'no' for the millage were Waterford, Novi, Bloomfield Hills, Keego Harbor, Rochester Hills, and Sylvan Lake.

Patterson says that the people who use the system are the ones who receive the benefits, therefore, people who don't use it shouldn't have to be a part of the plan. 

"I want you to know, I will not force those communities into a plan that will not benefit them. I can't do it, I won't do it, and I will never—ever," Patterson said, interrupted by applause and the loudest cheers of the night, according to the Detroit Free Press.

In order for partial inclusion of Oakland County in the millage proposal, the RTA charter would have to be written by the Michigan Legislature.

In a scathing rebuttal, Mayor Duggan said, "What is so hard to understand is that it was Patterson himself who lobbied for and helped pass Public Act 387 in 2012, the law that requires the RTA to have countywide transit plans."

Many transit advocates believe that a lack of a regional transit system was one of the reasons Southeast Michigan didn't make the cut as one of the final 20 cities to host Amazon's new headquarters. 

"Some day, Southeastern Michigan will join the rest of America in recognizing the critical importance of regional transit," said Duggan. "But it will take regional leaders to build a regional transportation system."

Read more articles by Chanel Stitt.

Chanel Stitt is a Model D editorial intern and currently studying journalism at U-M Dearborn.
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