Detroit Ballot Measure Puts Regional Transit in Reach

Involving four counties and $4.6 billion, the measure proposes a system that could put a million residents (and a million jobs) within a quarter mile of transit.

2 minute read

October 27, 2016, 1:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Detroit People Mover

ellenm1 / flickr

For a long time, regional transit has been just one more underdeveloped service in southern Michigan. But in November, that will likely change. Angie Schmitt writes, "It took 40 years and 23 failed attempts for Detroit and its suburbs to establish a regional transit agency. They finally won state support to establish the RTA in 2012."

But the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan can only do so much with its current resources. "Transit service in the region is fragmented and unreliable, even though a quarter of city residents don't own cars. The severity of the problem was encapsulated by the story of James Robertson, whose commute to a factory job in the suburbs required taking two buses and walking 21 miles."

Leading up to the vote this November, "The Detroit region has put together a $4.6 billion, four-county plan to improve transit. The centerpiece is a network of bus rapid transit lines extending out from downtown. Funded by a 20-year property tax increase, the measure would cost the average homeowner in the region about $95 a year."

The plan: four bus rapid transit (BRT) lines connecting Detroit to regional employment centers outside the city proper (as far as Pontiac and Ann Arbor). On top of that, "regional rail" between Ann Arbor and Detroit's downtown. 

All signs point to broad regional support for the measure. "Some opposition emerged from the northern suburbs, but key political actors who could have blocked it, like Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson (the 'Sprawl King') have opted not to."

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