Wayne County reveals new pitch for regional transit plan

Oakland County not on board with new plan

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DETROIT – Wayne County has released its first draft of a new transit plan with the hopes of being included on the 2018 Michigan ballot.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans revealed the plan to the Regional Transit Authority on Thursday.

“Representatives from four Counties and the city of Detroit have developed this plan over thousands of hours since April,” Evans said.  

“We’ve been debating transit for decades and I think voters deserve an opportunity to see this proposed solution. If they vote it down, they vote it down, but I can’t see the rationale of why wouldn’t let them consider it.”

'Connect Southeast Michigan'

The plan is being called "Connect Southeast Michigan," and it will call for a 1.5 mill property tax levy on Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Macomb counties.

The millage is projected to raise $5.4 billion over 20 years to fund expanded regional transit service and plan forward flexible transit innovations as technology changes the transportation and mobility industries.

The average house in the RTA region is worth $157,504, meaning it would cost $118 a year,  which is less than $10 per month.

It would also leverage an additional $1.3 billion in farebox, state and federal revenues for Southeast Michigan.

Highlights of the plan include:

  • Premium Bus Routes Connecting Job Centers: 5 premium routes on Mound/Van Dyke, Gratiot, Woodward, Grand River, and Michigan, eliminating unnecessary transfers.
  • Increased Routes, Frequency of Service: An additional 10 high-quality bus routes on major cross-county commuter corridors at 15 minute frequencies and 11 commuter express routes connecting Park and Ride lots.
  • Better Connecting Airport to Region: 4 express bus routes connecting Detroit Metro Airport with Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti (I-94), Western Wayne (I-275), Oakland (M-39), and Wayne/Macomb (I-94) to serve the airport’s 33.7 million annual visitors and 18,000 badged employees.
  • Expanded Commuter Rail Service: Commuter rail service between Detroit and Ann Arbor with eight round-trips daily.
  • Flexible “Hometown Service” Program: Focuses on communities not serviced by the new plan’s transit routes, bringing value to areas of region not addressed in 2016 plan.
  • Infrastructure Investment: An additional $696 million for funding infrastructure improvements that support transit.

“This plan is designed to serve riders where they are and where they need to go on a daily basis,” Evans said. “It will expand economic opportunities for countless local residents who struggle to get to work, school, or even the doctor’s office. It will also take cars off the road, which will ease congestion, reduce emissions and increase productivity. It brings value to all four counties and is flexible enough to grow with mobility technology so we can adapt it moving forward.”

Oakland County released a statement saying it "cannot support a regional transit plan that taxes Oakland County communities which already said “no” to funding regional transit just 16 months ago."

The latest regional transit tax scheme concocted by HNTB on behalf of the RTA is at its core nothing more than the plan voters rejected in November of 2016. It’s a pie-in-the-sky proposal that allows the RTA to reach deep into the pockets of Oakland County taxpayers who will pay 40% of the regional transit tab but receive far less than 40% of the regional transit services in return.

Oakland County taxpayers already contribute the most funding to SMART bus. Taxpayers in Oakland County Act 196 taxing authority opt-in communities have paid $352 million to support public transit provided by SMART since voters approved the first millage 21 years ago. That's $37 million more than Macomb County and $107 million more than Wayne County. Detroit has paid nothing into SMART yet still receives some services.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan tweeted his support for the Wayne County plan:

A plan to establish a regional transit plan in Southeast Michigan was rejected by voters on 2016.

Here's a look at the 2016 plan proposal. 

In February, Evans and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson appeared on Flashpoint to talk about the possible transit plan. Watch it below:

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About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content manager for WDIV/ He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter.