Metro Detroit leaders launch new push for regional transit

Hope to get on 2020 ballot

WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. – Local leaders have launched a push for regional transit in Metro Detroit. Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said the county can’t afford to wait.

This new push comes after failed bids in 2016 and 2018, with the opposition led by the late L. Brooks Patterson.

Macomb County is not in on the push because it already has the SMART system and Mark Hackel believes Macomb County is all set with mass transit and reserves the right to opt in later.

Unlike many major American cities, Metro Detroit depends largely on buses for mass transit. Evans said this system is inadequate.

“We need transit. It’s not just for employees, or students, or residents. Businesses and corporations need workers and they need to retain and attract talent to stay competitive,” Evans said.

Wayne, Washtenaw and Oakland counties are teaming up -- looking to Lansing to change laws that could make it easier for them to ask voters to fund modern mass transit. Mass transit can be expensive, and repeatedly Metro Detroit voters have said “no," particularly, in northern Oakland County. New Oakland County Executive David Coulter said this effort needs to take a different approach than in 2016.

“I think if I was a resident of Independence Township I might not have voted for it either. I just don’t think they value it there. So we have an opportunity, we’re still working out the details to increase the value that they see in transit options,” Coulter said.

Currently, SMART director John Hertel is excited about new leadership and ready to take on this controversial issue.

“When you see this kind of cooperation, I’m moved by it because I’ve been fighting this fight for decades,” Hertel said.

The Legislature is working on this as a bipartisan issue. Jared Sheppard, of Monroe, is the sponsor. He hopes the House will approve legislation that would allow local votes on mass transit and more carefully target funds to make sure they go only to mass transit.

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.