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Metro Detroit regional transit initiative announced for 2020: What to know

Four-step plan aims to add transit to Nov. 2020 ballot

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.

DETROIT – Leaders from around Michigan joined on Monday morning to make a major announcement involving regional transit in Southeast Michigan.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Oakland County Executive David Coulter, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Char Jason Morgan, State Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Temperance), Beaumont Health COO Carolyn Wilson, Wayne County Board of Commissioners Chair Alisha Bell, Detroit City Council member Scott Benson and Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chair David Woodward, were all in attendance for the announcement.

A regional transit plan was pitched in 2018, but never made it to the ballot. Another plan was voted down by voters in 2016.

The new four-step proposal involves Wayne County, Oakland County and Washtenaw County, and noticeably omits Macomb County, although officials said Macomb could join later.

“We need transit and we can’t afford to wait,” Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said. “We respect that transit is not a priority for Macomb County right now. Transit is a priority for our region and offers a potential pathway to a regional solution. At this point in time, we need to move forward with a coalition of the willing and the urgency this issue deserves.”

The first step is not an actual ballot proposal plan -- it’s proposed legislation that will allow the counties to negotiate a transit plan together.

What was announced today:

Leaders are proposing a revision to the Municipal Partnership Act (MPA), which will create the “foundation” for Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties to create a three-county regional transit plan. It also allows for Macomb to join later.

The MPA was enacted in 2011 to allow greater regional cooperation between local governments. With voter approval, cities could levy millages to fund specific operations. The proposed MPA revisions (House Bill 5229) would make technical revisions to the current law so that the region can have greater flexibility in finding a solution to transit.

If the changes are approved by Lansing, leaders from Wayne, Washtenaw, and Oakland County as well as the city of Detroit will work with the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to conduct a public engagement process and attempt to negotiate a three-county partnership as a first step in expanded regional transportation. Under the MPA, Macomb County could join later should their transit needs grow from their current full county SMART structure.

Proposed changes:

  • Allows for approval of a municipal partnership levy by a majority vote within each participating jurisdiction;
  • Exempts municipal partnerships from millage caps in the same way as other regional initiatives. (I.E., DIA, Detroit Zoo);
  • Protects municipal partnership tax revenues from DDA or TIF captures, so funds are guaranteed to go to a specific purpose approved by voters.

State Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Temperance) said he hopes to get the bill through the Michigan House and over to the Senate by the end of the year. The goal is to have a regional transit plan on the November 2020 ballot in Michigan.

The group released a four-step process to finding a regional transit solution:

  1. Secure approval for the proposed MPA revisions in Lansing.
  2. Public engagement on transit within Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw counties.
  3. Approval of municipal partnership agreement by leaders in the three counties, as well as in Detroit.
  4. Voter approval of regional transit levy in all three participating counties in Nov. 2020.

“We have been working on solving our regional transit challenges for years to allow us to compete against other states for major economic opportunity and investment,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said. “This legislation is a big first step toward a transit solution that has escaped us for too long.”

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, who was not in attendance, supports the other regional partners moving forward.

“We support the efforts of our regional partners exploring better connected regional transit options,” said Hackel. “As the only county in the region with a countywide service area, we look forward to future opportunities to better connect our region.”

LIVE: Local leaders announce major Metro Detroit regional transit plan

Posted by WDIV Local 4 / ClickOnDetroit on Monday, November 18, 2019

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