Oakland County leaders united in opposition to regional transit bill

OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. – The Regional Transit Authority was created in 2012 to manage and secure transportation and enhance mobility options in four counties: Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw and Macomb counties, as well as the city of Detroit.

Four years ago, the RTA board adopted the Regional Transit Plan, but voters defeated a 1.2 mils property tax measure in November 2016 that would have enabled transit improvements.

Now it's 2020, and the RTA wants to go back to voters later this year. But first, the legislature has to amend the RTA bill, and not everyone is on board.

About 20 elected officials and community leaders from Oakland County came together Tuesday to oppose House Bill 5550. They feel it's been moved through the legislature too quickly, without any input from them or their residents.

The group claims they have a major problem with the bill, which would allow for a transportation millage of up to 3 mils. They said that would cripple some residents on fixed incomes.

The group also disagrees with the idea of raising money without a clear plan for how that money will be spent or whether it makes sense for residents.

"We're asking things -- where is the plan? How will you spend it? No answers, or vague answers," said Patrick Kittle the supervisor of Independence Township.

Hilarie Chambers, the chief deputy executive for Oakland County, called the change to a law a tool that allows Macomb County to opt out, leaving three counties to consider a new transit plan. The RTA would still go to voters and lay out their vision for transportation in the region.

"Once the law is passed, we are committed to doing significant outreach and involve all parts of the county for Oakland County to improve transit," Chambers said.

She said officials are convinced improving transit improves residents' lives and makes the county competitive. Elected officials don't necessarily disagree, but they want to be involved in the process.

“We’re not against transit,” Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett said. “Quite the opposite, but there is no plan.”

Chambers said Macomb County already has a county-wide transportation system, and they don't need the RTA.

Elected officials from Oakland County question any regional transit system that doesn’t include Macomb County. They fear Oakland County residents will bear the financial brunt for transit improvements.

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