Regional transit bill to connect Detroit with other Michigan counties fails

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 - 4:08am

A millage to fund regional transit aiming to connect the city of Detroit to several Michigan counties failed by a close margin of 826,517 in favor of the bill to 849,312 against it.

The proposal would have established a railway between Macomb, Wayne, Washtenaw and Oakland by establishing a tax on Southeastern Michigan property owners. In August, leaders from those counties agreed on a plan put forth by the Regional Transit Authority to expand mass transit with a new system of bus rapid transit, new bus routes both cross-country and rush hour transits and a commuter rail between Detroit and Ann Arbor, among other services.

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said in an August press release that the agreement would greatly improve local economy and expand regional transit, which he says is vital for the state.

“The Regional Transit Authority is about getting people to jobs and making sure seniors and those with disabilities can live independently. It's also about growing our economy to benefit everyone,” he wrote. “I look forward to future steps being taken to ensure Michiganders have solid access to transportation across the state."

In Washtenaw County only, the proposal fared better, with 67,316 voting in favor and 48,032 voting against. It also passed in Wayne County, with 269,777 in support and 237,505 against. Oakland County’s results were tight, with 49.9 percent in support and 50.09 percent against under a total of 585,911 total votes. In Macomb County, however, the millage lost significantly, with 222,176 against and 147,819 in support of the millage, which led to its defeat overall.

The plan would have cost $4.7 billion, and was slated to be completed in 2036. Among many other facets, it would have impacted transportation for University of Michigan students from Ann Arbor to Detroit, which currently is subsidized by the Detroit Connector bus service.

Had the plan passed, the bus service — which runs Thursday to Sunday — could have significantly altered its operation. In an October interview, Central Student Government member Dylan Bennett, a Public Policy junior, said the University was waiting on the millage results to move forward.

“Every year, it’s technically in jeopardy, because they’ve been waiting for the Regional Transit Authority to get their referendum on the ballot this November,” he had said.

However, University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen said in October that the outcome of the November vote will not necessarily influence the service directly.

“While the RTA regional transit bill does not directly impact this service, the University explores all transit options available each academic year to support and cultivate the relationship between UM and Detroit,” she said.