Bridge Magazine: Regional Transit Dead This Year [TRANSCRIPT]

Lack of consensus between RTA, regional officials means no plan for voters to decide this fall.

Voters in southeast Michigan will not see a transit proposal on the ballot this fall after a meeting today ended without consensus, Bridge Magazine reports.

Click HERE for the Bridge story.

The regional plan, proposed earlier this year by Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and supported by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, would have levied a 1.5-mill regional tax, raising $5 billion over 20 years.

But Oakland County officials told Bridge that they won’t support sending a plan to voters until the governing structure of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan changes.  

Bridge Magazine’s Chastity Pratt Dawsey spoke with WDET’s Sandra Svoboda about the transit plan and why officials won’t send it to voters.

Click on the audio link above to hear their conversation. An edited transcript is below.

Other WDET Transit Conversations:

See Wayne County Executive Warren Evans’ Proposal for Regional Transit in SE Michigan [MAP]

How Did We Get Here? A Visual Timeline of Mass Transit in Southeast Michigan

Detroit Businesses Discuss Whether The Region Can Be Competitive, Attract Talent

Here’s a MAP of the proposed plan.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey: There’s only a few weeks left to get some ballot language approved and ready for the ballot, and there’s so much unreadiness on the part of Oakland and Macomb that essentially the 2018 regional transit plan is dead.

Sandra Svoboda: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans rolled out this plan in March and have been campaigning for it. But we haven’t seen the same thing happening in Oakland and Macomb counties. Can you take us through some of the politicking in each of those? Let’s start with Macomb.


Pratt Dawsey: Macomb County was where you saw the least number of voters support the regional transit plan back in 2016. Since then, Mark Hackel, county executive there, has said “Look, I have problems with roads, I need roads.” That’s going to be a priority over transit. His folks have never really signed on to a 2018 ballot proposal over transit. Also, it’s just lack of political will out there.

Svoboda: And what about in Oakland County?

Pratt Dawsey: In Oakland County pretty much the same thing. L. Brooks Patterson has never really fully supported the 2018 proposal or idea that came from Warren Evans and was supported by Duggan. His whole thing has been, “Look, we have out-county communities that won’t get as much busing or access to this transit so they should be able to opt out and not pay the tax. That’s been his sticking point for the last year or so. That’s not really changed. They – being the supporters of an RTA plan – haven’t really been able to get him off of that sticking point. But interestingly enough, Sandra, there have been a couple of communities like Troy that have come out and said, “Look, we want this on the ballot. Just let the people decide.” But clearly Oakland and Macomb counties aren’t ready to do that.

Sandra Svoboda/WDET

Svoboda: In Oakland County, you have a split, because there are several commissioners on the board there, the legislative branch within county government that have been supportive of it at a public level. But also what this gets to is what people would be voting on. There seems to be some disagreement about whether this is a good plan, whether is a good enough plan to take to voters or whether there are significant problems with it. What are you hearing about that?

The last year, the last year plus, they’ve been trying to come up with a plan or proposal. There have been people saying I want this, or I want that. The plan that Warren Evans proposed in March is larger than the one that failed in 2016. $5 billion. But the difference is that after the 2016 plan failed, they went and essentially said, “OK, out-county communities, what’s it going to take for you to sign on to this?” And so they came up with a $5 billion plan that would have more cross-county busing, more communities served and actually hundreds of millions of dollars that would go to communities to decide on their own some smaller transit projects that they want in their communities. But still, it wasn’t enough to get the Oakland and Macomb representatives that are on the RTA to say “OK let’s go for it, let’s put it before voters.”

Svoboda: And the RTA is scheduled to take that vote at its July meeting. What should we be watching for between now and then?

Pratt Dawsey: You’re not going see much. All indications I see is this isn’t going to be on the ballot. 


  • Sandra Svoboda
    Recovering Bankruptcy Reporter/Blogger looking forward to chronicling regional revitalization on-air, digitally and through community engagement.