If at first you don’t succeed, try something a little different.
The Regional Transit Authority is reworking its long-term plan to create a coordinated, efficient transit system for southeast Michigan. RTA General Manager Matt Webb says adding more frequent bus service during off-peak hours would be a good start, so that people aren’t waiting an hour or more to get a ride. He also says new on-demand services such as “first-mile/last-mile” connections should be part of the plan. But he says it can’t be a “one-size-fits-all” system—different communities in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties have different transit needs.
“Rural areas of the four counties, it looks completely different,” Webb says. “The needs are completely different than downtown Detroit, downtown Ann Arbor, our core communities.”
The biggest challenge facing the RTA since it was created has been getting taxpayers to fund it. The authority asked for a 1.2 mill property tax in 2016, that would have raised about $4.5 billion for regional transit. It did not get the required support from all four counties, and thus failed. Opposition from Oakland and Macomb county leaders—and tensions between them and Detroit/Wayne County officials—kept a slightly-different proposal off the ballot in 2018. The next chance to put something on the ballot comes in 2020. Webb says the RTA funding model has to change if suburban leaders are going to support it.
“Right now, we have a one-size-fits-all approach for funding. That won’t work.”—Matt Webb.
The Michigan Legislature, which created the RTA, would have to approve changes to its taxing power. Webb says that would give the authority the flexibility it needs to create a system that meets each community’s needs. It would also answer a big complaint from RTA foes—that it would tax people who live in areas where transit is not readily available or practical.
“Those communities that would reside within (our) core service area where the service is provide, those are the ones that would be participating in the RTA,” Webb says.
That means communities not participating would not have to pay for it.
Click on the audio player to hear Matt Webb’s conversation with WDET’s Pat Batcheller.
2014 Regional System Map on Scribd