Where public transportation goes, communities grow.
SMART provides an essential service, connecting people to jobs, job training, doctors, and more. However SMART does not have the funding it needs to meet our community’s transportation needs. Between declining property values, declining state and federal support, and increasing costs, SMART has not been able to even maintain service levels, let alone provide the expanded service that riders and employers need. For these reasons and more,
TRU is urging County Commissioners to let voters support an increased SMART millage on the ballot this August.
Why? Details are below, but in brief:
- SMART provides essential service to its riders.
- Transit provides enormous benefits to the community.
- SMART lacks sufficient funding.
- More service is needed.
- The RTA won’t take over major regional routes for several more years.
- The public strongly supports transit and should have the right to vote on an increase.
TRU recommends a 1.8 mil property tax on the August 2014 ballot, enabling SMART to overhaul its aging bus fleet plus expand service hours and routes. TRU would also support a 1.0 mil tax rate, which would not allow for the transit expansion the region needs, it should enable some restoration of service and improvement of the ancient bus fleet.
SMART still needs to publicly detail the improvements they would make with increased funding, however the development of that plan should NOT delay the necessary actions to get an increase on the ballot. Each county must vote before the end of April to place the SMART millage on the August ballot.
SMART provides essential service to its riders. Thousands in our community are too young, too old, or physically or financially unable to drive, yet everyone wants to be productive and engaged in the community. Some people can drive but prefer to save money and decrease stress by riding the bus instead of adding their car to commuter traffic. SMART provides over 35,000 rides a day, offering an effective, affordable way to get to work, school, and meet other daily needs.
Transit provides enormous benefits to the community.
While some of us ride it, all of us need it. Transit decreases traffic by taking thousands of cars off the road. Transit enables teachers, airport workers, cooks, day care workers, mechanics, and other essential workers to help us throughout our day. Transit gets kids to school and grandparents to appointments. And dollars not spent on gas money are reinvested into the local economy. Every dollar invested in the bus system returns two dollars into our local economy.
SMART lacks sufficient funding. The SMART millage rate hasn’t increased in more than ten years. State transit support hasn’t been increased in 25 years. Yet gas prices have tripled and other expenses have risen. SMART has cut costs and maximized efficiencies. They’ve cut their administration expenses and negotiated union concessions. But cost cutting can’t keep up.
More service is needed. SMART needs later hours for workers who don’t work 9-5 and increased frequency so riders don’t have to wait so long. SMART needs to restore all day service into Detroit to ensure suburban and city workers, students, and visitors can conveniently connect across city-county borders. And SMART needs to overhaul its aging bus fleet with newer, more efficient buses.
The RTA won’t take over major regional routes for several more years. While the new Regional Transit Authority is working toward new rapid transit service along Woodward, Gratiot, and elsewhere, the RTA will not have funding to build or operate transit service until 2017 at the earliest. SMART can begin enhanced service along these priority corridors within a few months, improving service for riders today while building toward the RTA’s rapid transit in the future.
The public strongly supports transit and should have the right to vote on an increase. Previous SMART millage renewals have been approved with over 70% support from voters. Recent polls found that fully 87% of the four-county region’s voters believe the region needs more and better transit service, and 67% support taxes and fees to fund transit. Give the voters the chance to decide whether to support an increased SMART millage.
TRU recommends a 1.8 mil property tax in the August 2014 ballot. This would enable SMART to not only restore essential service that was cut in 2011 and to overhaul its aging bus fleet, but to also expand service hours and routes and begin to develop Arterial Rapid Transit service along major regional corridors. This would cost the average household less than 25 cents per day and still remain lower than Lansing, Saginaw, or Ann Arbor’s transit millage rates.
TRU would also support a 1.0 mil tax rate, which is lower than Grand Rapids or Flint’s bus millage rates as well. While that would not allow for the transit expansion the region needs, it should enable some restoration of service and improvement of the ancient bus fleet.
SMART needs to publicly detail the improvements they would make with increased funding.
Certainly voters deserve a clear understanding of the bus service improvements that a 1.0 or 1.8 or other millage rate would enable SMART to provide. SMART riders and other stakeholders should have an opportunity to be involved in planning improvement priorities. However the development of that plan should NOT delay the necessary actions to get an increase on the ballot.
Each county must vote before the end of April to place the SMART millage on the August ballot.