Renewed Hope for Regional Transit?

Ever since the narrow defeat of the Regional Transit ballot measure in November 2016, people have been asking:

“What’s next?”

For 13 months, the silence has been deafening.

The silence from the Regional Transit Authority and the Counties’ leaders has been deafening. The resignation of first one RTA CEO then 8 months later the Interim CEO has been worrying to say the least. It appears that the RTA board has abdicated their leadership role on transit, giving everything into the hands of the Big 4 (County Execs and Mayor Duggan) to decide if and when we get transit.

This is especially disturbing because our region’s transit problems have not gone away: thousands of people continue to struggle and suffer from lack of reliable access and our region continues to lose more talented people and robust businesses.

We’ve heard for months that the Big 4 are talking about how to proceed and working through their concerns and differences. Unfortunately transit riders and others are left out of these discussions. And given the region’s history, advocates were skeptical.

Hope remains for a solution very soon.

Yet in recent weeks, RTA Board Chair Paul Hillegonds, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson have all told area media that they are close to an agreement.

The latest comments suggest we may hear as early as January how they’ve agreed to modify the transit plan and put it back on the ballot for November of 2018.

While the Big 4’s agreement would be a major positive step, that would be far from the end of the story. If rumors are true, they may need to ask the legislature to amend the RTA legislation to remove the rural parts of the region from the RTA’s jurisdiction. Then we need a robust, well-funded, and well-coordinated campaign to educate voters why this plan is better than the last and build their confidence and support to pass it.

The first step is to keep pressure on the Big 4:

Everyone who cares about transit needs to contact Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne County Exec Warren Evans, thank them for their commitment to transit and urge them to take strong leadership to ensure a vote on great transit.

We also need to contact Oakland County Exec Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Exec Mark Hackel and remind them that while SMART provides a critical service, it is NOT enough to provide the access to opportunity and vibrant connected communities we need for our region to thrive.


Advocates need to redouble our efforts and speak out and demand our leaders take real action NOW!

Stay tuned for updates!