What’s next for the RTA?
That is a critical question that continues to be debated by RTA Board members, county executives, and others. The RTA held a retreat in May where options varied dramatically. They at least agreed upon a set of questions to evaluate (below) to start moving forward.
Unfortunately, no further news has been shared publicly since that May retreat except that “productive negotiations continue.” While they’ve said RTA staff are researching options, no timeline has been set for a decision, although some people feel if they can’t decide by January, the chance for a 2018 vote may be lost. Thus far, they’ve offered no opportunity for public input on these critical decisions beyond normal public comment periods at their meetings (the ones that they don’t cancel).
1) Size of the Region – Should the rural and exurban areas be removed from the RTA taxing authority?
Brooks Patterson has said the idea of shrinking the RTA has merit “so people who want the service in that district can pay for it and then nobody’s got a complaint.”
Alma Wheeler Smith, one of two Washtenaw County representatives on the RTA board, argued against shrinking the RTA, in part because she is concerned it would require a years-long change in the RTA statute (because it must be done by the state legislature).
2) Consolidation – How can transit agencies coordinate, collaborate or consolidation to increase efficiency? What benefits would a merger between SMART and DDOT provide? Can similar benefits be provided through other means?
3) Timing of Funding Vote – When should the RTA place a funding measure back on the ballot – November 2018 or November 2020?
Freman Hendrix, representing the City of Detroit, [called] it “the height of arrogance for us to blow off the possibility of 2018.”
“The RTA’s CAC emphatically asks the RTA Board to act with all due urgency and make every possible effort to place funding for an updated Regional Transit Master Plan on the November 2018 ballot. . . . The need for regional public transit has not gone away. . . . Southeast Michigan is being left behind. . . . This should be a call to action.”
4) Transit Plan Changes – Should modest or major changes be made to the Regional Transit Master Plan before taking it back to voters?
“We’ve got a damn good plan that a ton of work went into,” said Elisabeth Gerber, one of two Washtenaw County representatives on the board.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says he will actively campaign against another RTA plan if it is unchanged from the one rejected by about 18,000 votes last fall.
5) RTA Today – What can the RTA do at the present time to improve and coordinate transit as it’s mission directs?
Recommendations have included better promoting and expanding the RefleX service and developing a pilot Airport Express service.
For more information, take a look at:
- The RTA’s May newsletter
- The RTA Board retreat agenda and presentations (pdf)
- The July 4 Free Press article: “Another try at Detroit regional transit? Smaller footprint may be better this time“
- The May Free Press article: “Regional transit’s big question: When to go back to voters?“
- The May column of TRU Director Megan Owens in the Free Press: “Column: What’s next for regional transit“