RTA Delay Risks Transit Funding!

The RTA was scheduled to vote Thursday July 21 to adopt the Regional Transit Master Plan and place the funding on the November 8 ballot. Unfortunately, objections from Oakland and Macomb board members have delayed that vote.

On May 31, the RTA publicly unveiled the proposed Regional Transit Master Plan, drafts of which had been discussed with the County Executives and RTA Board members over several preceding months. Throughout June, the RTA hosted both public and private meetings, discussing the plan and accepting comments and recommendations. (TRU submitted our comments June 28, strongly supporting the plan and offering suggestions for improvements.)

Yet despite months of private discussions and weeks of public input, Oakland and Macomb waited until just two hours before the scheduled RTA Board vote to voice their objections and demand that the vote be postponed until their complaints had been addressed.

RTA Board members representing Detroit, Wayne, and Washtenaw made it clear that they were ready and willing to vote as scheduled to adopt the RTA Master Plan and place the funding measure on the ballot. Unfortunately Oakland and Macomb members refused. County Executives Brooks Patterson and Mark Hackel had a press release prepared detailing their complaints, most of which come down to demanding guarantees that their dollars will not be used to improve transit outside their county borders. (Somehow they missed the word “regional” in the Regional Transit Plan.)

Delay is particularly risky because if the RTA does not vote by August 15, and does not have an affirmative vote from every county, the funding necessary to implement the RTA plan cannot be placed on the November ballot. The region would have to wait at least two years before it could try again to fund regional transit. And the RTA does not have basic operational funding to continue operating until that time.

As TRU’s Ruth Johnson noted in the Detroit News, she was “disappointed that a vote was not taken” but feels confident all sides can reach an agreement to bolster transit in the region.

“Too many people are depending upon them to get this job done. This is a start. And if we never get started, we’ll never see the promise of what the RTA legislation and all the hard work of the RTA board and the citizens have put in and brought us to this point.”

RTA staff are working diligently to address their concerns and provide assurances that the RTA will follow the law that requires 85% of the dollars raised in that county be spent in that county. The RTA provided a statement Friday explaining how they were addressing the complaints and striving to move forward towards an effective regional transit system.

TRU strongly urges Oakland and Macomb members to drop their veto and to move quickly to adopt the Regional Transit Master Plan and place the RTA funding on the ballot. As the RTA statement notes,

To the extent that there are open issues, it is because we are off by an inch, not by a mile. Rather, the gulf will be one of trust. If we cannot bridge this and go forward together, it will signify not that the RTA plan is deficient, but something much deeper about our capacity to function as a region. We will fall further behind, and this we will do together.”

If you live or work in Oakland or Macomb Counties, please call your County Exec, tell them you support regional transit and to let the people vote!

Office of Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson: (248) 858-0480

Office of Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel: (586) 469-7001

The RTA Board is tentatively scheduled to meet again Thursday July 28 at 1:30pm at the Detroit Regional Chamber office.