The end of the RTA as we know it?

Who’s in charge of regional transit?

It’s supposed to be the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) which was created by state law to explicitly coordinate and improve public transit throughout the four counties of southeast Michigan.

Yet on Thursday, November 16, the Regional Transit Authority appears to give up and close up shop.

At their Nov 16 board meeting, their interim CEO resigned, as did their staff planner, leaving 1 administrative staff person and some consultants. The board has no plans at this time to seek a new CEO. SMART has taken over their one project: RefleX.

It is understandable that Interim CEO Tiffany Gunter, who served in that role for 8 months without the Board ever taking any steps to make her role permanent, would want to move somewhere with more support and job security.

It appears that the RTA board has abdicated the leadership role they are legislatively mandated to take, giving everything into the hands of the Big 4 (County Execs and Mayor Duggan) to decide if and when we get transit. While the Big 4 are reportedly meeting regularly towards a regional transit agreement, at this time, the public, riders and other stakeholders appear to have no say and are understandably concerned.

This is a disappointing step backwards for transit progress.

However, this is not the end. 

The need to major transit improvements remains. Tens of thousands of people continue to suffer and struggle to access basic job training, healthy foods, and other necessities. Thousands of talented people continue to leave the region for metro areas that will provide the walkable urban environments they desire. And companies like Amazon continue to take their investments to those places talented workers are moving.

Southeast Michigan will continue to be left behind until we take the issue of quality transit seriously.

Everyone who cares about transit needs to contact Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne County Exec Warren Evans, who know how important transit is, and urge them to take real leadership steps to invest in 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 TRU plans and opportunities for action!