Could a Road Funding Boost be a Big Win for Transit too?

We’ve all heard it endlessly for the past year and longer: “Fix the damn roads!!”

Governor Whitmer is committed to doing just that, with no dodges, slight-of-hand, or gimmicks. Fixing Michigan’s roads will cost $2.5 billion, so she’s proposed a 45-cent gas tax increase to achieve that, while also moving education funds back to education and saving money for many seniors and low income workers.

But did you know that proposal would also invest transit!?!

Within the Governor’s proposal, 3% of new revenue would be for “key transit, rail, and mobility projects across the state.” If implemented, that would mean an extra $38 million a year for transit projects, which is no chump change!

That’s why we strongly support the Governor’s proposal as an essential investment in our state’s infrastructure.

That said, the proposal needs two improvements:

  1. 10% for Transit!

While 3% is a start, it’s far short of the 8-10% transit investment that’s been the norm for for more than 60 years. And that’s still not been enough.

While Michigan has certainly under-invested in road maintenance, it’s under-investment in transit has been even more extreme. Many Michigan roads may be in poor shape, but many parts of Michigan are completely inaccessible to people who can’t drive.

Also, fixing the roads is a bare minimum that must be done, but won’t attract new businesses or talented professionals the way a world-class transit system could.

To truly build a great future, Michigan leaders must commit that fully 10% of all transportation dollars be invested in transit, rail, walkability, and other forms of mobility.

2. Fix-It-First, Don’t Widen.

One major reason Michigan can’t afford to maintain our road network is that we’ve built so much. Southeast Michigan’s population has barely changed in the past forty years, yet our road miles and developed land have nearly doubled. We can’t afford to keep sprawling.

Michigan leaders must commit – in written law – that new road dollars will go solely to repairing and maintaining existing roads, not to new or wider roads.

With these two changes, the Governor’s proposal would be Michigan’s greatest investment in transit in decades, and enable transit agencies across Michigan to provide more access, more frequently, to more places. That’s a future we can be proud of!