Legislative Setback

Great transit requires sufficient funding. The Regional Transit Authority can seek voter-approved funding throughout the full four-county region, but Macomb continues to veto that option. HB 5550 we’ve been advocating for would have let Macomb opt-out and would have let Wayne, Oakland, and Washtenaw Counties voters decide whether to make that investment.

The House vote was cancelled.

But that no longer appears likely. Despite support from the House speaker on February 25 and assurances from business allies that it would pass, on March 3rd HB 5550 was pulled from the House agenda. The speaker abruptly changed his position:

“The simple truth is the proposals in front of us do not work for everyone. Because of that, we are going to set this issue aside and tackle other priorities.”

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, March 3, 2020

That means it’s essentially dead, unless it can somehow be revived.

What went wrong?

There appear to be many reasons why it failed:

  • North Oakland townships vocally opposed it and fought very hard to get it killed.
  • Some Washtenaw County officials had concerns about they bill that hadn’t yet been addressed, which led to some hesitation within the Democratic caucus.  
  • The speaker refuses to put any legislation to a vote that doesn’t have support from a majority of the Republican caucus, which apparently this didn’t, so he pulled it from consideration.

“Are we a region, or a group of isolated areas that pay lip service to regional issues? The system rewards obstructionist politics with no apparent obligation to present solutions. Transit should be decided by voters based on an actual transit plan with proposed services, but we can’t even cut through the political smoke screens to debate a substantive plan.  It’s a complete lack of vision, and our region and state suffer because of it.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans

What’s next?

How long will southeast Michigan have to wait for fast, frequent transit we can truly rely on?!

We’re still trying to figure that out.

The need remains. Tens of thousands of people continue to struggle every day to access jobs, schools, and doctors. Many more waste enormous amounts of time and money on inefficient and overly expensive transportation. And businesses continue to choose other metro regions to invest in and create jobs in, regions that are willing to provide the infrastructure those businesses and workers need.

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and find a compromise solution to enable this bill to pass. That would definitely be the best path to the ballot and to great transit. But that remains uncertain.

Sources for more info: Bridge articleDetroit News articleCrains article (paywall)