Updated: Michigan Legislature Transit Watch

The 102nd Legislature entered office on January 11th, 2023. Educating legislators old and new on the importance of funding frequent, reliable, and accessible public transportation is one of TRU’s top priorities this year. This Michigan Legislature Transit Watch will serve as your guide on what to know and who to follow as the policymaking process gets underway.

TRU is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and does not support, oppose, or contribute to any elected officials, candidates, or political parties.

An electric bike on a CATA bus at the East Lansing Amtrak station as a train departs in the background
Our capital city’s public transit system in action.

Who to Watch in the 102nd Michigan Legislature

Michigan House of Representatives

Transportation, Mobility, and Infrastructure Committee

Chair: Rep. Shannon (District 58, Sterling Heights)
Majority Vice Chair: Rep. MacDonell (District 56, Troy)
Minority Vice Chair: Rep. Outman, P. (District 91, Six Lakes)

Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation

Chair: Rep. Puri (District 24, Canton)
Majority Vice Chair: Rep. Morgan (District 23, Ann Arbor)
Minority Vice Chair: Rep. Steele (District 54, Orion)

Michigan Senate

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

Chair: Sen. Geiss (District 1, Taylor)
Majority Vice Chair: Sen. Klinefelt (District 11, Eastpointe)
Minority Vice Chair: Sen. McBroom (District 38, Vulkan)

Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation

Chair: Sen. Klinefelt (District 11, Eastpointe)
Majority Vice Chair: Sen. Hertel, K. (District 12, St. Clair Shores)
Minority Vice Chair: Sen. Damoose (District 37, Harbor Springs)


Action Needed, as of 5/11

The Michigan House passed their budget Wednesday 5/10. The Senate is expected to pass theirs 5/11. Now it comes down to negotiations among leaders of the House, Senate, and Governor to align the three budgets into one final spending plan.

We’ve got a real shot at boosting state funding for local buses by $75 million – IF we can convince the Senate and Governor to support the House’s transit budget. So we need all hands on deck over the next two weeks to push our legislators to do so!

Please take action now: call legislative leaders:

  • Call House Speaker Joe Tate at (517) 373-0857
  • Call House Budget Chair Angela Witwer at (517) 373-0822
  • Call Senate Majority Leader Sarah Anthony at 517-373-6960
  • Call Senate Budget Chair Winnie Brinks at 517-373-1801

“The final budget must include $276 million for Local Bus Operating – as the House budget includes” – to ensure all Michiganders across the state have equitable access to good jobs, schools, doctors, and more, even if they don’t drive. (Or add your own reason for supporting transit)

Also call your own legislators – both House and Senate – and urge them to tell their leadership to please keep that funding in! They are our most effective advocates right now.

The Latest: May 2023

House and Senate Committees Approve Budget Bills

The legislature is running full speed with these budget bills!

On Thursday April 27, the House and Senate Appropriations Sub-Committees on Transportation both introduced their budget bills and passed them through to the full Appropriations Committees.

Then Tuesday May 3, both Appropriations Committees passed both budget bills to the full House and Senate.

Once the full House and full Senate pass them (which may happen quickly), it will be up to a Conference Committee to align the House and Senate budgets and make sure it’s something the Governor will support. While none of those leaders are anti-transit, they’ve got a ton of funding requests to balance.

Help make transit heard: Urge your legislators to make transit a top budget priority!

April 2023

House and Senate introduce Transportation Budget Bills

Michigan’s top elected officials are in the final stretch of deciding how to spend more than $6 billion on transportation. The Governor, House, and Senate have some differences in their proposals that they’ll need to agree on. TRU strongly supports:

  • the House proposal to increase state investment in local bus service to $276 million, 
  • the Governor’s proposal to invest $160 million in Intermodal Capital grants, and
  • the Senate proposal to invest $100 million in transformational rail and regional transit projects. 

All three are essential since Michigan must shore up our existing bus service as we start to build transformational new investments. 

Since Michigan needs a variety of affordable, sustainable transportation options, TRU also supports:

  • the House proposals for $5 million for new e-bike incentives and $5 million for Shared Streets to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and
  • the Governor’s proposals of $150 million for the Clean School Bus Program (in the School Aid Fund) and for $45 million for the Clean Fleet Initiative (in EGLE supplemental budget)

Don’t wait! Act now to tell your legislators to boost funding for transit and clean mobility, especially $276 million for LBO, $160 million for Intermodal Capital, and $100 million for regional transit!

For more information, review the bills and their summaries for yourself:

Senate Proposal: SummaryFull bill

House proposal: Summary & Full bill

RTA to Present to the Senate

On Tuesday, April 25th, the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) will be presenting a Legislative Summary to the Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. We will be following the conversation and sharing more information shortly after the meeting.

March 2023

House Appropriations Talks Transit

On March 15th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation held a meeting dedicated to discussing public transit funding in Michigan. The distribution of state funds across our 77 transit agencies is tied to each agency’s local funding, which shifted significantly in 2022.

In attendance alongside MDOT was Clark Harder, the director of the Michigan Public Transportation Association. He outlined the decline in Local Bus Operating (LBO) reimbursement since it peaked in 1997 and 1998. The MPTA is pushing for an increase in the LBO budget.

Also present was Dwight Ferrell, General Manager of SMART, who described how the agency is “reinventing itself.” At the SMART Board of Directors meeting on March 23rd, Ferrell stated SMART plans to bring a larger portion of Flex service in-house in the coming years.

You can view the full subcommittee meeting here.

Senator McMorrow Talks Transit on WDET

On March 16th, Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson interviewed Senator McMorrow on upcoming legislative priorities. At the end of the program, a listener asked McMorrow to expand upon plans surrounding the RTA.

McMorrow highlighted that “Metro Detroit is one of the only major metropolitan regions in the country that does not have a robust transit system.” She referenced NJ Transit’s enabling legislation from 1979 which allows New Jersey to identify and invest in potential transit corridors at the state level rather than rely on a county-level millage. RTA-enabling legislation could be amended in a similar way to enable the construction of new transit projects.

You can listen to the full interview here. Transit discussion starts at ~34:20.

TRU Talks Transit

Megan Owens, Executive Director of TRU, testifies before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation.

On Wednesday, March 1, Megan Owens presented to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, urging legislators to think beyond roads and highways and invest in the transit essential to people who don’t drive.

Representative Morgan echoed the importance of public transit and asked what the budget really needed to include, to which Megan highlighted boosting Local Bus Operating to $300 million and making the $160 million in transit capital ongoing, not one-time.

February 2023

TRU’s First Take on Governor’s Budget Proposal

Megan Owens, Executive Director
Transit riders are pleased that Governor Whitmer recognized the importance of multimodal transportation in her proposed FY2024 budget, which was released Feb 8. It includes:

  • A $15 million increase in the critically important Local Bus Operating budget (to $216 million from $201 million)
  • A one-time $160 million boost for capital investments in rail, intercity, and local transit infrastructure
  • $45 million for counties, municipalities, and regional transportation authorities to convert their fleet to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

While an important step in the right direction, this budget proposal falls short of meeting transit’s needs: The bus operating budget increase just barely exceeds inflationary cost increases. After decades of stagnant transit funding, Michigan needs far greater increases in transit funding to ensure all Michiganders can access affordable, sustainable mobility options.

We urge the legislature to significantly increase funding for public transportation to truly achieve the enormous benefits of great transit, especially to increase LBO to $300 million to restore the 50% state contribution to local bus operating need to restore service reliability and boost frequency.

The Michigan Legislature will be hearing, considering, and voting on the budget over the coming months. And we’ll be actively work to ensure they pass the best budget possible for transit!

The Senate Talks Transit

On Tuesday, February 21st, the Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure heard a presentation from Zachary Kolodin, Director of the Michigan Infrastructure Office. Following his presentation, Senator Chang asked Kolodin to discuss how federal funding for transit might be accessed.

Zachary Kolodin and Senator Chang discuss transit funding and gaps in Michigan’s intercity rail system. Footage has been edited for time.
A blue and white articulated bus at a level boarding platform with its doors open. The platform has a shelter, a departure display, and several seats.
The Laker Line at Grand Valley State University in 2022.

Of note is the Capital Investment Grants program from the Federal Transit Administration, which provides funding for projects deemed to be of “medium quality” or better. Southeast Michigan hasn’t met this standard, but Grand Rapids has successfully received funding from this program for the construction of the Laker Line, one of Michigan’s only transit routes that approaches the standards of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Kolodin notes we can use their approach as a model.

You can watch the full 40-minute session on Senate TV.

Our Legislators Get to Work

Representative Jason Morgan from Ann Arbor was the first to announce progress on a bill related to public transportation in the new legislative session. We will provide updates on the contents of this bill and a timeline for its introduction once more information is made available.

A Budget Crash Course

In the House and Senate transportation committees, representatives from MDOT presented the structure of Michigan’s transportation budget. Public transportation currently makes up about 11% of the $6.1B allocated to MDOT via Public Act 51. Expect extensive conversation surrounding this act in the coming months.

Access MDOT’s presentation from January 31st here.

Read Gongwer coverage of the presentation to the Senate here.

Toll Roads in Michigan?

A map of expressways in Michigan from a presentation to the Michigan Legislature on February 7th. I-75 north of Bay City, I-94, and other expressways are under consideration for conversion to toll roads.

On February 7th, the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee heard a presentation from HNTB, an infrastructure design firm, on an interstate tolling feasibility study and implementation plan. You can review the study here.

Any introduced bills related to public transit funding will be referred to transportation committees in each chamber of the legislature. The Appropriations subcommittees are responsible for controlling MDOT’s portion of the state budget.

Note that other committees may become relevant depending on a legislator’s approach to funding transit initiatives.

What updates do you want to see?

Corey in a shirt and tie wearing a helmet with his bike in the background

Hey everyone, it’s Corey from the TRU Board of Directors! I’ll be updating the Michigan Legislature Transit Watch on Sundays. If you want real-time updates, follow #MILegTransit on Twitter for the latest on bills, committees, and legislative conversations related to public transportation across the state.