Detroit region’s leaders on regional transit and COVID-19

The so-called “Big Four” usually come together in public several times a year discussing several top regional issues, often featuring regional transit. Not so in 2020.

But they did each talk with Carol Cain on the Michigan Matters program on CBS 62 on December 10, discussing COVID, the economy, and regional transit.

“It seems a lifetime ago we discussed the state of things at the Detroit Free Press’ Breakfast Club speakers forum in late January, where they talked about the hot topic back then: regional transit and how to make it better. But that was pre-pandemic. Flash forward to my conversations with those leaders Thursday via Zoom and regional transit was an afterthought.”

Carol Cain in the Detroit Free Press, December 10, 2020

Ms. Cain chatted with each leader in separate Zoom calls, asking about COVID-19, how it has impacted their municipal budgets, and where regional transit fits in, given all the other crises.

On regional transit, newly re-elected Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter was most clear in his transit commitment:

“[Regional transit] is definitely something that’s on my radar for this term. It’s still really important. But frankly, COVID has forced us all to reevaluate our priorities. We are going to work on a transit initiative, there’s no question about it. It’s still so important for the economic health of the region and for what it does for individual residents and workers. But like a lot of things, it’s taken second place to COVID.”

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter, Dec 10, 2020

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said he’s “optimistic” regional leadership will take another stab at regional transit but hesitated to say when.

“The timing will be affected so much by the pandemic. But I am optimistic we’ll get back to it at some point.” 

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who recently announced plans to run for a third term, complimented Warren Evans’ leadership on the issue and noted that the earliest it could get on the ballot is 2022.

“Brooks (Patterson, the late Oakland County executive) was the only one who was against it. Dave (Coulter) is now there. It’s only a matter of time until we get this resolved.” 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

Macomb Executive Mark Hackel defected a bit.

“As a fully opt-in county, Macomb has always been a leader in regional transit. We continue to support our regional partners in their effort to fully connect their respective counties as well.”

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Dec 12, 2020

While none of these responses are surprising, it’s a great reminder that 2020 was just a speedbump on the path to great transit. As vaccines are released and COVID spread declines, it will soon be time to ramp up fight to invest in great time.