RTA Spring Newsletter

A letter to Southeast Michigan

(copied directly from the RTA email, apologies that the images didn’t copy)


Dear Friends,

The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has been busy working to review and assess the outcome of the November election.  Throughout 2017, the RTA will work to maintain and build upon the momentum and support that has been growing for improved public transportation in Southeast Michigan.

2016 was an historic year for transit ballot measures across the country. Of  77 measures nationwide—the highest number within any 12-month period—55 of those measures were successful.

Ours was not one of them.

The need to attract investment to our region, spur economic development, connect people to jobs and entertainment, satisfy demands of millennials and seniors, and reduce congestion on our major roads and highways still exists.

Regional Transit gained momentum in 2016

During 2016, Team RTA worked tirelessly to develop, adopt, and raise awareness on the first Regional Master Transit Plan (Master Plan) for the four-county region. The RTA region includes the member jurisdictions of the City of Detroit; and Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties. The full master plan and related documents may be found on our website, www.rtamichigan.org.

Working with its many regional partners, Team RTA developed and adopted a Regional Master Transit Plan in 2016. Here are RTA’s other major accomplishments…

Advancing Rapid Transit: The RTA Board of Directors adopted Locally Preferred Alternatives for its major rapid transit corridor projects (Woodward, Gratiot, Michigan Avenues), taking a major step forward in the competitive federal funding process.

Disbursing Federal Funds to Regional Partners: As designated recipient for most of Southeast Michigan’s federal transit funds, the RTA facilitated almost $170 million in improvements for the region’s transit agencies since 2014. This includes $158 million for necessary capital projects, and $11 million for senior/disabled services.

Launching the Reflex Express Service: New service in partnership with SMART and DDOT on the Woodward and Gratiot corridors. This express service eliminates the need for mid-day and weekend transfers on two crucial transit corridors where Oakland and Macomb Counties meet Detroit.

In November 2016, voters were asked to adopt a 1.2 mill property tax increase to finance the 20-year Master Plan. There was broad based support for the initiative. Dozens of regional institutions, organizations, and business leaders endorsed the effort. Transit advocates, senior groups, and members of the faith and disability communities backed the plan as well. The group Citizens for Connecting our Communities (C3) led the ballot campaign. The following lists these endorsements.

Thank you to the over 200 groups, businesses, and community leaders who endorsed the regional transit effort. Here are all of the official campaign endorsements.

Local Businesses
A3C Collaborative Architecture
ASPRA world Inc.
BCD Construction LLC
Brainwrap Web Design
Brush Up Brush Park
ByrnesPR and Media Services
Clark Hill PLC
Comfort and Care Transportation
Cornish, Zack, Hill & Associates, Inc.
Creative Detroit Placemakers, LLC
Decode Detroit
Donigan McLogan LLC
DTE Energy
DLZ Michigan, Inc.
Ford Motor Company
Foy Communications, LLC
General Motors
Hagenbuch Weikal Landscape Architecture
Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP
Lean & Green Michigan
Lear Corporation
Mel’s Salon & Associates
Miller Canfield
Penske Corporation
Plunkett Cooney CEO Dennis Cowan
Proper Group, Intl.
Quicken Loans
Rock Venture
The Detroit Bus Company
Velocity Rail Services
Zingerman’s Community of Businesses

Healthcare Systems
Beaumont Health
Detroit Medical Center
Blue Cross Blue Shield MI
Henry Ford Health System
St. John Providence

Newspaper Endorsements
Crain’s Detroit Business
Detroit News
Detroit Free Press
Michigan Chronicle

Chambers of Commerce
Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber
American Arab Chamber of Commerce
Detroit Regional Chamber
Macomb County Chamber of Commerce
Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber
Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce

League of Women Voters of MI
Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers
Michigan Community Action
Michigan Economic Center
Michigan Environmental Council
Michigan Fitness Foundation
Michigan Health & Hospital Association
Michigan League for Public Policy
Michigan Licensed Beverage Association
Michigan Municipal League
Michigan Nonprofit Association
Michigan Public Transit Association
National Association of Social Workers (NASW), MI Chapter
Scio Farms Estates Home Owners Association
South Dearborn Environmental Improvement Association

Senior Groups
Area Agency on Aging 1-B
Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit
Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit
Presbyterian Villages of Michigan
Senior Power Days at Belle Isle
The Senior Alliance

Disability Groups
Disability Network Oakland & Macomb
Programs to Educate All Cyclists (PEAC)

Tourism and Culture Groups
Detroit Experience Factory
Michigan Science Center
The Henry Ford

Community and Social Groups
Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Service (ACCESS)
Bettye Harris Larynx Cancer Awareness Center
Black Slate
Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan
Coalition on Temporary Shelter
Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) – Michigan
Detroit Jews for Justice
Eastside Slate
Ecology Center
Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid-Michigan
Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit
Groundcover News
Healthy Pontiac, We Can!
Metro Matters
Metropolitan Affairs Coalition
Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strengths (MOSES)
Motor City Freedom Riders
NAACP Ypsilanti-Willow Run Branch
Osborn Neighborhood Alliance
Oakland County Democratic Party
Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
The Center for Urban Youth & Family Development
Transportation Riders United (TRU)
Washtenaw Partners for Transit
Washtenaw Regional Organizing Coalition (WEROC)
Westside Slate
Wish Upon a Teen

Labor Organizations
AAUP – Wayne State
AFGE Local 3907
American Federation of Teachers Michigan
American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO
Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association
Huron Valley Area Labor Federation
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324
Metro Detroit AFL-CIO
Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council
Michigan Laborers’ District Council Local 499
Michigan Laborers’ District Council Local 1076
Michigan Laborers’ District Council Local 1191
Michigan Nurses Association
Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millrights
SEIU Local 1
Teamsters Joint Council 43
UAW Region 1
UAW Region 1A

Faith Leaders
Apostle John C. Harvey, Serenity Christian Church, Hazel Park
Bishop Edgar Vann, Second Ebenezer Church, Detroit
Fr. Richard Leliaert, St. Robert Bellarmine Church, Redford
Fr. Robert Scullin, S.J., GESU Catholic Church, Detroit
Imam Radwan Mardini, American Muslim Center, Dearborn
Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk, Islamic Organization of North America, Warren
Rabbi Alana Alpert Congregation T’chiyah, Oak Park
Rabbi Jeffrey L. Falick, Birmingham Temple, Farmington Hills
Rabbi Kim Blumenthal, Beth Israel Congregation, Ann Arbor
Rabbi Rob Dobrusin, Beth Israel Congregation, Ann Arbor
Rev. A. Richard Doss, Fews Memorial CME Church, River Rouge
Rev. Aramis Hinds, Breakers Covenant Church International, Detroit
Rev. Barton L. Beebe, Christ Lutheran Church, Sterling Heights
Rev. Becky Bolander, American Lutheran Church, Clinton Township
Rev. Carter M. Grimmett, Good Shepherd UMC, St. Clair Shores
Rev. Charlotte Sommers, Northminster Presbyterian Church, Troy
Rev. Claude A. May, Oasis of Hope Christian Church, Detroit
Rev. Dr. Claude Bass, St. John’s CME Church, Detroit
Rev. Dr. Jill Hardt Zundel, Central United Methodist Church, Detroit
Rev. Gary Haller, Birmingham First United Methodist Church, Birmingham
Rev. Greg Larsen, First Congregational Church, Rochester
Rev. Jessie Gutgsell, Assistant Pastor, St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church, Ann Arbor
Rev. Kevin Johnson, Calvary Presbyterian Church, Detroit
Rev. Kevin Turman, Second Baptist Church, Detroit
Rev. Louise R. Ott, Congregational Church of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills
Rev. Beth Taylor, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Royal Oak
Rev. Robert Cornwall, Central Woodward Christian, Troy
Rev. Scott Steiner, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Royal Oak
Rev. Susan Bock, Grace Episcopal Church, Mt. Clemens
Rev. Theodore Turman, First Baptist Church, Southfield
Rev. Tim Spannaus, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Royal Oak
Rev. Tyson Kelley, Womack Temple CME, Inkster
Sr. Valerie Knoche, IHM, St. Clement of Rome, Romeo

Mayors, Supervisors
Pro Tem Steve Baker, Berkley
LeRoy Burcroff, Romulus
Dave Coulter, Ferndale
Jim Ellison, Royal Oak
Pro Tem Kelly Garrett, Lathrup Village
Brian C. Hartwell, Madison Heights
Penny Luebs, Clawson
Karen Majewski, Hamtramck
Marian McClellan, Oak Park
Kurt Metzger, Pleasant Ridge
Phil O’Dwyer, Berkley
Jack O’Reilly, Dearborn
Daniel Paletko, Dearborn Heights
Joseph Peterson, Wyandotte
Pro Tem Melanie Piana, Ferndale
Kenneth Poynter, Harper Woods
Deputy Mayor Michael Reddy, Westland
Rick Sollars, Taylor
Township Supervisor Donna Squalls, Royal Oak
Christopher Taylor, Ann Arbor
Lamar Tidwell, Ecorse
Deirdre Waterman, Pontiac
William Wild, Westland
Hubert Yopp, Highland Park

City Councilmembers, Commissioners
Saad Almasmari, Hamtramck
Janee’ Ayers,  Detroit
Michael Bridges, Farmington Hills
Raylon Leaks-May, Ferndale
Gregory Pawlica, Ferndale
Theresa Rich, Farmington Hills
Andre Spivey, Detroit
Samantha Steckloff, Farmington Hills
Sharlan Douglas, Royal Oak
Michael Fournier, Royal Oak
Kyle DuBuc, Royal Oak
Jeremy Mahrle, Royal Oak
Patricia Paruch, Royal Oak
Ann Perry, Pleasant Ridge

County Commissioners
Alisha Bell, Wayne County
Marcia Gershen, Oakland County
Jeff Jenks, Huntington Woods
Yousef Rabhi, Washtenaw County
Conan Smith, Washtenaw County
Helaine Zack, Oakland County

State Elected Officials
Representative Stephanie Chang
Representative Fred Durhal III
Representative Christine Greig
Representative Tim Greimel
Representative Jon Hoadley
Representative Jeff Irwin
Representative Jeremy Moss
Representative David E. Rutledge
Representative Jim Townsend
Representative Robert Wittenberg
Senator Steve Bieda
Senator Vincent Gregory
Senator Bert Johnson
Senator Rebekah Warren
Senator Coleman Young, Jr.

Members of Congress
Representative John Conyers, Jr.
Representative Debbie Dingell
Representative Brenda Lawrence
Representative Sandy Levin
Former Senator Carl Levin
Senator Gary Peters

Local Resolutions of Support
Ann Arbor City Council
Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority
Berkley Democratic Club
Birmingham Bloomfield Democratic Club
City of Berkley
City of Pleasant Ridge
Greater Royal Oak Democratic Club
Pontiac Downtown Business Association
Progressives at EMU
Roosevelt Institute @ Michigan State University
Warren Area Democratic Club
Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners
Ypsilanti City Council
Ypsilanti District Library

Despite the broad base of support, the voters of the region rejected the proposal by a 1% margin (18,000 votes)—a sobering outcome for the coalition that worked so hard on this initiative.


What has the public told us?

The RTA has been reviewing comments and soliciting feedback to develop a comprehensive understanding of how we can adjust our efforts moving forward to lead to a successful outcome. Here is what the RTA has learned so far:

Limitations of revenue source: Property taxes proved problematic as the selected funding mechanism to support public transportation expansion. Many members of the public pointed to the other major transit expansion initiatives in the nation that fund transit via local option sales taxes. Many were disappointed upon learning that there were constitutional limitations on the RTA’s ability to pursue a sales tax as a funding option.

More fully address outer edge and rural communities: 28% of the no vote came from communities receiving no proposed fixed-route transit investment in the RTA plan. These communities are frequently overlooked because they are not traditional transit market areas. The RTA recognizes that these areas would require specially designed services and should have focused more of its effort on defining how the plan’s general investment levels would translate into improved services here.

Need to broaden outreach strategy: The RTA team did a tremendous amount of outreach and education throughout 2015 and 2016. Despite hundreds of meetings, public events, media stories, and extensive social media there was still a large portion of the public that felt uneducated about the Master Plan, the RTA, and transit in general. The RTA will strategically re-focus its outreach efforts to ensure that the messaging around the need for regional transit is clear, and that the RTA structure and Master Plan concepts address that need.

Capitalize more on transportation innovations: In the ever-evolving mobility environment, voters were reluctant to support a 20- year plan that did not articulate a clear strategy for adapting to technological innovations. The Master Plan did include a high-level investment program focused on potential flexible services.  The RTA must better describe how this program could meet basic transit service needs and be adaptable to technological innovations.


What is next for the RTA?

Our goal in Southeast Michigan is to compete more successfully with other regions in attracting talent, growing our economy, and providing needed access to job opportunities, vital services and our rich cultural and recreational assets. To do so, we must build and operate a more comprehensive, connected, convenient, and a better funded public transit system.
The RTA Board of Directors and staff remain absolutely committed to this goal and will enter in to a Board Retreat in May to tackle many key questions we’ve heard from the public.

What are some issues the RTA must confront as it moves forward?

  • Determine timing for another RTA ballot initiative
  • Decide whether to undertake minor adjustments to or a major overhaul of the Master Plan
  • Weigh options for sustaining the RTA administratively until a longer-term funding solution can be identified
  • Develop a new vision for community outreach and engagement to solicit public input



The RTA Board and staff remain dedicated to working with regional elected leadership, transit providers, advocacy groups, and the public to build a regional consensus on the plan forward.


Tiffany J. Gunter
Interim CEO

RTA Community Bulletin Board

Upcoming Events

April 24 – RTA Citizens Advisory Committee Meeting, 4:30 pm, 1001 Woodward, Suite 1400
April 25 – Reimagining Transportation: Transforming SE Michigan Panel, Click here for info
May 11 – Transit Riders United (TRU) Annual Awards Dinner, 5:30 pm, Greektown Casino
May 12 – Q Line Launch!


Career Opportunities in Transportation

There are many job opportunities in transportation/public transit that range from entry level to upper management. Have you considered working in this challenging and rewarding environment?  Polish up your resume and click on the following links to each agency:

Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT)
Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART)
Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA)
Detroit Transportation Corporation
Michigan Department of Transportation
Southeast Michigan Council of Governments


Public Transit Facts and Figures

  • In 2014, Americans took 10.8 billion trips on public transportation — the highest in 58 years.
  • People board public transportation 35 million times each weekday.
  • Since 1995, public transit ridership is up 39 percent, outpacing population growth, which is up 21 percent, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is up 25 percent.
  • Public transportation is a $61 billion industry that employs nearly 400,000 people.
  • More than 7,200 organizations provide public transportation in the United States.


Contact Us

Remember, if you have questions or an opinion to share, please do. There are a variety of ways to engage with Team RTA.
Email: info@rtamichigan.org
Twitter: @RTAmichigan
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rtamichigan/
Phone: (313) 402-1020
Mail: 1001 Woodward Avenue, Suite 1400, Detroit, MI 48226