The Regional Transit Authority at 2 Years Old

RTA Board Chair Paul Hillegonds at the first meeting of the RTA in April 2013

It was 2 years ago that TRU, MOSES and other partners welcomed the first meeting of the new RTA Board of Directors with a birthday card, balloons, cake, and high expectations.

The RTA has done a lot of learning and growing these past two years, while also experiencing some stumbles and false starts. But it is now starting to really take off.

Here are some highlights of their progress and plans:

The RTA is now Fully Staffed

The RTA has now filled all five budgeted staff positions. In addition to CEO Michael Ford, COO Tiffany Gunter, and Office Administrator Ginny Linklater, they have added two final staff:

  • Travis Gonyou is Community Outreach and Communications Manager
  • Ben Stupka is Director of Finance and Planning

Other than a few interns, they are not planning any additional hiring. This lean staff will manage all the RTA’s activities, following direction of the Board of Directors, and in collaboration with the providers, consultants, Citizen’s Advisory Committee, and community members.

TRU Vice-President Bob Prud'homme shared ideas with RTA CEO Michael Ford at TRU's fall meeting
TRU Vice President Bob Prud’homme shared ideas with RTA CEO Michael Ford at TRU’s fall meeting

On a Listening Tour

As Michael Ford explained when he keynoted TRU’s fall meeting, he deeply believes in the knowledge of the community and plans to do a lot of listening. He and his staff will be attending numerous community events throughout the region to learn what we the public want out of our region’s transit system and how the RTA can best lead the region in making that happen. The Metro Coalition of Congregations is working with community, business, and civic partners to arrange some upcoming events for RTA staff to address and listen to the public:

  • Wednesday April 1, 7pm at Farmington Hills City Hall
    Metro Coalition of Congregations transit event last spring at the Detroit Zoo
    • Hosted by the City of Farmington Hills
  • Thursday April 2, 7pm, Detroit Zoo Education Center
    • Hosted by the Cities of Pleasant Ridge and Huntington Woods
  • Tuesday April 7, 7 pm, 1000 Cranbrook Rd, in Bloomfield Hills
    • Hosted by/at Congregational Church of Birmingham UCC
  • Wednesday April 8, 6:30pm, 8801 Woodward Ave in Detroit
    • Hosted by / at Breakers Covenant Church

Contact Marie Donigan, Transit Consultant for the Harriet Tubman Center, at 248-505-2195 for more information about these events.

Contact the RTA’s Ginny Linklater at if you’re interesting in setting up an event in your community and/or with your organization.

Major Community Outreach Coming Soon

These initial listening events are just the tip of the iceberg of what the RTA will be doing to hear from community members throughout our region over the coming year. They have engaged several consultant firms and are developing extensive plans to engage with all corners of our four-county region in a wide variety of ways.

Starting mid-May, the RTA will be launching a major public outreach and engagement effort:

  • to learn people’s concerns, ideas, and hopes for the region’s transit system;
  • to develop rapid transit plans for Gratiot and Michigan Ave; and
  • to create a Regional Transit Action Plan that will map out the steps to achieving the transit system our region wants, needs, and is willing to pay for.

TRU has committed to work with and support the RTA in these efforts. Stay tuned for LOTS more information.

Providers and Citizens Advisory Committees hard at work

The RTA has several board committees and two Advisory Committees that have been hard at work for much of the past two years, regardless of staffing levels.

The Providers Advisory Committee consists of the current (and soon to be) transit providers in the region, including DDOT, SMART, AAATA/The Ride, DTC / The People Mover, and M-1 Rail. They’ve been working together to:

Regional Transit Map outside the People Mover office at the Rosa Parks Transit Center
Regional Transit Map outside the People Mover office at the Rosa Parks Transit Center
  • Develop and report on shared Performance Indicators,
  • Develop and publish a shared regional transit map (see right),
  • Analyze options for an improved, shared fare card and fare structure, and
  • Discuss other ways to work better together.

The Citizen’s Advisory Committee consists of 40 residents from throughout the four-county region, including bus riders, seniors, people with disabilities, people representing business, and others (including TRU’s Director Megan Owens). The CAC works to:

  • Provide the RTA with recommendations and advice;
  • Contribute to the RTA’s understanding and consideration of public and stakeholder concerns, ideas, and needs; and
  • Assist the public and other regional stakeholders in understanding the value of transit and the goals, plans, and work of the RTA.

    RTA CAC of 2014
    The people of the RTA CAC of 2014!

In additional to informal input, the CAC provided formal recommendations to the RTA regarding:

  • Meeting Accessibility Best Practices
  • SMART Boarding Policy in the City of Detroit
  • Woodward Avenue BRT Locally Preferred Alternative
  • Public Involvement Effectiveness Enhancement
  • Planning for BRT in Southeast Michigan

RTA Priorities and Plans from Here

RTA staff is also working hard to provide significant on-the-ground improvements to the region’s transit within the next year, including:

  • Convenient, affordable transit service to Detroit Metro Airport from Detroit, Oakland County and Macomb County; and
  • Improvements in SMART bus service within Detroit.

Between May 2015 and January 2016, the RTA will be actively engaging the public in developing:

  • An action plan for rapid transit on Gratiot;
  • An action plan for rapid transit on Michigan Ave;
  • Detailed design work and environmental approvals for bus rapid transit on Woodward; and
  • A Regional Transit Action Plan that will map out the steps to achieving the transit system our region wants, needs, and is willing to pay for.

By spring 2016, we should have a clear action plan for improving transit throughout our region and the RTA Board will propose to the voters a way to pay for it. In November 2016, voters throughout the four-county region will decide whether transit is worth investing in. If all goes well, new service will be rolled out and construction on new rapid transit will begin in 2017!

Start your engines . . .