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Regional Transit Authority a big win for MichiganPrint

Thriving Communities | December 13, 2012 | By James Bruckbauer

The RTA is a a big win for Michigan, for Detroit’s revitalization, and for the groups that have advocated for regional transit over the past few decades, including many members of the Transportation for Michigan coalition.

Reliable, convenient, and efficient transit may soon make a much-needed comeback in the city that gave the world modern transportation.

Last week, lawmakers in Lansing passed a series of bills that would create a regional transit authority (RTA) for Metro Detroit.

The authority will oversee and coordinate transit service in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw Counties and lay the groundwork to plan, build, and operate a modern transportation system—one that may include light-rail and rapid buses.  

Not only will it force two separate transit agencies to work together, one in the suburbs and one in the urban core, it will boost Metro Detroit’s competitive edge when applying for federal funding for transit. And the authority’s board, representing each county, would be able to ask voters to approve vehicle registration fees to fund local projects.

The bills soon head to the governor’s desk and he is expected to sign them, making the RTA official.

In a surprising political twist, only two Democrats in the House of Representatives voted in favor of the bill: Lesia Liss, of Warren, and Shanelle Jackson, of Detroit. All other House Democrats withheld their votes in protest of the right-to-work legislation. The measure passed almost entirely on Republican support.

Republicans who supported the measure included Rep. Ray Franz from the Benzie/Manistee area and Rep. Wayne Schmidt, of Traverse City.

It’s a big win for Michigan, for Detroit’s revitalization, and for the groups that have advocated for regional transit over the past few decades, including many members of the Transportation for Michigan coalition.

Most importantly, it’s a big win for the thousands of Detroit residents who need to get to work, shopping centers, and school—and for the thousands of visitors who have been left stranded at the curb.

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Follow him on Twitter at @jimbruckb. Reach him at james@mlui.org.