It’s taken 40 years, but Metro Detroit finally is on track to have a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) with the signature of Governor Rick Snyder.
In the mayhem of one of the most active days in Lansing in memory, the oft-debated and oft-delayed RTA made it through the Michigan House with 57- 50 vote. There was only one “yes” vote from the Democratic side of the aisle, Lesia Liss of Warren, due to disagreements over the “Right To Work” or “Freedom To Work” issue.
The RTA is key to the future of the region. Without it, federal dollars for projects like M-1 Rail on Woodward as well as a Bus Rapid Transit would not be forthcoming, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
It’s important to note that the RTA is a framework. It has the ability to seek millages, however, each county would have to approve the request and millage requests would be put to a vote of the people. The governance structure will include a board where Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties will each have two board members, the City of Detroit would have one appointed by the mayor, and the governor would have a non-voting appointee.
Cooperation and coordination has been an issue in this region. The new authority has power of the purse as it will be the recipient of state and federal grants. It also has the ability to withhold funding from DDOT (The Detroit Department of Transportation) and SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation) if they don’t work together on things such as coordinating routes around a new BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) or rolling rapid transit.
Still more work to do on the transit
There is a package of three other bills that as of this writing currently are stalled and are collateral damage from the Right/Freedom To Work debate. Democrats say they will refuse to vote on the bills in protest of the controversial measure.
The stalled bills would allow authority member counties to seek voter approval for a special vehicle registration fee (up to $1.20 per $1000 of the vehicle value), dedicated lanes for rapid-transit buses, and bypass local zoning laws for the construction of public transportation facilities.