SE Michigan leaders push House bill in renewed regional transit effort

    Wayne County Executive Warren Evans outside Judge Damon Keith funeral | Ken Coleman

    With proposed legislation, leaders in Southeast Michigan hope to get another crack at regional transit, albeit without one major part of the region. 

    Leaders from Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties, as well as the city of Detroit, are pushing a bill to revise the Municipal Partnership Act (MPA) of 2011 with the goal of getting a three-county regional transit plan on the 2020 ballot. 

    Suburban Macomb County, which has resisted past efforts, would have the option to join the tax-levying authority at a later time if voters opted to do so. 

    The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Temperance), “would make technical revisions to the current law … so that the region can have greater flexibility in finding a solution to transit,” the leaders said in a statement. The legislation could also be applied to other millages beyond transit, according to a statement.

    “The MPA gives local leaders an opportunity to craft and finance a substantive, politically-viable transit plan for Wayne, Washtenaw, and Oakland counties,” Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said in a statement. “Transit is a priority for our region and offers a potential pathway to a regional solution. At this point in time, we need to move forward with a coalition of the willing and the urgency this issue deserves.”

    Metro Detroit stands as one of the largest regions in the country without a comprehensive regional transit plan. Rather, the city operates the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) bus service while the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) operates in many of the suburban communities. 

    Past efforts to enact a region-wide millage to create comprehensive mass transit have failed at the voting booth. 

    Report: Michigan should stop treating transit as a ‘social welfare program’

    The Southeast Michigan leaders stress that the proposed amendment to the MPA is just one step to crafting a plan that could be put together with public input ahead of a vote. 

    “We are asking the Michigan Legislature to give us this tool so that we can begin the hard work of developing a transit plan that provides value to our communities,” Oakland County Executive David Coulter said in a statement. “Done right, improved transit and mobility has the potential to enhance economic development, resolve workforce constraints, and improve the quality of life for our residents.”

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.