Issues Of The Environment: An Overview Of The Regional Transit Authority Ballot Proposal

Sep 22, 2016

Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan Logo
Credit Courtesy Photo / rtamichigan.org

This November, there will a new public transit plan on the ballot, which, if passed, could impact the environment.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair speaks to Elizabeth Gerber, who represents Washtenaw County on the Regional Transit Authority's Board of Directors, about the new public transit millage.


Overview

   * On November 8, 2016, voters in Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties will decide the fate of the RTA, a nearly $5 billion transit plan that includes more robust public transportation options within less-serviced cities (particularly Detroit), new bus service offering inter-connectivity between counties and cities, and new rail options throughout the region.

   * Passage of this RTA millage differs from the numerous past regional transit plans, spanning the past 40 years, in that if it succeeds communities within the four-county region cannot chose to opt out participation, even if the value of the RTA plan is perceived to be low relative to the cost to taxpayers within certain municipalities.

   * Supporters of the RTA argue that a robust regional transit system offers shared benefits for the greater-Metro Detroit region as a whole, despite perceived imbalances in cost bearing.  Commuters will have more options for carless travel, and greater inter-connectivity is projected to bring “a $6-billion economic development impact," according to RTA board members.

   * Critics of the RTA primarily argue that this RTA mileage is an attempt for wealthier communities, some far from the Detroit epicenter, to subsidize the failures of past public transportation plans in urban and suburban Detroit, a city largely established on the success of the automobile.

   *Elisabeth R. Gerber is a Jack L. Walker Collegiate Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Policy Engagement at the Ford School of Public Policy (University of Michigan).  Her current research focuses on regionalism and intergovernmental cooperation, transportation policy, state and local economic policy, land use and economic development, local fiscal capacity, and local political accountability.  She is the author of The Populist Paradox: Interest Group Influence and the Promise of Direct Legislation (1999), co-author of Stealing the Initiative: How State Government Responds to Direct Democracy (2000), and co-editor of Voting at the Political Fault Line: California's Experiment with the Blanket Primary (2001) and Michigan at the Millennium (2003). 

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu