After months of weighing the pros and cons of the Regional Transit Millage Proposal, and decades of going without a comprehensive mass transit system that connects Southeast Michigan counties, voters in Southeast Michigan still did not know the results of this important initiative as of press time at 6:13 a.m. Wednesday morning. With 90% of the precincts reporting, the “no” votes were at 855,496, and the “yes” votes registered at 833,066.
Proponents of the proposal are still hopeful of it passing, as they believe favorable votes from Washtenaw and Wayne counties yet to0 be tallied will ultimately be counted in the “yes” column. If true, the passage of the Regional Transit Millage Proposal would mean that Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw counties will be connected by a seamless mass transit system, all outlined by the new Regional Master Transit Plan.
The passage of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) Proposal would call for residents of the aforementioned counties to pay a property tax assessment of 1.2-mil for 20 years. The 1.2-mil equates to $1.20 of property tax for every $1,000 of taxable value of a home in Southeast Michigan’s four counties. Therefore, if a home’s taxable value is $100,000, the yearly payment is about $120.
“This passage will allow seniors and people with disabilities to be more independent in getting to various locations throughout the four counties,” said Shaun Wilson, spokesperson for Citizens for Connecting Our Communities, a local non-profit coalition that advocated for “yes” votes. “This proposal will also significantly help people get to and from jobs throughout Southeast Michigan in better ways.”
If successful, within the first five years of the 20-year timetable, an appreciative expansion of local and regional commuter bus services should occur, according to RTA. For Detroit residents, this would mean major improvements in every aspect of bus service, which will include additional/newer/schedule-friendly busses, as well as extended hours of operation to and from destination points throughout Southeast Michigan. Additionally, there will be dedicated lanes constructed exclusively for buses on such major city streets and avenues as Woodward, Jefferson, Fort, Gratiot, and Michigan.
In addition to seniors, people with disabilities and individuals with jobs going back and forth across four counties in more efficient manners, the passage of the millage will result in rail and rapid bus services between Detroit and Ann Arbor, as well as premier commuter bus services connecting Detroit with Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Other cities in Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties will also reap the benefits of connective bus services with the airport.
For sure, there is organized opposition to Citizens for Connecting Our Communities, which includes such organizations as NoMassTransitTax.org, Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, Wayne County Taxpayers Association, and a few more. Many of the anti-millage groups campaigned that the RTA Proposal would result in huge and unfair tax increases for homeowners over the next two decades. Leon Drolet, treasurer and chair of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, told a local media outlet that RTA’s plan was not well-structured because it was based on an outdated transportation model.
“It anchors us to a 1980s mass-transit system at a time when mass transit is very likely to be transformed,” Drolet told the media outlet.
Wilson said, with confidence, the passage of RTA Proposal would be a game changer.
“This would put us in the game, and on the map,” Wilson said. “We would still need to ramp up to be where other regions in the country are, but would definitely be in the game. The passage of this millage would stop the long suffering that this region has endured because of the lack of a seamless transit system connecting Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties.”