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What’s in It for Me? Regional Transit an Uphill Battle Among Suburbanites

During the session, Making the Suburban Case for Regional Transit, The Kresge Foundation brought together three regional leaders to discuss the value of regional transit in suburban areas. Panelists included LeRoy Burcroff, mayor of Romulus; Andy Meisner, treasurer of Oakland County; and Barbara Rossmann, president and CEO of Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals.

All three regional leaders agreed that suburbanites understand that transit is important, but perhaps they don’t fully understand the depth of who benefits from access to a reliable mobility system. Panelists said communities also disagree on what a cohesive transit plan should look like. For the region to move forward and remain competitive economically, panelists argued that a cohesive transit plan must be brought to the ballot for voters to decide.

Key Takeaways:

  • Making the case for a connected, regional transit system is about looking to future, not the past.
  • Meisner pointed out that many Oakland County communities are already spending money on their own, small-scale transit plans. Waterford and Novi, for example, have stated that their top priority is to expand transit for seniors and people with disabilities.
  • According to Rossmann, Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals recorded more than 16,000 patients missed appointments in the last 6 months due to unreliable transit.
  • Connection to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport is another crucial factor, Burcroff emphasized. Connectivity between Detroit, Ann Arbor and a world-class airport is critical for attracting new business and supporting the current business economy.

Meisner closed the session by emphasizing that business and elected leaders must show citizens how regional transit benefits them.

The Regional Transit Authority Board has until August to vote to include a transit proposal on the November ballot. If it does not make the ballot this year, there are parallel options set in place for the 2020 ballot.