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Region’s Leaders Must Work Together Quickly to Solve Transit Issues as Deadline Approaches

This week, the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan board voted down ballot language that would bring a proposal before voters in November to fund safe, reliable transit in the region. The vote proceeded a public hearing on the RTA’s master plan held at the Detroit Regional Chamber on Thursday.

Sending the proposal to voters requires approval from seven of nine members of the RTA board, with at least one yes vote from representatives of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties. Oakland County representatives Chuck Moss and Timothy Soave, and Macomb County representatives Roy Rose and Donald Morandini voted against the ballot language following concerns voiced by their respective county executives regarding the governance structure of the RTA board and service to outlying areas of both counties, among other issues.

Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Chamber, said the 5-4 decision slows years of progress made by the RTA under the leadership of Chair Paul Hillegonds and once again jeopardizes the region’s long-term sustainability and economic growth.

Whether its connecting employees to jobs, or providing safe, reliable transit to hospitals, shopping centers and businesses, a strong, connected regional transit system has been a longstanding priority for the Chamber and its members to compete effectively across the country and ensure future economic growth and vibrant communities. The plan laid out by the RTA is the best path forward, Williams said.

Prior to the meeting, the Chamber, along with a coalition of regional corporate, university and civic leaders issued an open letter to Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Mark Hackel urging them to come together as quickly as possible to resolve their differences so that voters will have the opportunity to vote on a transit plan that benefits all of Southeast Michigan. View the letter here.

Timing of this matter is crucial. Due to state election deadlines, the RTA has until Aug. 16 to submit approved ballot language to county clerks in order to be included on the November ballot. If the ballot language is not approved by the deadline, it could be another two years or more before residents in Southeast Michigan will have the ability to vote on a regional transit plan, derailing Michigan’s ability to compete in the 21st century.

The Chamber urges representatives from the four counties and the city of Detroit to heed the call of the RTA to convene an emergency meeting next week and find the political will to work out their differences so that the master plan can move forward in November. Failure to do so would be detrimental to the state and the region’s bright future.