Cities work best when everyone can get around, but for too long Detroit and its surrounding suburbs have focused on moving cars instead of people.
City residents without cars struggle to reach jobs in the suburbs, and those who do drive face congested commutes that pollute our air and exacerbate climate change. The region’s lack of mass transit has stifled its recovery, too -- challenging efforts to draw in new businesses and millennial residents.
Imagine if we could replace our automobile-dependent transportation system with a sustainable system where rails and buses connect Detroit with surrounding suburbs and cities? That’s the vision of Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority (RTA).
Despite dozens of attempts to change the law over the decades, Michigan didn’t allow metropolitan areas to have RTAs until 2012. That year, MEC and allies played a lead role in convincing state lawmakers to authorize the creation of an RTA for Southeast Michigan. We also helped form a coalition to educate residents, businesses and other community leaders of the myriad of benefits of coordinated, region-wide transit.
In November 2016, the RTA put a revenue proposal on the ballot in its four-county service territory— Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw. If approved, the millage would have provided ten years of funding to kickstart the RTA’s vision. Unfortunately, it came up just short at the polls, losing by less than 1% of the vote, but we have since reorganized and refined efforts to achieve regional transit in southeast Michigan.
Transit as an Issue of Environmental Justice
A comprehensive mass transit system is a crucial part of the path to better opportunities for Detroit and its residents. Underinvestment and a lack of coordination has left the Detroit metro region’s transit system disjointed, unreliable and plagued with barriers to opportunity and mobility for workers, seniors and people with disabilities. The RTA’s master plan has the potential to remove those barriers and, once funded, will fundamentally transform Southeast Michigan's transportation system, connecting residents with jobs and opportunities and make the region a magnet for businesses.