In June of 2011 Senate Bill 443 was introduced in the Senate Committee on Transportation to create a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan. The bill never made it out of committee. The regional transit authority would have consolidated and provided public transportation in Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw County. More specifically, it would have governed Detroit's proposed Woodward Ave light rail project. However the light rail project was scheduled to be managed by the Detroit Department of Transportation, but many outside groups thought a regional transit authority would be more efficient. With Detroit being on the verge of bankruptcy and the funding sources for the project being called into question the rail project was scrapped. Instead of the light rail project the city opted for a bus rapid transit system, and with this new proposal a renewed effort for a regional transit authority has occurred. Whether or not a regional transit authority will be put in place is still in question.. The original Detroit proposal was for a 9-mile light rail route from down town to the city limit at Eight Mile Road. The goal was that other communities would see this rail system and would want to have it expanded to where they are. The plan would have been funded through previously obligated state and federal funds, along with siphoning some funds from the Detroit Department of Transportation bus system. Federal Transit Administration, the federal agency that would have helped fund the project, Administrator Peter Rogoff was skeptical of this funding mechanism and argued that a regional tax that accompanies a regional transit authority is much better suited to this kind of project. These funding sources called into question whether or not the project would be financially viable, as the initial money needed was $528 million and would have cost the city an additional $10 million per year. The city could not afford this, so they decided to go ahead with the bus transit system in its place.
The proposed bus transit system at the same cost would cover 110 miles of the metro-Detroit area, significantly more than the light rail project. It would have 23 stops and operate much like a rail system. The service would run on Woodward Avenue, Gratiot Avenue, Michigan Avenue and M-59, and in addition to that it would go from Ann Arbor to Detroit Metropolitan Airport. This proposal is being accompanied by Senate Bill 909 and House Bill 5309, which would create a southeast Michigan regional transit authority to oversee this system. In addition to this, a group of investors are funding a 3.4 mile rail line in downtown Detroit which they hope to hand over to the new regional transit authority. The board that is overseeing the regional transit authority will have the authority to borrow money and issue bonds to fund projects, and they will have the authority to implement the bus system as they see fit. The new board will be comprised of ten people: one appointed by the governor, one by the mayor of Detroit, and two appointed per county by county leaders in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw County. The proposal is supported by Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. The plan has been criticized as it does not consolidate all the public transit in the region, which is said to lead to things like duplicative administrative costs, uncoordinated schedules, and overlapping services.
With support from the Governor and the Mayor of Detroit it appears that the regional transit authority has a good chance of passing. However this is not the first time that a regional transit authority has been proposed, it has been proposed multiple times and gone down in flames. Most of the issues over the creation of a regional transit authority dealt with disagreements on how it would be funded. With these past results taken into account whether or not a regional transit authority will happen is still in doubt.
Johnson, Bert, Thomas Casperson, and Rebekah Warren. "Senate Bill No. 443." Michigan Legislature . State of Michigan, 14 Jun 2011. Web. 22 Feb 2012. .
Shea, Bill. "Transit executives from other cities offer advice on Woodward light rail effort, sound warnings."Crain's Detroit Business. 8 Aug 2011: 1-3. Web. 22 Feb. 2012. .
Wattrick, Jeff. "Woodward Light Fail: Detroit rail plan scrapped in favor of bus rapid transit, regional authority." MLive. 14 Dec 2011: 1-3. Web. 22 Feb. 2012. .
Shea, Bill. "Feds push for regional transit authority to run light rail: FTA: Funding could start before an agency does." Crain's Detroit Business. 11 Sep 2011: 1-3. Web. 22 Feb. 2012. .
Shea, Bill. "Bills creating regional transit authority introduced in Legislature." Crain's Detroit Business. 27 Jan 2011: 1-2. Web. 22 Feb. 2012. .
Wattrick, Jeff. "Light rail, bus rapid transit debate misses point: Metro Detroit needs real regional solution."MLive. 15 Dec 2011: 1-2. Web. 22 Feb. 2012. .
Wattrick, Jeff. "What will it take to make a regional transit authority happen?." MLive. 9 Aug 2011: 1-2. Web. 22 Feb. 2012. .