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No transit upgrades for Metro Detroit, as regional millage fails

A map outlining the proposed transit master plan for Metro Detroit.
Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan

A millage proposal to fund transit improvements has failed in Metro Detroit.

It would have allowed the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority to implement an ambitious transit master plan, upgrading the historically dismal and fragmented transit systems in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties.

The millage would have raised about $3 billion over 20 years to build bus rapid transit systems, bolster and better connect existing bus lines, provide transit connections to Detroit Metro Airport, and other services.

It went down narrowly, with the fiercest opposition coming from Macomb County.

Megan Owens heads the group Transportation Riders United. She says supporters knew it would be a tough sell in a region where 90% of people don’t use transit.

“And that makes it hard, when people are already feeling heavily taxed, to ask for an additional investment in something that people don’t personally, immediately feel,” Owens said.

This is the closest Metro Detroit transit advocates have come in decades to making progress on regional transit. But in the end, it went the way of many past ill-fated efforts.

“There are a lot of strong benefits this plan would have offered,” Owens said. “But at t least where we are right now, it appears those benefits were not enough to overcome that anti-tax mood.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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