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Politics & Government

Public transit needs to be regional, integrated across political boundaries, study says

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William Murphy
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A nonpartisan policy group says Michigan needs to do more to improve regional transit in urban areas.

A recent report from the Citizens Research Council (CRC) of Michigan said regional transit is key to economic development, revitalizing communities, reducing pollution and traffic congestion, improving residents' mobility, and reducing stress on roads and parking infrastructure.

The report said Michigan needs regional public transit systems that connect smoothly with all kinds of public and private transportation options, including ride sharing, autonomous vehicles and bicycle and scooter rentals.

"Are we going to invest now and have a system in place so that we can rebuild Detroit, we can expand our inner ring of suburbs?" asked Eric Lupher, President of the CRC. "If we wait, we're going to be left behind."

Listen above to hear Stateside's conversation with the CRC's Eric Lupher and Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United. 

Transit systems will need regional funding and governance systems that put the good of the region over local self-interest, and that could mean moving some functions like zoning and planning to the county level, the report said.

"A regional funding system should not include a property tax," said Lupher. "It is probably the funding source least conducive to thinking about the region as a whole.

Lupher said sales, service, and income taxes would be better ways to raise money. He also suggested feathering tax rates for regional transit so that tax rates get lower as people get further from the urban center.

"I may live in Oakland County. But I work in Detroit, and I visit Macomb. I've got family in Ann Arbor. It really should be a much more seamless connection between systems.  And when that's started to happen, people respond." said Megan Owens, Executive Director of Transportation Riders United, an advocacy group for improved transit in the greater Detroit area.   

Eric Lupher and Megan Owens were guests today on Stateside.

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