January 21, 2010
Last week, the Farmington Hills City Council voted 6-1 to continue to be part of the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation or SMART. This is a huge win for both SMART and regional transit in general, but I don’t think SMART is out of danger just yet. Transit is facing some important challenges in 2010, the results of which may go a long way in determining how effective transit is and how attractive it will be to local governments. A number of transit initiatives and events are scheduled for 2010. These include:
Start of construction of the M-1 rapid transit project on Woodward
Beginning of commuter rail service in the Ann Arbor-Detroit Corridor
Extension of rapid transit planning north of the current project on Woodward into Oakland County
Pursuit of federal funding for rapid transit on Gratiot from Detroit to M-59 in Macomb County
Formation of a Regional Transit Authority (RTA)
Renewal of the existing 0.59 mill to continue SMART service.
The last two bullets are particularly important for the future of transit in Southeast Michigan. The formation of an RTA is essential if transit is to grow and prosper. It puts someone in charge and gives the authority the necessary tools, including the ability to ask the citizens for additional funding to build and operate the adopted transit plan. It can work with both DDOT and SMART to improve existing bus service. It can also oversee the construction and operation of all forms of transit including light rail, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail.
This is especially important because if all we do is renew the SMART millage later this year at the existing level, transit service will decrease – not increase or improve. Funding transit at the existing levels will not be enough to keep existing service in place, let alone pay for higher levels of transit service that are currently being planned.
Finally, this region must decide together if transit is part of our future. If it is, then there should be no opt -out communities. This is the only way to run an efficient and effective transit system. So, it’s going to be a big year for transit. Let’s hope we have lots of dialogue in the coming months and make the right decisions. The future of our region depends on it! Do you agree?