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Short Gains for Detroit Transit

House to discuss bills for new transit authority

All Aboard | December 4, 2012 | By James Bruckbauer

About the Author

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Follow him on Twitter at @jimbruckb. Reach him at james@mlui.org.

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Detroit is one of the only metro regions without well-coordinated transit between suburbs and the city.

A strategy for laying the groundwork for modern transit in Metro Detroit is gaining ground.

After almost 40 years of failed attempts, senators in Lansing last week finally passed a series of bills that would create a much-needed regional transit authority for Michigan’s largest metro region. Now it’s up to the House, where, on Wednesday, the Transportation Committee will discuss the bills.

The authority, like others around the county, would oversee and coordinate transit service in three counties, making the system more efficient and improving service for current riders and potential new riders. Detroit is one of the only metro regions without well-coordinated transit between suburbs and the city.

It would also lay the groundwork to plan, build, and operate a modern transportation system, one that includes light-rail and rapid buses.  

But first, it must pass inside-game Lansing politics. Since the 1970s, roadblocks have stifled attempts to create a system that connects suburbs with the city. In fact, in 1976, Detroit suburban leaders turned away $600 million of federal funding that would have created a regional transit system largely because the city and suburbs could not work together. In years since, other failed attempts highlight the growing resistance to cooperation in the region.

This year, however, with strong support by the Governor, the state Senate, and the broad general public, transit advocates and business leaders have another chance. During this “lame duck” session, our representatives could finally set Detroit’s transportation system in the right direction.

And let’s hope they do. After all, Detroit will never be competitive in the modern world unless it builds a modern urban transit system that includes commuter trains, light rail, and rapid buses. Period.

The House Transportation Committee meets Wednesday at 10:30 AM. You can find the agenda here. Representative Wayne Schmidt from Traverse City sits on the Committee.

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