Since the launch of the Regional Master Transit Plan on May 31, 2016, the RTA has been canvassing the four-county RTA region seeking input on the plan and answering questions. The following questions are those that the RTA has most frequently answered.
What are the benefits of the RTA Regional Master Transit Plan? What do we get out of it?
• Rapid, Reliable, Regional Transit will connect to 1.9 million existing jobs and directly support almost 68,000 new jobs over the next 20 years.
• Our seniors and people with disabilities will have a dependable way to travel to jobs, medical appointments, shopping or access other critical services using a better connected, more coordinated paratransit system that will serve their needs.
• Funds collected from the millage will be leveraged to generate billions of dollars in federal funds to build the rapid transit system.
• Improved transit will provide “greener” travel options and help reduce road congestion.
• New regional transit options will connect people to sports and entertainment venues throughout the region. For example, with the new BRT lines along Woodward, Gratiot and Michigan Avenues, you’ll be able to leave your car at a park and ride and take BRT downtown to a football game!
• The plan adds $6 billion in gross regional product and supports the increase in personal income of $4.4 billion regionally.
• Rapid, Reliable Regional Transit will also provide access to:
o 23 colleges & 310 schools and head start facilities
o 22 hospitals
o 100+ grocery stores
o 410+ parks
o 47 libraries
How does the RTA Plan propose to go about improving our transit system?
The plan proposes to increase the efficiency of the current transit service by:
• Building on the base services already provided by AAATA, DDOT, SMART and the People Mover
• Expanding hours of available service
• Significantly reducing the need for transfers along major routes
• Substantially increasing frequency on high ridership corridor
• Introducing rapid transit in the region where none exist today
The RTA plan will significantly increase access to jobs, education, medical care and entertainment opportunities throughout the region, simplify and enhance mobility options for seniors and people with disabilities, and attract and retain talent as access to high quality public transit is ranked highest amongst Millennials when deciding where to live, learn, and work.
A recent analysis by SEMCOG (the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) shows that today, 92% of jobs in the region cannot be reached within 60 minutes using existing transit services. The individual agencies are trying to provide regional services, but find themselves limited by funding shortages and jurisdictional boundaries. The result is that riders are required to make inconvenient transfers between systems. Due to limited funding:
• Truly regional service only operates for approximately six hours a day on a few select lines.
• Service is infrequent with 30 minutes between buses, and even less frequent service in the non-peak hours.
• Most services don’t operate after 10 pm, making transit an option of last resort for many and a non-option for many that have the option to drive a car.
The RTA will be able to secure the additional funding and resources needed to build a system that is rapid, reliable and regional.
How much will the RTA Proposal cost?
The 1.2 regional transit millage will cost $1.20 in property tax for every $1,000 of taxable value of a home.
For the average household in Southeast Michigan with a taxable value of $78,856, this will cost about $95 per year, or less than $8 per month.
This investment will allow the RTA to build and operate a system that will connect to 1.9 million existing jobs and directly support 67,844 new jobs. The system will also connect 23 colleges, 310 schools and head start facilities, over 100 grocery stores, and more.
The RTA worked to ensure the plan was developed using conservative financial assumptions that were rigorously analyzed by a financial task force comprised of banking, business and other economic leaders in this region to ensure it was as fiscally responsible and cost-effective as possible. The RTA plan is the first fiscally-constrained transit plan for the four-county region.
Will the RTA take over the current providers DDOT, SMART, AAATA and the People Mover?
No. There is no plan to absorb or take over any of our local providers. Their services provide an essential part of the overall network and gets people around their local communities. Further, many of the services in the RTA plan will be delivered in partnership with the current providers.
For example, all of the proposed Cross County Connectors, Local Service, Commuter Express services and, ADA Paratransit services will be delivered by DDOT, SMART, AAATA and the People Mover working together.
The RTA is focused on building a transit network, which means connecting our providers and coordinating the existing service. This is nothing new; many regions across the country operate several providers under a regional authority such as Sound Transit in the Seattle area.
Isn’t the RTA just another bus company?
No. The RTA is not just another bus company. The RTA will take responsibility for coordinating regional service that connects the four counties and their transit providers. SMART, DDOT, the People Mover, and AAATA will continue to provide local connections and the RTA will work with all them to create a broader public transportation network that will allow people to travel across, and throughout, all four counties.
For example, the RTA will work with SMART and DDOT to create a series of Cross County Connectors. One of these will be provide service along Grand River that will allow commuters to have a one-seat ride from Wixom in Oakland County to downtown Detroit in Wayne County. This broader network of services will give people better access to jobs, medical services, education and entertainment and other services.
How will my county benefit from the plan? What is my Return on Investment?
The RTA is required by state law to invest 85% of all funding collected from one county back to that county in the form of transit capital and/or operating. This plan meets the 85% requirement which means a majority of the dollars collected in your county, stay in your county. Please look at our county-specific brochures here for more information.
Will someone already paying into SMART and AAATA have to pay the RTA millage in addition?
Yes. The RTA will not replace the DDOT General Fund Allocation, SMART or AAATA existing millages. These existing service providers will work together with the RTA to produce a seamless, connected network. The RTA will provide regional service that connects the four-county region. The local providers will continue to offer good local transit options to get people around their communities.
This approach to service delivery is consistent with many other major metropolitan areas with a regional system. The major difference between our region and these others is that they’ve made the necessary investment for all their providers to work together to achieve a regionally-connected public transportation system. Our region is behind regions like Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Seattle who have made this kind of investment in their public transportation infrastructure.
Why should someone in a SMART opt-in community pay a second millage for transit?
There are a number of strong reasons:
• Many of these communities will have the opportunity to connect to the broader region with new service, expanding job and economic development opportunities that were previously not served by transit.
• Statistics show that property values increase in communities that have reliable transit that connects to major employment centers and that such communities more readily attract new business and development.
• Regardless of where in the region you are, transit provides real benefits to so many. The people we often depend on (i.e. nurses, school teachers, maintenance workers), depend on transit. Transit connects people to jobs, healthcare, essential services, and gets customers to businesses. There is a proven record of economic return on investment for transit development that could help the region leverage hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, in Cleveland the BRT known as the Healthline has generated $114 in local investment for every dollar spent to build the line.
• Improved public transportation will help seniors and people with disabilities (our most vulnerable citizens) get to where they need to go without transfers or drop-offs at city or county borders. This is an investment that will have a huge impact on our region and on so many lives. Many people who you count on rely on transit. Even if you never use it, someone you count on does.
Can the RTA make a county or community outside of the four county region join the organization?
The RTA cannot make a county or community join the organization. A county that is contiguous with the four-county region can request to opt-in to the RTA region. See 2012 Michigan Public Act 387, Section 3 for additional details.
Why is this effort different from all of the previous failed attempts at regional public transportation?
The RTA was created by the Michigan Legislature in December 2012 (PA387 of 2012) to serve as the coordinating agency for creating regional transit in Southeast Michigan. This was an important step because every region in the country that has a successful public transportation system has an RTA that serves as its coordinating agency. The legislation addressed all of the issues that have historically left our region without a seamless, connected network.
There were three major issues that were solved upon passing of the legislation:
• A strong governance structure made up of a 10-member board appointed by the county executives of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb, who each appoint two members, the chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners who also appoints two members, the Mayor of the city of Detroit who appoints one member and the governor of the State of Michigan who appoints one non-voting chairman.
• A strong planning function which demonstrates the RTA has developed a fiscally-responsible, highly implementable master plan for creating regional transit.
• Perhaps most importantly, an opportunity to place a funding question on the ballot to allow voters to decide whether to support regional transit.
The RTA is preparing to ask the voters to consider a 1.2 mill property tax to support the proposed plan for regional transit in November 2016. This kind of proposal has not had an opportunity to go before voters in the past.
Why do you think this can pass now after decades of inaction?
This is the most thorough, well-thought out effort that we have ever seen to create transit in this region. It is the only fiscally constrained plan that ensures financial responsibility and feasibility. We have regional leaders on board and the benefits make a compelling case to the public. We are well-poised to finally begin competing for economic opportunity and talent attraction with the other major metropolitan regions in this country that have a regional transit system.
Can the Southeast Michigan region implement Rapid Transit without the RTA?
No. More than half of the funding required to create major regional transit improvements, like the ones that the RTA is proposing, come from the federal government. For a region to secure those funds, the federal government has two requirements:
• There must be a long-term dedicated funding mechanism to be responsible for managing the federal dollars.
• There must be a local agency that can secure local funding to serve as a match for the federal funds.
The RTA is the only agency in Southeast Michigan that meets both of these federal requirements. Without the RTA, our region’s ability to access these funds is severely limited.
Are the providers on board with this plan?
Yes. The RTA plan includes and relies upon our providers to deliver the service. By making these larger regional connections, they are able to focus in on the local service options to strengthen their service mandates. Added maintenance facilities and infrastructure improvements are also mutually beneficial to the RTA and our providers. There will be no decrease in services provided by DDOT, SMART, AAATA, and the People Mover as a result of the RTA plan, only added connections between Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties.
Are the regional leaders on board with this plan?
The regional leaders have been involved from the very beginning. We are happy to call them partners in this effort and are extremely grateful for their support and participation with the RTA.
What is the next step?
The RTA spent the month of June informing and working with the public on this plan and collecting their feedback. Next, we will process what we heard and make appropriate changes. The RTA Board will vote on the adoption of the plan in July, which will lead us to a millage on the ballot in November of this year.