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RTA board approves master plan for November ballot

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After years of planning and two weeks of ugly strife, the Regional Transit Authority has approved a plan for voters in November. Now it’s up to the people of Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties to decide on the region’s transit future.

The board also amended its bylaws to create a consensus model of governance that is inclusive of all five jurisdictions in the region.

The plan covers 20 years, but many elements of the plan will be complete in five years, including one rapid transit line and regional rail service, with the other rapid transit lines complete within 10 years. The master plan supplements and connects service now being offered by the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT), the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority (AAATA) and the Detroit People Mover.

Key parts of the plan include:

  • Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes along Woodward Avenue between downtown Detroit and Pontiac, on Gratiot Avenue between downtown Detroit and M-59, on Michigan Avenue between downtown Detroit and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and on Washtenaw Avenue between downtown Ann Arbor and downtown Ypsilanti. Bus rapid transit is a bus line with attributes similar to light rail, including dedicated lanes, permanent stations, traffic signal preference, and pre-board ticketing.
  • Regional rail that connects downtown Ann Arbor to downtown Detroit with stops in Ypsilanti, Wayne, and Dearborn.
  • New cross-county connector and commuter express bus routes that provide seamless service across municipal and county lines without the need to transfer.
  • New local services that connect communities with no existing transit into the regional network.
  • Improved paratransit services for seniors and people with disabilities, including demand response and mobility services that span the entire region.
  • Express transit service to Detroit Metropolitan Airport from Ann Arbor, downtown Detroit, Macomb County and Oakland County.
  • A universal fare card that would provide access to all transit systems in the region.
  • Increased frequency and longer spans of service.
  • A centralized source for travel information and paratransit services.
  • Seamless coordination between existing transit providers.
  • Regional services with features to help buses stay on schedule.
  • New vehicles and improved facilities to maintain the ones we already have.

The overall plan will produce $4.7 billion in revenue over 20 years, with a 1.2 mill levy raising an estimated $3 billion along with an additional $1.7 billion in federal and state matching funds. The millage equates to about $7.92 per month forthe average home in southeast Michigan.

A couple months ago, we asked readers what the biggest challenge was in creating transit in Detroit. The top answer? Convincing the residents we need it.

Hopefully, the real hardest part was convincing the board that we need it.