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Southeast Michigan leaders devise new regional transit plan for 2020

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And it involves excluding Macomb County

A black bus drives down a boulevard between tall buildings. Photo by Michelle Gerard

A well-funded regional transit system has been a dream of certain leaders in Southeast Michigan for years. A new plan announced this week could make that goal more likely by excluding the area’s most resistant partner: Macomb County.

At a Monday news conference, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced a plan to ask the State Legislature to amend the Municipal Partnership Act of 2011, which allows for local municipalities to partner on services and raise taxes. Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties could then propose a tax millage on the 2020 ballot to fund regional transit.

Though the exact details of the bill will be released soon, Evans said that all three counties would have to vote in favor of the tax hike, or else the initiative would fail.

The new plan does not involve the Regional Transit Authority, which has been working to update its own plan.

Leaving out Macomb is an obvious path forward, given the resistance by both leaders and residents. In the lead up to the 2016 RTA millage vote, former Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel expressed skepticism of the plan, and ultimately their counties voted against it. In Oakland, the vote failed about only 1,000 votes. But in Macomb, it was by nearly 75,000.

The two executives then thwarted an attempt to revive the millage for the 2018 election.

Coulter, who succeeded Patterson as Oakland County Executive, is firmly behind regional transit. There could always be the opportunity for Macomb to join the system at a later date.