Agreement reached to allow Regional Transport Authority on November ballot

Regional leaders have agreed on a way to place a regional transit millage question on the November ballot.

The Oakland, Macomb and Wayne county executives, the mayor of Detroit, and representatives from the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners met today at the Detroit Athletic Club to negotiate a solution following last week’s “no” vote by Oakland and Macomb counties at the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) board meeting.

The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan plan calls for assessing a tax of 1.2 mills in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties for 20 years. That equates to nearly $8 a month for a house with a taxable value of roughly $79,000 -- or an assessed value of more than $158,000.

The majority of the transit system would be implemented within five years. A key component would be a rail line connecting downtown Ann Arbor and downtown Detroit, with stops in Ypsilanti, Wayne and Dearborn. There also would be bus rapid transit -- including dedicated lanes, permanent stations, traffic signal preference and pre-board ticketing -- from downtown Detroit to Pontiac, M-59 and Detroit Metro Airport and between downtown Ann Arbor and downtown Ypsilanti.

Other elements include commuter bus routes across county lines, a universal fare card, new local services connecting communities no public transportation into the regional network and improved services for the disabled and seniors.

Oakland and Macomb counties stood together last week at the RTA Board of Directors meeting to vote no on placing the RTA millage on the November ballot because of the RTA board's lack of a super majority voting requirement to change the apportionment of transit dollars.
 
Oakland County had additional concerns which included the 40 communities and their 540,000 residents who would have paid $700 million in taxes over 20 years but received little or no transit services and the omission of an auditing mechanism to demonstrate compliance with the 85 percent requirement in the RTA law which mandates that 85 percent of the taxes collected from a county are spent in that county on transit.
 
"During our meeting today, the regional leaders agreed on language for both the transit plan and the RTA by-laws that addresses our main issues. Like President Reagan said when negotiating international agreements, we will 'trust but verify,'" Patterson said. "Now, we are awaiting an opportunity to review the RTA's ballot language to ensure it conforms to the agreement reached today."

“I am satisfied that the accord we reached today not only offers something for our 40 communities and over half a million residents previously left out of the transit plan, but also incorporates the necessary protections we were seeking for Oakland County taxpayers,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “I’m grateful to my regional counterparts who joined me in moving forward.

“In addition, I’d like to recognize the outstanding work of my negotiators, Chief Deputy County Executive Gerald Poisson and Deputy County Executive Robert Daddow. Their expertise helped us find a solution that is fair for everyone.”


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