RTA unveils plan for regional mass transit system

A plan to connect the bus systems of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties will be unveiled Tuesday. Organizers have been working on the system overhaul for more than a year.

Detroit-area homeowners will be asked to pay an average of $95 a year in property taxes to finance a regional mass transit system that would include a commuter rail line, a network of rapid buses and express service to Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

A master plan unveiled Tuesday by the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan 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.

A formal unveiling of the plan is happening Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield.

"We plan to make sure that you have quick, reliable and regional transportation," Regional Transit Authority CEO Michael Ford tells FOX 2. "So, that means getting you where you want to go in an accelerated manner; more express-type services that just currently aren't available."

The proposed tax will appear on the November ballot. The proposal requires a majority of the combined votes in the four-county region to pass.

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 seamless 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.

RTA Chairman Paul Hillegonds said southeast Michigan is the only major urban area in the U.S. without a viable, coordinated transit system. The plan would "connect people with jobs, connect communities with one another and encourage economic development as well as providing greater independence for seniors and people with disabilities."

The RTA was created under a 2012 state law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.