Voters decide on SMART Bus service funding in Aug primary

Next Tuesday voters will have a say in the future of Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation.

The future of the service will decide on voters continuing to fund the service by renewing its four-year operating millage at the ballot box.

"If I didn't use it, I probably would say no on it," said Frank Meyers. "Because they waste too much money over the past few years."

"SMART is the most expensive, least convenient way of getting people around," said Leon Drolet.

Drolet is a Macomb County Commissioner and Chair of the Michigan TaxPayers Alliance. He believes it's time for taxpayers to stop wasting their money.

"Taxpayers pay almost $12,000 per rider, per year, in taxes here in Macomb County on SMART," he said.

If approved, the millage is estimated to generate nearly $75 million in the first year from all of Macomb County and the communities in Wayne and Oakland counties that participate with SMART.

But Drolet says based on information from the Census Bureau, only a handful of people in Macomb use the service.

"It turns out in Macomb County it's 3,078 people out of 895,000," he said.

But SMART officials say not so fast.

"That doesn't capture a lot of the people who ride SMART," said Robert Cramer, SMART. "Over 12,000 people ride in Macomb County alone every week day another 2,700 are using the connector service on top of that."

Those who oppose the millage say it's time to leave what's old behind and take a ride into the future. 

"The county would negotiate a system with ride-share services like Uber and Lyft," Drolet said. "People would negotiate a discount and those who are economically disadvantaged, we would subsidize their rides using existing gas tax revenue and existing state taxes. We don't need property tax to do this."

"You don't throw out what works just because you are exploring additional options," Megan Owens said.

Megan Owens of Transportation Riders United says the SMART service is the smart way to go... Ridership is up and the only way to vote is yes. 

"If you believe it's important for voters to have a choice when their car breaks down or when they have to retire from driving," she said. "You need to vote yes to keep the SMART buses rolling."