Moving Beyond the People Mover

The RTA rethinks Detroit-area transit in a new $4.6-billion-dollar master plan

Rendering of BRT on Michigan Avenue and 14th Street in downtown Detroit (Courtesy RTA)

The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) of Southeast Michigan claims that public transit for Detroit and surrounding suburbs could be available for the low, low price of $95 per household.

The RTA has unveiled a $4.6 billion master plan for transit in the four-county region in advance of a November vote on a 20-year, 1.2 million property tax millage. If approved, the millage would raise $150 million per year and cost the owner of a house with an assessed value of $78,856 (the southeast Michigan average) less than $100 annually. The plan is expected to generate $6 billion in economic development for the region while serving the region’s 4.5 million residents.

The revenue will go towards funding commuter rail, express transit to Detroit Metro Airport (as early as next year), bus rapid transit, and expanding commuting options for the elderly and disabled. A key objective of the project is unifying five regional transit systems (AAATA, DDOT, DTC, M-1 Rail, and SMART) to achieve these goals.

Before BEST: Regional Master Transit Plan can go to voters, the RTA needs to formally approve it at its board meeting in late July, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“Southeast Michigan is the only major urban area in the country without a viable, coordinated public transit system. If we are going to be competitive in a 21st-century global economy, developing a transit system that meets the needs of a changing world is absolutely essential,” RTA chair Paul Hillegonds said in a press release.

Most local service upgrades would go into effect within five years, while bus rapid transit and commuter rail would be implemented between 2022 and 2026. The full timeline of improvements and additions can be found here.

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