The Regional Transit Authority millage proposal failed by 18,056 votes in southeast Michigan on Election Day, and metro Detroit will remain without a regional public transportation system for at least another two years.
The RTA was an initiative to combine and expand the bus and rail transit lines in metro Detroit whilst funding the project through increased taxes on property values.
The millage needed a majority of the total population between Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Macomb counties, according to the RTA official website.
The respective county clerks’ unofficial published election results report Wayne and Washtenaw counties approved the millage. In Wayne County, nearly 53 percent of people voted in favor while 47 percent voted against it. Fifty-six percent of people voted in favor of the RTA in Wasthenaw County and 44 percent opposed it.
Both Oakland and Macomb counties rejected the RTA proposal. Fifty percent of Oakland County voters were in favor of the proposal falling just shy of the 50.09 percent who opposed it. The largest difference was in Macomb County, where 60.1 percent of people voted against the millage in comparison to 39.9 percent of people supporting it.
Due to Michigan law, the RTA will not be able to put the millage plan back on the ballot until the November 2018 off-year election.
RTA County Coordinator Diana McBroom said this year was the preferred year to have the proposal on the ballot. She said it had the best chance of succeeding because more people show up to vote during presidential elections, particularly millennials.
A Crain’s Detroit Business poll said 71 percent of Detroit millennials want better access to mass transit, yet the proposal still failed.
“I think people were too ill-informed before voting,” said Wayne State senior mechanical engineering student Zach Daugherty. “I definitely hope they try again.”
Daugherty said it was difficult to hear about the proposal being rejected because Detroit does not have a viable transportation system.
Sophomore chemical engineering major Victoria Lebryk said although she voted for the RTA, she had many discussions with her parents who both voted against the proposal.
“Both of my parents were simply against their taxes being raised,” Lebryk said.
She said her parents felt it was not fair to raise taxes on people who do not routinely travel into the city or cross-county.
The proposal would have been a $1.20 mill on every $1,000 of taxable property value making the average cost per metro Detroiter about $96, according to the authority’s official website.
“Metro Detroit spends $66 per capita on its transportation systems, which is less than any other major metropolitan area in the United States,” McBroom said.
She said the average return for every $1 spent on public transportation is about four dollars of development investment across the United States.
“However, our model closely resembles Cleveland’s transportation model. Cleveland saw an investment return of $116 in development for every dollar invested into public transportation,” McBroom continued. “Our system would have been three times bigger.”
A statement was released by the CEO of the RTA Michael Ford saying they will be meeting to discuss plans to determine the authority’s next steps.