INTRO: The Michigan House Transportation Committee heard testimony today from supporters of a regional transit authority. No agency has ever existed for running a transit system including Detroit and its suburbs. A state law is needed just so an office exists to plan a better bus and train system and to receive government money. Governor Snyder had considered RTA legislation a top priority.
Some of the testimony this morning:
Matt Cullen, chairman of M1 Rail and top executive in Quicken Loans family of companies.
“Public transportation benefits all Americans whether they use it or not. It gets people to the places that are important to them: to jobs, school, health care and more. Public transportation helps to create and retain jobs. It revitalizes business districts and allows employers to tap into a larger work force. It stimulates commerce and increases property values.
“The safe, reliable and efficient and coordinated movement of people is crucial to our economy and our ability to be a world class city and region. But more important for thousands of SE Michigan residents, public transportation is the difference between a paycheck and no check.”
“On the M1 Project we are continuing to secure our funding sources. The project itself, the capital side is $140 million. We’ve already raised $106 million of private investment to support it. We’re not only raising the money to build it from a capital perspective, we’re raising the money to take care of the operations for a minimum of 10 years.”
The federal government would provide $60 million in matching funds. So M1 rail, also called lately the Woodward Street Car project, would count toward the bus rapids transit project.
Mark Hackel, Macomb County Executive.
“Regions around the world are successful mainly because they can move people around. They have advanced transportation systems. They bring people to jobs. They bring customers to businesses. They have the political will to make these things happen. This bill will simply allow us to put a plan together for a transit structure and governance model. This is I understand the 24th attempt. And every time there is an attempt to create transit somebody prevents this from happening. Critics, in my opinion, are naysayers and not leaders.”
Bill Rustem, Governor’s director of strategy.
“Look around the room and listen today. Listen to who’s talking. It’s the business community. It’s local executives and elected leadership in southeast Michigan. It’s people. It’s labor. It’s everybody. It’s all the major interests who understand this is critical to rebuilding Michigan. We gotta do this.”
Michelle Hodges, Troy Chamber of Commerce President.
“People ride transit to either make money or spend money. And the region needs more of both. For many people in the region, public transit is the difference between a paycheck and no check at all.”
Conan Smith, director of Michigan Suburbs Alliance and Washtenaw County Commission Chair
“We have companies developing great ideas out of the university. But they’re being developed in Chicago, New York in Atlanta. Why? It’s the lack of public transportation and a comprehensive system. It’s such a glaring absence from our economy and the way our communities are developing.”
TAG: Transportation Committee Chair Paul Oppsomer lives in suburban Lansing. But he grew up near 7 Mile and Kelly on Detroit’s east side. He says he supports a regional transit authority. But still questions if the state should be obligated to pay $10 million or so every year to operate it.
The governor’s transit point man, Dennis Schornack, says state officials need not worry about operating costs.
“Sec. 7 (5) of the bill prohibits the use of state CTF money to plan or operate BRT.” Schornack continues, “construction is another matter, but the feds will pay much of that along with vehicle purchases and the state always matches bus purchases. Operating resources are envisioned to come from the region via the motor vehicle fee, if approved by voters, until such time as more funding is made available to transportation writ large, including public transportation.”