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From Bloomfield Hills, 76, Fighting Transit

Posted to on Monday, June 1, 2015

More than 40 journalists assemble in the media room each day of the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference. Other conference attendees come to eat the more steady supply of food that the hotel provides in this room. Journalists are used to non-journalists walking in and sitting down. Bill McMaster walked up to each journalist and gave them blue flyers from the Taxpayers United Michigan Foundation saying he is the state chairman. In bold was printed ‘Business Leaders Buying Influence with Politicians to Illegally Promote Expansion of State Government at Expense of Common Citizens.’ This journalist was the only one to transmit McMaster’s message.

McMaster is criticizing the second bridge to Canada, M1 Rail and the Detroit Regional Transit Authority.

BM:”It violates the Headlee Amendant and the state constitution in that a vote of the people is required for new tax hikes and also for creation of new units of government. That’s what this transit authority is: a new unit of government without a vote of the people.”

Chris McCarus: “So are you opposed to what it does too? Provide mass transit?”

BM: “It’s almost laughable. A 3.3 mile street car to no where is hardly mass transit. It runs from the old GM building to the new GM building in the RenCen.”

CMC: “But that’s not what’s being touted as the whole system. That’s a tiny part. The RTA’s goal is to have all the spokes: Gratiot, Woodward, Grand River, Michigan to be complete with this thing called Bus Rapid Transit which is a hypo set of buses.”

BM: “That sounds a little bit familiar with the People Mover of 20 years ago and what that was supposed to do. As you know it was an adept failure. If that’s the way Detroit and the region runs a rail system it’s not a very good example. As far as this 3.3 mile endeavor being expanded, they have not completed the funding for this one. And it is already in trouble as far as the operation is concerned. It has required the rebuilding of two bridges over the freeway. There are three bus lines already servicing that area.”

CMC: “Which area?”

BM: “From the boulevard to downtown. So it isn’t as if there is an urgent need. It’s an avocation of the Ilitches and others that is going to require public support. They haven’t had the authority to create that authority under the constitution.”

CMC: “Bill McMaster you are saying that there’s no urgent need for better and more service on Woodward?”

BM: “That’s right. It has the DDOT. It has SMART already running there. It’s of some mystery to us as grass roots taxpayers of why this is given priority as far as the problems facing Detroit.”

CMC: “One might be that 60% of the workers have to work in the suburbs and they can’t get there on time because buses are unreliable.”

BM: “(Laughs) and you think this street car line to know where is going to be the answer.”

CMC: “No it is inadequate.”

BM: “The problem is that the taxpayers are already supporting SMART that goes from downtown Detroit to Pontiac on a regular basis. The fact that is poorly run is inherent in the entire government involvement in public transportation.”

CMC: “Why do you say it’s poorly run?”

BM: “Because people are left standing. There’s not on time. The equipment is not maintained and the drivers aren’t well trained. Most of them are running empty. The SMART buses. Yet they are maintaining the falsehood that there are more riders today than five years ago when taxpayers approved an additional tax hike.”

CMC: “Everyone who’s 76 in Bloomfield Hills has a son or daughter in New York or Chicago who went there to ride mass transit and pick up girls, and be able to go out at all hours of the night and not worry about transportation and they don’t want to pay $8,000 a year for a car. So we’re missing whole industries that could be created in Detroit because those kids are going. They’ve been gone a long time.”

BM: “I have three kids that have gone through Michigan State. One is in Cincinnati. Another one is in the Chicago area. And another one has just come back from Chicago. You’re forgetting the basic problem. College grads had a tough time finding jobs in Michigan for the last ten years. It is a the more ambitious who have sought jobs and found them in nearby other cities. The fact that some are coming back is a pipe dream because if they have matured and succeeded in business or on their jobs elsewhere, gotten married and started families somewhere else there is very little to find back here in Michigan and the Detroit area that would require being able to live without a car and depend on public transportation.”

CMC: “So is the solution to keep the city and the metro area a place where you can’t live without a car?”

BM: “No. The idea is to improve the bus system which is already in place and should be attractive enough for people. I can’t believe that guys who are dating age would prefer to ride a bus or street car for a short distance so you have to take a bus to a street car line then walk from there in all kinds of Michigan weather. I can’t believe you would find it’s a basic need to have a rail system. It was inherent in New York and Chicago. But certainly I rode the last of the street cars that went from downtown to Pontiac.

2 Responses to “From Bloomfield Hills, 76, Fighting Transit”

  1. Jim Casha says:

    I like Bill…and I agree with him on some things, like the M1-Streetcar & the RTA, but not all, and especially not on the Bridge to Canada. I drove the bridge last night, this is disaster waiting to happen. I can’t remember a time in the last 15 years, and I drive the bridge regularly, as I live in Canada and worked in Detroit, I can’t remember a time, when all lanes were open for any significant length of time. We need a ‘new’ (redundant) bridge AND Matty needs a twin span. I would hate to rely on the tunnel if anything was to happen.

    We also need a REGIONAL Transportation System that works. As Larry Salci, the man turned down by the RTA for CEO in Aug, 2013 (all but Detroit’s RTA member picked a politician, SMART GM, John Hertel!), told the RTA Board (called a bunch of ‘transit amateurs’ by one of their own’s admission!):

    “The ‘core’ of any REGIONAL Transportation System is an efficient, effective, bus system.” That’s where you start, not with rail, and especially not M1, or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). BRT needs a collector bus system to work, preferably a ‘free one’, like in Bogota. The M1 people say M1 will not replace buses, but adequate bus service could do everything, and more, much more, than M1, at a fraction of the costs.

    I build transportation systems, and live near Toronto, which has the largest streetcar system in the Americas. Why would anyone in their right mind, put a streetcar on their main artery, especially when there are plans for a future BRT down Woodward? Now, there is talk that the BRT will go on Cass & John R when it hits West Grand Blvd. Folks, this, this is ‘Butt-backwards’.

    As for Bill’s comments on the ‘People Mover’. The aforementioned Larry Salci, also gave Detroit that when he was GM of SEMTA. But, and this is a BIG BUT, it was intended to be part of plans for a REGIONAL Transportation System that Larry put together AND had the federal money ($600 million in 1970’s dollars) to build. Larry left … and the politicians, north and south of 8 Mile, screwed it up. So all we have is the people mover. Going ’round and round’, just like this REGIONAL transportation issue for 40 years.

    The RTA, as it is currently set up, is a sham. Designed to meet the Feds requirement for a REGIONAL Authority before they would give private interests ‘OUR’ federal transit dollars for a ‘private development project’. No one, and I repeat, no one, wants to see S.E. Michigan get a REGIONAL transportation system more that I do …but I can’t support the RTA. I wouldn’t give these people a ‘nickel’. Not a nickel. I would however support an authority run by me, or better yet…Larry. I would start with an ICONIC, Multi-modal Transportation Center at the MI State Fairgrounds. I would also lay claim to the 163 acre Fairgrounds as a revenue generator for the RTA. Larry agreed, that the RTA should ‘own’ the Fairgrounds. If the RTA is ‘for real’, why is it not laying claim to this land?

  2. Bill LePine says:

    It’s great to see Mr McMaster out and around…I knew Bill back in the early 1980’s when he was running his PR firm in Detroit!

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Zoe Clark of WUOM and Governor Rick Snyder May 29, 2015 on Mackinac Island.

Zoe Clark of WUOM and Governor Rick Snyder May 29, 2015 on Mackinac Island.

McMaster listening to Governor Rick Snyder speak to reporters on the front porch of the Grand Hotel, May 29, 2015.

McMaster listening to Governor Rick Snyder speak to reporters on the front porch of the Grand Hotel, May 29, 2015.

Bill McMaster, 10 minutes after he began passing out flyers to journalists in the media room of the Grand Hotel. Only this journalist agreed to hear what he wanted to say.

Bill McMaster, 10 minutes after he began passing out flyers to journalists in the media room of the Grand Hotel. Only this journalist agreed to hear what he wanted to say.

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