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.