An Appetite For Transit Solutions In Southeast Michigan

DETROIT—Did you miss southeast Michigan’s newly formed Regional Transit Authority's inaugural meeting April 10? Do you worry that you missed out on a pivotal moment in our state’s transit history? Fear not.

On Monday May 6, from noon - 1 p.m., the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue at 1457 Griswold Street is hosting a Lunch and Learn recap session with the following transit advocates:

  • Neil Greenberg, founder of Freshwater Transit,
  • Shauna Rushing from Metro Coalition of Congregations,
  • Joel Batterman from the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, and
  • Carmine Polombo, RTA representative from Southeast Michigan Council on Governments

Participants will offer insights on the newly formed RTA, the future of transit in southeast Michigan, and the Freshwater Railway’s impressive coast-to-coast transit system proposal (complete with its own faux web model).

In December 2012, the Michigan legislature passed the necessary bills to create the Regional Transit Authority, an umbrella agency designed to coordinate, oversee, and improve transit for Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. The RTA’s responsibilities include everything from DDOT and depots to rapid transit and the M-1 Light Rail.

While the RTA seems commonsense, its successful creation is quite a momentous feat. According to the Metro Times, previous state legislatures have failed to create a RTA-like institution on 23 occasions.

To help prepare for the roundtable Lunch and Learn, we recommend you reacquaint yourself with some of the prevalent public opinions on the RTA’s important-yet-daunting to-do list. To help, we have organized our RTA birthday party live tweets in a handy transcript:

Can't make it to today's inaugural #RTA meeting? We'll be tweeting it live at 3 p.m. Follow #RTA @wearemodeshift bit.ly/1547qGM

Standing room only at #RTA. It's 3:29 and they just found their microphone.

Mark Flanders of Detroit: "When I saw Zagreb, I was horrified. Why can't Detroit have such a good public transit system?"

3:32 "Giving away the State Fairgrounds now and buying it back at a later date is counter-intuitive," says Marshall Simons.

3:35. "Public transit means less mobile emissions and fewer public health threats," says a Sierra Club representative. #RTA #MITRANS

3:38. Getting people to the island is key, says Michelle Hodges of @belleisle_det. "We stand with you and support you any way that we can."

3:42. A grandmother urges the group to consider a day when children and grandchildren can ride to school and work. #RTA #MITRANS

3:45. Reverend Louise shares, "Transit is a justice issue, an economic issue, a development issue for our members and our community." #RTA

3:50. Kenneth Weikel comments that transit has the potential to unify SE Michigan, adding "Walkability is the future!"

Seems like the general commentary here can be summarized as: "Transit equals healthier communities and economic growth." #RTA #MITRANS

3:54. "The intersection of 8 Mile and Woodward is so iconic. It doesn't belong to Magic Johnson. It belongs to the state." #RTA #MITRANS

4:01. Ferndale resident: "Keep in mind that the decisions that you make here will leave a legacy behind for many generations." #RTA #MITRANS

4:05. Steven Boyle of Occupy Detroit: "Public servants serve the public. Please honor the opportunity that the public has given to you."#RTA

Boyle, the embodiment of "speak softly and carry a big stick," also highlights the need for 24 hour bus service and bus shelters. #RTA

4:07. John Waterman, an educator in Seline: "Consider the user that chooses where they live based on available public transit." #RTA

4:09. Tom Chosky: "This board can erase divisiveness. How can we come together as a region if we cannot physically come together?" #RTA

4:14. Donovan McCarty on the importance of transit for young adults in a bad economy: Debilitating auto costs, drunk driving. #RTA #MITRANS

4:10. Sterling Heights native Alex Tucker shares his BA Thesis research, "How to fund RTA to sustain it as a long-term, visionary plan."#RTA

4:22. "There's got to be some benefit to being the last people in the country to do this. Let's learn from others as we look for a CEO."#RTA

Paul Hillegonds closes the open question portion of the meeting with many thanks to all for their support and input. #RTA #MITRANS

4:29. Miller Canfield and SEMCOG both made generous contributions to the RTA. Motion to formalize the relationship. #RTA #MITRANS

4:50. After a high-energy comment section, folks are starting to sneak out. #RTA#MITRANS

4:56 The birthday party nears its finale. For more information, visit: semcog.org/RTA#RTA #MITRANS twitter.com/wearemodeshift…

4:59. Conversation heats up again. 'All of this sounds nice but how do we make sure that bus lines aren't cut in the interim?' #RTA

5:01. Meeting somehow ends on time. Happy birthday, #RTA.twitter.com/wearemodeshift…

Whether by car, bus, foot or bike, join Freshwater Railway, Metro Coalition of Congregations and the Michigan Suburbs Alliance with an open mind and critical questions. Don’t forget your appetite, as lunch will be provided.

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