Written by David Sands
DETROIT—There was a celebratory atmosphere in the air during the inaugural public meeting of Southeast Michigan's new Regional Transit Authority governing board on Wednesday. The advocacy group Transportation Riders United even brought balloons and sang "Happy Birthday" to commemorate the occasion, after marching several blocks from Detroit's Rosa Parks Transit Center to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments offices, where the meeting was held.
The gathering was packed. A mixed crowd of over 100 people showed up to witness the new governing board set the stage for the authority, which will coordinate public transit between the counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw and the city of Detroit.
The occasion went surprisingly smoothly, considering the authority's contentious history in the region. There have been 23 failed attempts by the state legislature to create an RTA in Southeast Michigan since the 1970s, according to the Metro Times. State lawmakers finally ended this losing streak late last year by passing several bills establishing the authority and its powers, which were later signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.
Chair Paul Hillegonds told the Huffington Post he welcomed the enthusiasm and was pleased with how the meeting went. "The devil is in the details, for certain, but I think today represented a very positive start," he said. "We have a board that really represents the county and city leadership that advocated for the passage of RTA legislation and are asking us to bring the region together and I really expect ... we'll have a genuine commitment to more coordination between our local transit authorities and the desire to develop enhanced transit."