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SEMCOG's plan to build a regional transit system

SEMCOG's regional transit plans include applying for federal grants to pay for part of a bus rapid transit system (SpeedLinks) to cover 11 routes. Details are in their website at

In the summer 2000 SEMCOPE, estimated costs for SpeedLink and to improve existing bus and community transit are as follows.

Fixed route bus improvements costs - capital $127, Operating $70.9 per year
Community transit improvements costs - capital 14.7, Operating $11.9 per year
SpeedLink route costs - Capital over 25 years $2 billion, $200 operating per year

According to SEMCOG statistics below, there are not enough funds available to meet the transportation needs for southeast Michigan but this does not mean new regional and/or local taxes are needed. They say operating subsidies must be agreed upon by the public to qualify for federal funds but they have yet to address issues concerning better use of existing tax collections.

While $41 billion in transportation needs have been identified for FY 2001-2025, only $24 billion in federal, state and local transportation funding (both capital and operating) is expected to be available. The $24 billion will be invested in preserving, enhancing, and operating Southeast Michigan's transportation system, including roadways, bridges, airports, non-motorized pathways, and transit vehicles and facilities. Ultimately, the region will be faced with $17 billion of unmet needs, illustrating the complexity of regional transportation planning and the importance of making careful funding decisions.

Source -

Southeast Michigan's existing mass transit systems .

Some claim existing buses move too slow and stop too much. This can easily be proved to be false, by looking at SMART timetables. Regular bus service can support our areas mass transit needs. There is a strong need for full service using SMART and DDOT in a cooperative way.

Source - SEMCOG public forums concerning regional mass transit.

Feeder lines need full service to get passengers to the main routes or SpeedLinks will not work.

Sources - farebox statistics of areas with good mass transit, SMART new service initiative handout.

The lack of a frequent backbone 24hr / 7day backbone mass transit system is inconsistent with metro Detroit's mass transit needs. Using existing SMART buses can easily fill this need. There is much evidence around the world that bus service similar to SMART can be as effective as rail and SpeedLink type transit systems.

Some claim that bus service has a bad stigma attached to it and the lack of train-like service is preventing many people from using mass transit. What people want is to get where they are going and back in a reasonable time. SpeedLinks are not practical in many situations and will not solve most public transit needs.

Sources - SEMCOG public surveys and forums

Both the public and SEMCOG need to explore more and better ways to serve those whom already live and work along existing routes. If customers of existing public transit won't fill buses up to make mass transit work, then who will?  The belief that SpeedLinks can fix existing transportation needs to change.

Common sense must be used to make mass transit work in Southeast Michigan

Increasing funding from the State's Comprehensive Transportation Fund would have to come at the expense of state and local road and bridge programs according the Michigan House Fiscal Agency source

Urban sprawl is rampant in the many suburban areas that refuse to better fund mass transit. These same areas refuse to impose proper development fees and taxes on new growth, which is draining limited state transportation funds in southeast Michigan. There are many examples of this, such as in western Oakland County where the road system is no longer sufficient to support new growth. Concerning the many complex issues of mass transit, SEMCOG needs to address these problems; otherwise inner city public transit systems will be too strained to offer decent bus service.

Since 2000 SEMCOG has yet to address the primary problems to solve mass transit problems. They are development fees, mass transit tax incentives, imposing driving constraints, bus only roads and the coordination of schedules.

Source - SEMCOG public forums on the need to improve mass transit.

The voters need to demand State CTF funds be increased

For those of us who live and work on existing mass transit lines --- it's time to take action. We will have to get our government and industry leaders to make many compromises and hard choices that are complex and will involve making car travel less attractive in some cases to improve mass transit.

Mass transit needs to become more attractive. For example, SMART officials came to the Detroit suburb of Livonia and sucessfully increased rider-ship with more early morning buses on Middlebelt Rd. to get people to and from work. What is needed is competent use of very limited state transportation funds to keep mass transit better funded, a high ridership to help lower costs, more direct industry supports and getting mass transit champions elected in our state government.

These WebPages are taking action by asking that MDOT pay federal matching funds for existing mass transit and that industry work harder to fill buses up with paying customers. It's time to wake up to reality. Farms, forests, rivers, and meadows are being destroyed at a fast pace because people are leaving the city and inner suburbs that already have good roads. The destruction of southeast Michigan's landscape is in the name of progress and industry profits. This needs to change and can only change with responsible government leadership that makes public transit accessible.

A framework for funding is essential

SEMCOG's theme for their regional transit plan is "A framework for action". "A framework for funding" is what is really needed with " no free passes ". SEMCOG claims a regional mass transit tax with SpeedLinks will result in a world-class mass transit system. This can only be true with mass transit leadership and common sense. Some examples of mass transit leadership are as follows.

New development fees and local property taxes - to improve and expand roads in western Oakland County.

An increase in the Diesel fuel tax with corresponding amount for mass transit - to widen parts of I-75, I-94 and other improvements needed for trucks

Raise the charge of SMART work shuttle buses - Realign DDOT / SMART buses to get more people to work. Sets of plans to do this are in these WebPages.

An agreement to raise federal matching funds for mass transit to include the following -- The Michigan Department of Transportation to retain full responsibility to replace existing SMART/DDOT buses. New transit needs to share costs with industry and local governments as agreed upon with the voters. Raise the cost of driving to increase CTF funds to keep mass transit budgets balanced. Increase CTF funds for mass transit above 10% as necessary to justify the best interests of the taxpayers, including environmental and employment concerns. Protect mass transit by ensuring at least 10% of CTF funds are used for mass transit as compared to funding of other transportation needs.

The state to fully support park and rides and the handicapped without local funding permanently. Property taxes for SMART to be permanent as agreed upon by the voters with conditions attached to protect its customers and workers. Tax raised by choice of the voters only. Additional conditions added as necessary as agreed upon by the taxpayers and mass transit citizens groups. State to pay for new terminals and mass transit needs as a priority, in the efforts to protect our cities, preserve the countryside and the natural beauty of our State. In the 1950's it made sense to build interstate freeways in southeast Michigan to save lives. It's not practical or possible to do this anymore and the taxpayers cannot afford it. It's time to lower speed limits and repair existing roads for safety. It's time to better use mass transit to solve our transportation needs.

New mass transit tax incentives for those who use, build along or pay for SMART, DDOT or any mass transit system.

If CTF funds can't be increased then I-75 does not need to be widened. When truckers and motorists get tired of congestion, then they can vote in higher diesel and gas taxes. Large steel locked cash boxes could be installed at points of traffic congestion with a sign saying "want this road widened?, then please contribute as state funds are needed for the disabled who use community transit ---
--- It's time for Southeast Michigan to demand mass transit leadership or vote "no" on new mass transit taxes.

Sources - SEMCOG public forums on regional transit, Act 51

Detroit Area Regional Transportation Authority (DARTA)

This was an agreement to coordinate city and suburban bus systems by the creation of a new transit authority. Efforts were made to include the counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Monroe into a comprehensive regional transit plan. DARTA was to govern and coordinate existing public transit including funding and lead in implementing SEMCOG's regional transit plan known as: Improving Transit in Southeast Michigan: A Framework for Action. (as of 01/04)

It is a no-brainer to live and work on the bus lines with a good paying job, drive to work and pay higher taxes for mass transit. The real place to support mass transit is not city hall or our capitols; it's at the fare-box. The challenge is to increase the fare-box to revenue ratio, which is the standard measure of mass transit systems. This is a measure of the proportion of transit operating expenses compared to passenger fares. If our area is to be competitive with other areas in getting more employment opportunities and drawing tourists, then this needs to be done. The money one pays at the fare-box goes for much more then a ride as it also supports many needs. These include working to bring Detroit's population back up to one million thus more local and federal tax revenues, increasing public safety, paying for the disabled and helping the transit dependent. Our transit providers have high costs associated with federal laws to serve those with disabilities. The respect and dignity of the public can only be served by holding state budget directors responsible for federal funds. Many in Michigan want high-quality mass transit at affordable prices by getting industries to help fill up the bus fare-boxes.

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