Letter to city of Livonia to protect state CTF funds
City of Livonia
Dear Mayor of Livonia
The city of Livonia’s proposal to opt out of the Wayne County Transit Authority is deficient of an ability to coordinate all transportation modes as essential for economic growth and is lacking of a defined purpose in the efforts to best use our limited transportation tax dollars.
In 1995, a picture of a person in a wheelchair appeared in a Detroit newspaper who was stranded because the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) funds were insufficient to maintain “existing” public bus service. At this time, Proposal S was introduced to increase funds. This proposal is the county property tax for the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART). Immediate action was taken to fill the buses on the downtown Detroit and airport bus lines by making a regional plan using logistics and common sense to connect the three county seats and the airport as applied specifically to Proposal S. “The plan” was based on getting people to work and the metro airport line known as Middlebelt Road needed early morning service. The state transit cuts were widely protested to help with the funding.
In 2000, the same plan was presented. to regional leaders who sponsored the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) "Framework for action" public transit forums. They modified it, then stated that SMART buses do not work well enough as a regional system and that “the plan” will not work unless regional and county taxes are raised for operating subsidies to acquire federal and state transit grants. A second opportunity arrived to make “the plan” work when transit advocate groups protested the downtown Detroit I-375 freeway expansion project and provided alternatives. State transportation officials were shown “the plan” that public buses are the answer, but they said it won’t work. They made it clear, “We won’t listen to you unless you can prove your plan will work”.
In response to the failures, the website of “the plan” was posted at meetings to educate the public as another vote was coming. Then, transit officials from SMART came to Livonia and made a third opportunity work in June 2003. “The Plan” physically came “off the shelf” in a primitive way with the help of local residents. Bus rider-ship increased and the per-passenger costs were lowered for the first time. At the same time, both regional and local officials were at work thinking up of ideas “to raise vast sums of money with new regional taxes” to pay for public infrastructure. This included funding for the SEMCOG transit “vision”, which still “lacks a focus on reality”. Meanwhile, MDOT was busy expanding freeways such as M-53 which helped to encourage developers to build on thousands of acres of prime farmland and forests.
“The plan” and the work of SMART transit officials resulted in a bus to work with a window to look at where the Rosa Parks bus is kept. And what a coincidence, it just happens that a man (Mayor of Livonia) is asking a Livonia resident to stand-up and give-up a bus seat to save just $10 per year, so $1.85 million per year can be added to the city’s general fund.
Admittedly, your opt out proposal could be viewed as a good cost cutting effort to raise funds for essential city services because it is cars that move the motor city and not buses. But, it’s the crippled and the handicapped that need the bus service. The public needs to protect state transit money to benefit all and maximize federal transit grants. Instead, the choice is to abandon by regression or to continue a situation which could possibly advance and improve our region. The SEMCOG 2030 TIP (Transportation Improvement Plan) can and should be amended to wisely invest the state fuel tax in mass transit. The combination of educating the voting public and petitions to “force” desired results are being utilized as necessary to seek positive gain for all. The freeway expansion plans neglect and depart from the unique urban cultures that keep Detroit a world class city. The 2030 TIP does not “leave alone” or conform to the needs of the city and inner suburbs including Livonia.
God's loving kindness that is given undeservedly establishes the human being's self-esteem independently of achievements means that the progressive fuel tax for mass transit is best "left alone". If it works then don't fix it. Please work to get mass transit debated in the newspapers and on television to get the state leadership we need in Lansing and not just for mass transit but for the city of Livonia, so the sign on our borders that says “Families Still First” can remain true. Let’s show Michigan that we are leaders and help SMART as much as possible and practical.
“Save the Fuel Tax”challenges you to a public debate to ensure that “community transit” and SMART continues to receive full support from federal and state fuel tax revenues.