By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Residents from the metropolitan Detroit area filled the Christ Episcopal Church Fellowship Hall, 120 N. Military for an informative forum on the regional master transit plan on Oct. 13.
Voters in the region will be asked in the Nov. 8 general election to approve a 1.2 mill property tax increase to fund the plan.
The millage is a $1.20 property tax for every $1,000 of assessed value of a house. On a home appraised at $200,000 an additional $120 per year will be added from the tax.
The overall plan covering four counties aims to create a true regional transit system in southeast Michigan with reliable service for residents.
Counties involved are Macomb, Oakland Wayne and Washtenaw. The proposed plan is projected to support 67,800 regional jobs, add $6 billion gross regional product and support increase in personal inform of $4.4 billion for all four counties.
Listed challenges that the current transportation system faces include crossing local borders, infrequent and unreliable service, safe and secure transit and lack of modern rapid transit options.
Benefits of the plan include regional fare card, fewer transfers, reduced wait times, coordinated transit services, expanded transportation and transit amenities.
Through the regional plan, transit will be provided to about 946,150 jobs, more than 1.125 million residents, 23 colleges and 310 schools, 22 hospitals, more than 100 grocery stores, 410 parks and 47 libraries.
“The city of Dearborn is very supportive of the regional transit plan,” Dearborn Director of Economic and Community Development Barry Murray said. “This plan is important because it allows the community new residents who want move to the city because their job (has) a reliable transit system.”
Transportation Riders United Executive Director Megan Owens listed gaining new employees, allowing people to get where they need to go and city revival as the three reasons why the transit plan is essential.
“We are lacking compared to not only big cities, but most metropolitan locations,” she said. “Some pockets have solid transit, but there are still major gaps in other areas.”
A para-transit service expansion is planned for seniors and others with disabilities to provide a seamless system.
“Senior citizens deserve their independence,” Owens said. “There will be a seamless connection between suburbs with no waiting at city boundaries to switch systems.
The proposed plan will connect the four counties with bus, rail and streetcar transit. Bus rapid transit service will differ from traditional buses because all doors will open at a stop, riders can purchase tickets beforehand, and there will be on-level boarding, a separate driving lane and single priority.
“This new bus service will compete with the driving time to and from a destination,” Owens said. “The time spent during transportation will be yours to do what you please instead of driving.”
Bus rapid transit connects main corridors, regional rail will link Detroit and Ann Arbor and the new cross-county connectors will reduce transfers between stops.
One of those stops will be Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus where plans for an airport express service are included under the regional master transit proposal.
Along the route from Dearborn to Chicago will be the addition of more daily trains going from the current six to 15 if the plan is approved.
Owens listed positives for those who may not want to use the new regional transit system, but plan to vote for the proposal.
“Gaining new employees and having reliable transportation for them is a huge incentive and will help create a better economy in the area,” she said. “Also, there are almost 150,000 rides daily on public transit in the area so more transportation options means less car congested roads.”
Those in attendance at the forum had concerns that included the cost of the new millage, lack of Downriver services and accountability for money generated from the proposed tax.
Owens said she would relay the feedback and issues presented by residents with the hopes of addressing them in the near future.
More information on the plan is available at rtamichigan.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])