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Regional Transit Authority Tax Proposal Narrowly Defeated In Metro Detroit

DETROIT (WWJ) - There's still one precinct to be counted in Detroit, but the Regional Transit Authority's tax proposal appears to have been defeated.

The proposal was rejected by about 70,000 votes in Macomb County and by about 1,000 votes in Oakland County. Both Washtenaw and Wayne counties supported the proposal, but not enough to pass it. According to reports, the proposal was about 18,000 votes short of passing.

To pass, the proposal needed overall support across the four counties, but not the majority vote of each county. One spokesperson for the group says the vote was "super close" but there was a significant Trump effect that impacted the results.

Sandy Baruah, Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO, which supported the proposal, thinks voters made the wrong choice.

"To say we're disappointed is an understatement," Baruah said in a statement. "However, we respect the will of the voters and will continue to seek solutions to connect our region and provide mobility to those without access to personal vehicles."

Leon Drolet, chair of the Michigan's taxpayers alliance, which opposed the RTA, was happy to hear of the proposal's defeat.

"It guarantees us very little in regards to actual increase in services," Drolet said live on WWJ Newsradio Wednesday morning. "It's going to close lanes on main roads to cars, making bus only lanes, that's going to actually make it more difficult for commuters. And number two, it's going to anchor us to a mass transit of the past -- the giant bus is not the future of transit. This proposal cements us to a 1980s style bus system for decades to come at an extremely large cost."

Most everyone agrees metro Detroit's mass transit is a mess, plagued by slow speeds, gaps in service, and inefficient routes, but they have never before agreed on a solution or even on whether a solution was necessary.

That's why the Regional Transit Authority vote was so important.

It's a multifaceted regional plan encompassing Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties that includes:

  • Regional Rail: rail lines intended to connect riders to and from work.
  • Bus Rapid Transit: buses operating in key regional areas, meant to move along at a speedy clip through signal priority, limited stops and bus-only lanes.
  • Commuter Express: weekday rush-hour buses that go directly to and from employment centers.
  • Cross-County Connectors: "regional bus services which will allow people to easily travel through the region."
  • Airport Express: buses traveling directly to and from Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus.
  • Streetcar: a modern, hybrid-electrified rail service connecting downtown Detroit with its Midtown and New Center areas.

The plan stalled briefly this summer when Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel refused to support it over worries their communities paid too much and got too little in return. Eventually, it was tweaked enough to earn their backing.

Property taxpayers in the four counties would pay $1.20 per every $1,000 of taxable value for 20 years beginning in 2016 and ending in 2035. That means if your home's taxable value is $100,000, you'll pay $120 extra a year in property taxes.

The plan would raise an estimated $3 billion. Another $1.7 billion would come from federal and state matching funds.

The RTA proposal was backed by most ranking metro area officials and media leaders, including, which said: "Everyone in metro Detroit will live in a stronger, more economically viable community if we fund a rational public transit system."

Stay with WWJ Newsradio 950 and for the latest. 

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