Metro Detroit public transit advocates are embroiled in a battle for improved bus service this year as the city and suburban bus systems slog through budget cuts, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The transit supporters are standing behind a proposal by Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to create a regional network of rapid-transit buses (BRT) along major routes, connecting downtown Detroit to key suburbs, Metro Airport and Ann Arbor.
The Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), a faith-based community group that has been active in regional transit issues, and other supporters said at a news conference last Thursday that they will press state lawmakers to get behind the plan for bus rapid transit, which Snyder and Bing proposed after pulling support for a $550-million light-rail line on Woodward from downtown to 8 Mile Road.
Snyder and transit supporters say that, for about the cost of the rail line, metro Detroit could build a wider BRT system and have buses that operate in their own lanes on 110 miles of major roadway, as a first step toward changing how the region operates and pays for public transportation.
Both the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) have reduced bus routes and frequency in recent months. DDOT was forced to after Detroit moved to cut its annual $54-million transit subsidy. SMART has been dealing with a 12% drop in property tax revenue, which resulted in a $5-million hit to SMART's budget.
Snyder wants lawmakers to allow residents of metro Detroit to vote on a regional vehicle registration fee increase to pay for the BRT system. This is just one bill in a package introduced in the Legislature that would set up a regional transit authority for metro Detroit and increase spending on road repairs.
This is in addition to the statewide proposed registration fee increase to support roads.