Post-election update: Transit won in Scio Township, with fully 67% of voters in support. In Rochester Hills, pro-transit challenger Yalamanchi fell short with 39% of the vote to incumbent mayor Barnett’s 53%.
2015 is an off year for elections in Michigan, and many of us are looking ahead to November 2016 – not just for the presidential election, but for the anticipated Regional Transit Authority ballot proposal that could give a historic boost to transit in metro Detroit.
Yet a number of communities in the metro area do have local elections a week from today, and some of them could be very consequential for public transit. Here we spotlight two elections, in Scio Township and Rochester Hills, of particular interest to bus riders and our allies.
The only bus-specific ballot in the area will be in Scio Township, just west of Ann Arbor, where voters will decide whether to pay a 0.36-mill property tax to expand AAATA bus service to the township’s growing subdivisions and shopping strips. Partners for Transit and the Scio Township Transit Team are spearheading the “yes” campaign. Bus service would benefit Scio residents – including its mobile home and cohousing communities – as well as workers on its Jackson Road commercial corridor. Let’s hope this brings Washtenaw County another transit win on the heels of last year’s successful ballot measure for bus service expansion.
Forty miles away in Rochester Hills, meanwhile, the election offers a clear choice between pro-transit and anti-transit candidates for mayor. The affluent suburb is now known around the world as the destination of “walking man” James Robinson, a Detroit resident who hiked twenty-one miles to his factory job on a daily basis because Rochester Hills doesn’t participate in the SMART bus system.
Incumbent mayor Bryan Barnett says Robinson “sets a wonderful example” but doesn’t think Rochester Hills residents would support transit, despite the fact that their neighbors in Troy, Auburn Hills and Shelby Township all participate in SMART. Challenger Ravi Yalamanchi, however, has been a vocal advocate for transit. Although transit hasn’t been one of the main issues in the race, Yalamanchi’s election would give the traditionally transit-averse suburbs of northern Oakland County a strong voice for expanding bus service.
Though Barnett is a longtime incumbent, term limits require him to run as a write-in candidate, which could give Yalamanchi an edge. We’ll be watching to see what happens. If you live in a community with an election next Tuesday, make sure to get out and vote!