“Massive Transit Tax” Would Cost Average Metro Detroit Homeowner Three Coneys Per Month

Bus rapid transit on Michigan Avenue (left) and one of Lafayette’s finest (right).

How much would it cost? That’s one of the most common questions about the regional transit proposal on tomorrow’s ballot.

The folks opposing the regional transit plan for metro Detroit call it a “massive transit tax” – as you might infer from the name of their website, NoMassiveTransitTax.org. (The group apparently consists of a few deep-pocketed donors and former Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet, who headed the 2006 initiative to repeal affirmative action in Michigan.)

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that we have a different perspective.

The 1.2-mill property tax would cost the owner of a $200,000 home $120 per year, or $10/month. The average home in metro Detroit is worth less than $200,000, though, so the average homeowner would pay about $95 per year, or less than $8 per month. (In the city of Detroit, of course, the average home is worth rather less than the regional average, meaning most Detroiters would pay an even smaller amount.)

Today, as the vote approaches, we decided to do our own investigating. We stopped by the hallowed corner of Michigan and Lafayette to calculate how much the transit proposal would cost in terms of one of the Detroit region’s most-purchased consumer goods.

At Lafayette Coney Island, a single coney (pictured above) costs $2.60, including tax. American Coney Island next door is more upscale, with coneys at $2.65.

In any case, in coney terms, regional transit would cost the average homeowner a grand total of 3 coneys per month, give or take a couple pieces of raw onion.

Is that a reasonable price to pay for a regional transit system in metro Detroit, including dramatically expanded SMART and DDOT service, regional rapid transit on major corridors, commuter rail, express bus service around the region, and enhanced dial-a-ride services for seniors and people with disabilities?

It was Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who famously described taxes as “the price we pay for civilization.” Judge for yourself – but we’re inclined to say that joining the rest of the civilized world for the cost of three coneys each month is not too bad a deal.

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