Almost as soon as the regional transit election results rolled in last year, some people started asking whether it might be time for a south-of-8 Mile transit strategy in metro Detroit.
Both Wayne County and Washtenaw County had racked up majority support for the Regional Transit Authority tax proposal: 53% and 56%, respectively. North of 8 Mile, it was a different story. In Oakland County, a razor-thin majority of 50.1% opposed the transit plan, while in Macomb, where many white suburban voters were pumped up on Trump, the final tally was 60% opposed. (See our full analysis here.)
At first, we were skeptical of a Wayne-Washtenaw proposal. After all, the full RTA proposal clearly could have won with a stronger campaign, one that encompassed grassroots organizing and lawn signs printed more than two weeks before the vote. (When it comes to regional transit, it’s a winner-takes-all vote, so with just 20,000 more “yes” votes around the region, less than 1% of the total, we’d already be rolling towards a regional transit system.)
Trouble is, for us to get a public vote on regional transit, the region’s political leaders have to put it on the ballot. Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel barely let transit onto the ballot last year, and they’ve given no indication that they’ll support putting it on the ballot at the next opportunity: November 2018.
Brooks is retiring at the end of that year, after a storied career fighting desegregation busing, transit, and pretty much anything else that might benefit Detroit – or poor people in Oakland County, for that matter. But Hackel has big political ambitions; he’s mulling a run for Governor of Michigan, on a self-described platform of “fiscal conservatism,” and after last year’s Trump-inflected vote, it’s hard to see how a switch to supporting transit would endear him to his suburban base. Continue reading