RTA rep gives presentation about proposed millage to Berkley council

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published September 26, 2016

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BERKLEY — The Regional Transit Authority has been making the rounds around the local counties to spread information about the upcoming vote in November on its public transit millage.

Recently, RTA Planning and Financial Analysis Manager Ben Stupka came before the Berkley City Council at its Sept. 19 meeting to present to the council and residents information about the RTA’s master plan.

The master plan looks to create a large regional public transportation network throughout Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Washtenaw counties. It would be rolled out over the next 20 years, with the aim to have the majority of the system implemented in the first five years.

Voters in the four counties will decide Nov. 8 if they agree to a property tax levy of 1.2 mills to fund the project.

Stupka said the RTA doesn’t just want to say, “Spend more and that’s great.”

“That’s not the answer, but there are some issues I want people to think about when we’re talking about this,” he said.

“We know about 92 percent of the region cannot get to work in under an hour on (public) transit. We know that services across the Eight Mile border only operate about six hours per day. They don’t operate on the weekends. So right now, they service the RefleX service (a limited-stop service on Woodward Avenue). It’s the first time that you can take a bus at noon in the middle of the day from the city of Berkley to downtown Detroit or vice versa.”

Stupka also said the RTA’s travel patterns show that 67 percent of people who live in Detroit work outside of the city, and 72 percent who work in Detroit live outside of it.

“We travel regionally. About 60 percent of our trips, commute trips, just throughout the entire region, not just Detroit and back but Macomb to Oakland, Washtenaw to western Wayne, there are people traveling regionally, and our system is just not set up for that,” he said. “Our providers provide good local service, but they’re just not set up to do regional service.”

The presentation included mention of the bus rapid transit line, described as a “light rail on wheels” in which buses would operate in dedicated lanes, and a regional rail project that would connect downtown Detroit to downtown Ann Arbor.

After the presentation, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Baker asked Stupka if he could talk more about an increase in property values that could happen with the new transit system, and what it would cost an average homeowner annually.

“For the average annual payment piece, the easiest way to break it down is if you had a house that has an assessed value of $200,000, taxable value of $100,000, it would be $120 a year,” Stupka said.

“There’s viable evidence that, in every place with a bus rapid transit project that has happened, property values have increased and the economic development around those areas have increased,” Stupka said.

City Manager Matthew Baumgarten said there is a lot of potential to improve Woodward Avenue with the master plan and sees the proposed uninterrupted express routes along 12 Mile Road as beneficial for the city. Ultimately, he said, it’s up to the residents of Berkley and the surrounding counties to decide whether they want the millage.

“It would definitely be something that would be beneficial for our business community,” he said. “There’s some reason to be excited there.”
“All in all, it’s up to the people of the region to decide. I’m appreciative (the RTA) brought the presentation to Berkley so that our residents can hear it firsthand,” Baumgarten said.

Baumgarten said the master plan is something that a lot of people in the region have sought for a long time, and he thinks if people can move around the region more without such a dependence on the automobile, it might help the city along 12 Mile, along Woodward, along Greenfield and along Coolidge.

“It could bring new labor force, new dollars into our downtown area or any one of our business areas,” he said.

To view a video of the meeting, see the online version of this article at www.candgnews.com.

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