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Transportation proposal a step forward on road funding, but detour bypasses public transit

Train in Grand Rapids, Mich.

There’s not much left to say about the sorry state of Michigan’s roads.

Oakland County alone has 660 miles in need of resurfacing. Tire insurance sales are through the roof. And then there was that picture of a pothole-repair truck swallowed by an epic pothole.

We all agree: Enough talk – let’s fix our roads.

A proposal from House Speaker Jase Bolger aims to do just that. Unfortunately, it aims to do only that.

As our Transportation for Michigan (Trans4M) allies point out in a new blog post, Bolger’s plan would raise an estimated $450 million in 2015 to fix roads. That’s less than half of what’s needed, but it’s a first step.

The problem is that the plan skirts a significant portion of the usual formula for allocating transportation funding as outlined in a law called Act 51. That means all of the money would go to roads. Public transportation would get nothing.

Here’s a breakdown from Trans4M of how Bolger’s proposal would shortchange public transit by sidestepping the top half of the Act 51 formula:

Transportation funding formulaAct 51’s intent is to distribute funding throughout our full transportation system. In bypassing half of the formula, Bolger’s proposal props up one leg of that system while ignoring the important role public transit plays in attracting talent and promoting equitable economic development.

Evidence continues to pile up that young professionals increasingly value public transit and are less interested in owning a car. In Michigan last year there were more than 95 million local trips taken on public transportation. And transit investments pay off. In Cleveland, the avenue that serves as a Bus Rapid Transit corridor has since 2008 seen $5.8 billion in economic development.

Bolger’s proposal repeats a serious mistake made in 1997, when a transportation funding overhaul generated $307.6 million and spent it all on roads. As a result, Michigan’s public transit system has since missed out on $259 million.

It’s a mistake Michigan can’t afford to make again.

Please ask your legislators to amend Speaker Bolger’s funding package to go through the full Act 51 formula.

And if you’re on Twitter, you can also voice your support for public transit funding with #TransitMatters.


Photo courtesy amtrak_russ via Flickr

One Comment
  1. Jeff Hayner #

    This is about fixing the roads, not supporting and subsidizing public transit, for whatever merits it may or may not have. The buses use the roads, too. Repairing the roads benefits all users of those roads, including pubkic transportation. Why should road repair money be skimmed off for non-road repair uses?

    Public transit is already heavily subsidized, can we please just fix the roads?

    May 23, 2014

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