Patterson's generous proposal for regional transit

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has placed a regional transit proposal on the table which, if approved by voters, would raise $1.2 billion over 20 years from Oakland County taxpayers. Detroit, Wayne County, and Washtenaw County rejected that proposal.  The County Executive's proposal calls for taxing only the 24 communities that have opted in to the Act 196 taxing authority supporting SMART bus.

Oakland's $1.2 billion offer follows the model used in other regions such as Denver, Portland and Seattle which employ special assessment districts for transit. They vote on the plan only in those areas that will receive services relatively commensurate with their tax payments.

Oakland's offer honors the election results for the regional transit plan rejected by Oakland County voters and voters throughout the rest of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) region in November of 2016. Aprecinct-level map of those voting results tells the complete story. Most of the "yes" votes were concentrated in communities in southeast Oakland County which have opted in to the Oakland County Transportation Authority and that would have received services from the RTA.

Voters in 38 Oakland County Communities that have historically opted-out of the Act 196 taxing authority voted "no." In fact, one Act 196 opt-in community, Troy, Oakland County's largest city, also voted "no."
Oakland County believes by focusing the voting and taxation efforts in those Oakland County communities that have consistently voted to tax themselves to support transit and that actually receive meaningful transit services as a result makes sense. It would make an RTA ballot measure more likely to pass next time around as well. 
It is worth noting that Macomb County stands with us on a reduced taxing footprint.

Regional Transit by the Numbers

​Oakland County Act 196 taxing authority opt-in community voters have paid $352 million to support public transit provided by SMART since the first millage passed 21 years ago. That's $37 million more than Macomb County and $107 million more than Wayne County.  Detroit has paid nothing into SMART yet still receives some services.

Any regional taxing plan that calls for taxing the entire county means Oakland County would foot 40% of the regional transit tab even though under every plan offered so far by the RTA Oakland would receive far less than 40% of the regional transit services. Forty percent is far more than Detroit, Wayne, Washtenaw or Macomb would individually pay.

If the RTA were to implement a regional transit plan that taxes everyone, applying transit consultant HNTB's .96% growth factor, Oakland County taxpayers alone would shell out some $3.332 Billion over 20 years. Under RTA proposals to date, 15% of that - some $500 million - would be spent in Detroit and Wayne County.

Any regional transit plan that taxes everyone also would likely send most of the "leverage money," i.e. tens of millions of dollars in state and federal funds secured as a result of our investment, out of Oakland County.

Patterson's Achievements for Regional Cooperation

Relations between Oakland County and its neighbors to the south are good, despite disagreement over resolving the regional transit issue.  Other regional issues that have been resolved clearly demonstrate the ability of the region to work together:

  • The formation of a regional authority for Cobo
  • The adoption of Oakland taxpayer support for the DIA and the Detroit Zoo
  • And the creation of the Great Lakes Water Authority