December 4, 2016 rss
header twitter link facebook link home link
View Resource Guide and Job Postings

P.D. Lesko

P.D. Lesko

Political Train Wreck

November 2, 2012

Transit gets riders from Point A to Point B with relative speed and ease at a cost that encourages wide participation. Playing politics with transit, however, frequently means getting from Point A to Point B down convoluted paths. In fact, playing politics with transit can be downright dangerous.

Governor Rick Snyder believes that a regional transit authority (RTA) is an important tool in his plan to reinvent Michigan. Mr. Snyder recently sent out an email in which he writes, “…Business owners, community members, and government leaders from both sides of the aisle gathered at the State Capitol with one clear message: It’s time to accelerate Michigan’s reinvention with a regional transit authority (RTA) in southeast Michigan. The RTA would coordinate public transportation across suburban Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw counties, helping to set the groundwork for a system that would help move Michigan’s economy into the future.”

Governor Snyder, who lives in Superior Township, outside of Ann Arbor, is driven back and forth to Lansing daily. Fourteen days after he sent out the message above, the township in which he lives withdrew from Washtenaw County’s regional transit plan. Superior Township wanted nothing to do with a county-wide $500,000,000 tax-funded plan to provide bus service and (perhaps) commuter train service throughout Michigan’s 6th largest county (population 344,791). That Governor Snyder was unable to convince his own Superior Township neighbors to get behind regional transit might have been a minor political embarrassment. However, Superior Township wasn’t the only municipality in Washtenaw County to refuse to get on board.

Between October 2, 2012 and October 23, 2012, virtually every township and municipality in Washtenaw County voted to withdraw their participation in the proposed regional transit plan.

Of the county’s 26 municipalities, to date only three are committed to participating and funding the proposed $500,000,000 plan. In theory this means residents of the three participating Washtenaw County municipalities will be asked to pay over $8,000 per year in new taxes to fund “regional” transit.

The withdrawal of the municipalities has left the proposed transit plan’s financing scheme $33 million dollars short. In reality, regional transit is on life support in Washtenaw County, and politicos are already rushing to distance themselves from the political train wreck.

Governor Snyder’s office did not respond to emails for a comment on the withdrawal of the majority of Washtenaw County municipalities from that county’s regional transit plan. The mayors of Ann Arbor and Saline, similarly, refused to comment. Saline’s mayor, running for the 52nd District seat in the Michigan House, lists her support of regional transit as a reason for voters to support her over the Republican incumbent.

That the majority of Washtenaw county’s municipalities withdrew support could be interpreted as a stunning rebuke of both Governor Snyder’s vision, as well as a rebuke of state, county and local politicos who have pushed, shoved and crammed through resolutions supporting the political fairy tale that southeastern Michigan taxpayers need, want and will pay for a regional transportation system. The Washtenaw County political fiasco is, perhaps, another example of Michigan’s politicians doing what they often do: refusing to listen to their constituents’ concerns. In November 2011, the Huffington Post published a piece about a study that revealed Michigan ranks among the top 10 states in which state and local politicians ignore public opinion.

Washtenaw County was included in Governor Snyder’s RTA for southeastern Michigan because the county is controlled by a small group of Democratic officials who have been hawking regional transit county-wide for the past several years, primarily as a way to fund rail and public-private development projects. The pols, including Representative John D. Dingell, Jr., Ann Arbor’s Democratic State Senator Rebekah Warren, and her husband Conan Smith, a Democratic County Commissioner who heads the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, along with Ann Arbor State Representative Jeff Irwin, have invested significant political capital in county transit. The Democratic mayors of the three municipalities that are signed on to participate have invested political capital – and tax dollars– in a hard sell aimed at Washtenaw county officials and taxpayers.

The regional transit plan backed by Ann Arbor’s mayor John Hieftje has cost Ann Arbor’s taxpayers over $3 million dollars in fees to consultants, advertising, staff time and the investment in never-used equipment for a commuter train project called The WALLY. The WALLY was supposed to run between Howell and Ann Arbor. That project failed when Livingston County officials refused to participate, scared off by sketchy financial planning associated with the project.

The failure of The WALLY was, it turns out, an overture to the latest tragic transit opera starring Washtenaw County Democrats. This time, however, the reversal reaches all the way to the Governor’s mansion, in Superior Township.

In June 2011, Democratic Senator Rebekah Warren announced that she was planning to co-sponsor a three part bill to create a regional transit authority (RTA) in Southeastern Michigan; the RTA is a Snyder initiative. Warren wrote in her press release about the package of bills: “We’re very pleased that the Republican chair of the Transportation Committee is the lead sponsor of one of the bills in the package and a co-sponsor of all the other bills.”

Four months after Senator Warren co-sponsored the RTA legislation, her husband Conan Smith was “appointed to the planning committee for the authority along with the governor, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and other officials from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties,” according to an October 2011 piece posted to

In October 2011, Washtenaw County Commissioner Smith presented the Board of Commissioners with a resolution that declared the “county’s support” of regional transit. The resolution passed unanimously.

Twelve months later, the stunning refusal of the majority of Washtenaw County municipalities (including most all of the municipalities represented by the members of the Washtenaw BOC who voted in favor Smith’s October 2011 resolution) to support regional transit or to tax their constituents hundreds of million of dollars to move “Michigan’s economy into the future,” could have a chilling effect on Governor Snyder’s transit plans for southeastern Michigan. The willingness of taxpayers in neighboring Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to fund any regional transit plan proposed by the Snyder administration and political allies in those counties has suffered what one Washtenaw County politico described as a “crippling political blow.”

It should be noted that county leaders and political officials in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties did not attempt to impose county-wide regional transit prior to Governor Snyder’s efforts to cobble together his RTA. Rather, those officials took a wait-and-see approach –a strategy that will, surely, be interpreted as politically circumspect.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, one of only three communities in Washtenaw County whose elected officials obligated the city to the transit plan in March 2012, recently saw powerful political opponents work to oust Democratic city council members (long-time incumbents) who had been staunch supporters of regional transit. In November, when two newly-elected Ann Arbor City Council members are seated, there are already plans afoot to present a resolution that will require Ann Arbor to withdraw from the county’s regional transit plan, as well. Ann Arbor’s Democratic mayor, John Hieftje, one of the main architects of the failed WALLY commuter train, and the county’s regional transit plan, may well be forced to watch as his own city withdraws from the county-wide regional transit plan he backed over the numerous objections of city residents who, when it comes to transit, have repeatedly urged city officials to Think Local First! and use local millage money for transit to improve bus service city-wide.

P.D. Lesko is founder of and publisher of a national higher education publishing group. She also writes about Detroit for the HuffPost’s Detroit page and has written analysis and commentary for such publications as The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, and Salon.

November 2, 2012 · Filed under Lesko

38 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lou Glorie // Nov 2, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Thanks for untangling this issue Pat. I would just like to clarify something for readers who are unfamiliar with Ann Arbor politics. Opponents of the Washtenaw Transit Authority are not opposed to public transit. Far from it. We oppose the dissolution of our own transit authority and the gifting or the Ann Arbor Transit Authority’s assets to a county authority without compensation. Our local transit has long had huge gaps in service. One could walk or bike much faster to get to some destinations than take the bus, which often involves multiple transfers because the authority has refused to modify its hub system.

    The people of Ann Arbor are being told that our service will improve–even though our transit dollars will be used to send buses to Brighton, Canton, Chelsea. Transit within the city will improve through the agency of the magic transit fairy, I guess.

    For a good run down on this issue, see Vivienne Armentrout’s “Local in Ann Arbor” blog.

  • 2 Bob Cowen // Nov 2, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Regional Transit Authorities have turned out to be bad ideas elsewhere; a better alternative exists. It’s easy to see a disastrous future if you search the Internet for RTA problems: huge cost overruns, long construction delays, broken promises about stops/stations, missed deadlines, service cut-backs of routes & hours, price increases, poor maintenance, overestimated ridership, underestimated operating costs, politicization and cronyism in-spite of the best intentions, due diligence, assurances and oversight. See what happened in Denver, Cleveland, Nashville, Sacramento, St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, Tampa, Portland, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Do your own research! Does anyone in Michigan really believe that a Regional Transit Authority can avoid these types of problems and properly serve the public and the taxpayers?

    Years from now, don’t say that you were not warned or didn’t conduct your own due diligence. It’s your money they’re spending!

    A much better solution is to permit entrepreneurs to offer unrestricted transportation services (shuttle, van, taxi, jitney). Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, introduced a measure (HB 5724) that would prohibit cities from banning the establishment or use of jitneys as a means of public transportation. Social media will very quickly spread the word about who is good and who is not. Low income & seniors can be given vouchers or a BRIDGE type of card. It’s worked elsewhere and well worth a two year test. Put the brakes on a Regional Transit Authority before entwining three or four counties with their layers of politicians into an even bigger SMART type of mess. Unshackle the free market; you’ll be surprised at how quickly two good things happen: much better service for customers and much lower cost for taxpayers! Tell your Lansing Representative to endorse HB 5724.
    Bob Cowen
    Farmington Hills

  • 3 P.D. Lesko // Nov 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    @Bob, in Washtenaw County part of the problem is that the regional transit isn’t about transit, but rather about real estate development. If you are not familiar with the Detroit Region Aerotropolis boondoggle, read up on how “transit” will be used to fuel development in public-private partnerships that will skim money from public schools. It’s truly terrifying.

  • 4 BenC. // Nov 9, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Many times we fail to look into what the future my look like before we act, many studies hold that electronic commuting will drastically reduce the number of workers and students who will need to actually commute, thus reducing the demand for mass transit. Sporting events will continue to draw attendance, yet as the cost for attending a game continues continues to rise the appeal of mass transit to those who can afford this luxury is doubtful to produce a big demand.
    Our private sector is doing a pretty good job of getting people to Detroit airport from cites as far away as Lansing and at very reasonable rates, why not support more of these types pf services rather then bet on a potentially non-effective tax payer subsidize program.

  • 5 St.julian // Nov 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    As usual Lesko draws a conclusion based on a specious argument. Thr AATA authority is separate and apart from Snyders proposal. AATA faked because of their Ann Arbor centric view of the universe. Snyders plan is also likely to fail
    As well once his more or less base determines that it creates a super level of government taking authority away from local jurisdictions

  • 6 Greg Thrasher // Nov 30, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Yawn.. More endless chatter from an inflated expert who has zero street cred or experience outside if her small hamlet if Ann Arbor.

    What a bore this woman is…

  • 7 edmonton search engine optimization // Mar 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    101251 340922Fantastic post, I conceive web site owners ought to larn a great deal from this web site its extremely user friendly . 882269

  • 8 Polaris Parts // Mar 8, 2014 at 7:50 am

    785489 819356There is noticeably a bundle comprehend this. I suppose you made specific nice points in functions also. 205374

  • 9 Dove posso trovare un sito di vendita batterie per moto? // Mar 8, 2014 at 9:51 am

    353406 915664I love this info presented and possesses given me some type of resolve forpersistance to succeed i really enjoy seeing, so sustain the excellent work. 789201

  • 10 prova qui // Mar 8, 2014 at 10:47 am

    114153 215025I feel your suggestion would be valuable for me. I will let you know if its function for me too. Thank you for sharing this beautiful articles. thanks a good deal 781569

  • 11 iphone 5s screen protector // Mar 8, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    630278 397207You created some decent points there. I looked online for that difficulty and located many people goes coupled with with all your site. 236577

  • 12 animal removal nj // Mar 9, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    454580 919265Soon after I initially commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now each time a remark is added I get four emails with exactly the same comment. Is there any method you will be able to take away me from that service? Thanks! 35128

  • 13 top moving companies // Mar 10, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    647983 623144I view something genuinely special in this website . 231390

  • 14 storage in dc area // Mar 10, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    865066 819043Music started playing any time I opened this site, so irritating! 586983

  • 15 playing slot machines // Mar 10, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    921288 395766Hmm is anyone else having difficulties with the images on this weblog loading? I

  • 16 quality service moving // Mar 10, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    261227 250326I like your writing style really loving this web site . 207664

  • 17 Hidemyass Pro // Mar 11, 2014 at 10:24 am

    I’m at Liverpool University buy bimatoprost online Oral Erectile Dysfunction Therapy

  • 18 turbulence training scam // Mar 12, 2014 at 10:26 am

    503905 50127

  • 19 click here // Mar 12, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    The Silver Lotto Process is that it is the #1 lottery calculator upon the market; this fact by yourself gives body weight towards its validity inside that many people are impressed with the procedure and have highly recommended it in direction of others. The beautiful aspect in excess of this lotto system is that if your self will need in the direction of pick successful lottery numbers then this procedure will virtually show you which numbers are the maximum most likely {to|towards|in the direction

  • 20 photographer mesa az // Mar 12, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    593156 639830Hello my family member! I wish to say that this post is remarkable, wonderful written and come with approximately all vital infos. I would like to see extra posts like this . 255365

  • 21 Full Article // Mar 13, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Hey there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing several weeks of hard work due to no data backup. Do you have any methods to prevent hackers?

  • 22 How is a custom light box made // Mar 13, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    40082 845363Hey there. I want to to inquire something

  • 23 Homepage // Mar 14, 2014 at 9:58 am

    Hey! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any recommendations?

  • 24 grand theft auto vice city cheats android // Mar 14, 2014 at 10:36 am

    After study just a few of the weblog posts on your web site now, and I really like your approach of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and might be checking again soon. Pls try my site as well and let me know what you think.

  • 25 click here // Mar 14, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    We notice upon encouraging bloggers and online reviewers. If your self comprise a substance you’d together with in the direction of proportion with our around the globe viewers of reviewers and charity party organizers, please make contact with us pertaining to advertising at “productsforreview .com”. We can showcase your product in the direction of the best audience in the direction of help on your own obtain opinions and publicity online!

  • 26 more infor // Mar 14, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    690076 356977I was just seeking this information for some time. After six hours of continuous Googleing, finally I got it in your website. 309202

  • 27 tips on universal studios packages // Mar 14, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    713050 599715Admiring the time and effort you put into your website and in depth information you offer. It

  • 28 iphone 5 screen protector apple // Mar 15, 2014 at 2:08 am

    653220 484742You should consider starting an email list. It would take your site to its potential. 829163

  • 29 scam busters // Mar 15, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Every day by day e mail of our absolutely free solution examine prospects newsletter goes out around the globe to folks searching for totally free exposure and solution reviews for their items on-line. These include things like product or service promoters, marketers, public kin or exposure gurus, and previously ideally yourself, too!

  • 30 Best Child Custody Attorney in Williamsburg // Mar 15, 2014 at 10:26 am

    258801 644749Once I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now every time a remark is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any means you possibly can remove me from that service? Thanks! 629095

  • 31 Henry Moerke // Mar 15, 2014 at 10:35 am

    I like what you guys are up also. Such smart work and reporting! Keep up the superb works guys I¡¯ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my site 🙂

  • 32 Best Child Custody Attorney in Williamsburg // Mar 15, 2014 at 11:24 am

    302731 934619Keep up the wonderful piece of work, I read few posts on this internet site and I think that your blog is really interesting and holds bands of fantastic information. 257317

  • 33 XZS7sUKylP XZS7sUKylP // Mar 15, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    The Birch of the Shadow

    I feel there may perhaps become a number of duplicates, but an exceedingly useful record! I have tweeted this. Several thanks for sharing!

  • 34 qdFB0RTyZN qdFB0RTyZN // Mar 16, 2014 at 5:10 am

    The Silent Shard

    This will likely almost certainly be quite practical for many of one’s jobs I decide to you should not only with my website but

  • 35 Tomi Justiniano // Mar 16, 2014 at 5:49 am

    Would you be inquisitive about exchanging hyperlinks?

  • 36 Aubrey Houglum // Mar 17, 2014 at 4:37 am

    One other issue is that if you are in a scenario where you do not possess a co-signer then you may actually want to try to exhaust all of your federal funding options. You will discover many grants and other scholarships that will give you money to aid with college expenses. Thanks alot : ) for the post.

  • 37 Altha Harder // Mar 17, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Everyone loves it when people get together and share views.

  • 38 build a website // Mar 17, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    703948 400754Outstanding read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing just a little research on that. And he really bought me lunch as I discovered it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch! 7428





© 2007-2011 All rights reserved. Site design by Kimberly Hopkins, khopdesign, llc.