May 15, 2024 - News

Wayne County executive eyes regional transit ballot question

Illustration of a bus with both thumbs up and thumbs down in the destination ticker.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Wayne County's top executive wants voters to decide whether to create a countywide public transit system.

Why it matters: Leaders in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties all say they want more transit options to better connect the region to retain and attract new residents.

What they're saying: "What I would like to do is have a countywide ballot proposal to see whether or not we as a county want to support SMART," Wayne County executive Warren Evans said at a Detroit Regional Chamber event in Lathrup Village last week, the Detroit News reports.

Reality check: The county commission would need to introduce such an initiative, but there are less than six months until the November elections. And getting a ballot initiative approved could be a tough sell in western Wayne County communities, 17 of which have opted out of SMART to prevent tax hikes as part of millages over the years.

  • Detroit also opted out in favor of the DDOT bus system.

State of play: Evans suggested at the event that a proposal could do what Oakland County voters approved in 2022, eliminating the "opt-out" choice for municipalities.

  • Educating voters on the benefits of transit is the way to get them on board, Katie Lauderbaugh, a spokesperson for SMART, tells Axios.
  • "SMART brought 29,000 people to the [NFL] Draft — transit has no boundaries. We want to be able to live, work and play throughout southeast Michigan," Lauderbaugh says.

The big picture: Evans' comments come as momentum is building in favor of improving the region's transit system.

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