Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In

Business Community Beats Back Anti-Transit Politics in Suburban Detroit

1:34 PM EST on January 18, 2012

Last month it looked like Southeast Michigan would be the site of yet another embarrassing transit failure, after City Council of Detroit suburb Troy voted to reject $8.5 million in federal funds for a transit center, citing Tea Party talking points.

Troy City Council members representing the Tea Party sought to return $8.5 million in federal funds for this transit center out of concerns about the federal deficit last month. Image: ##

But this near-disaster now has a happy ending thanks to a smart compromise and admirable leadership by the local business community. Troy's City Council last night voted 4-3 to continue the project, in reduced, $6.2-million form.

Credit is due to Troy's Chamber of Commerce, a strong, consistent supporter of the project, which helped negotiate the compromise to draw down costs by about $2 million while maintaining the station's status as a "gateway" center. The chamber even went so far as to assume operating costs for the center, which will serve an Amtrak line, the suburban bus system, taxis, and will even include bike infrastructure.

Michele Hodges, president of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, said, political considerations aside, the transit center was important to her members. Businesses in Troy, one of metro Detroit's most important job centers, believe the project will help retain young professionals, improve employee mobility, create jobs and attract investment. Chamber businesses, Hodges added, view the transit line, which is undergoing improvements to shorten trips to Chicago, as the transportation corridor of the future -- this century's Interstate-75, she said.

"We’re not looking at this through a political lens," said Hodges. "Really change the dialogue to one of productive problem solving."

When the transit center funding was struck down in a 4-3 vote last month, the chamber was immediately critical. But it didn't let a "no" vote, which was thought to be the final word on the project, end its campaign.

The Chamber worked with the city to help negotiate costs savings for the center, reducing the building's overall footprint, landscaping and other items. Furthermore, the organization agreed to assume responsibility for the $30,000 in annual operating costs the transit center is expected to require. (They have a range of ideas about how that money could be raised.) Those assurances were enough to convince City Councilmember Wade Fleming to reverse his earlier "no" vote last night, giving the project a 4-3 edge.

"It's a good compromise. For now, Troy has to compete," said Hodges. "To stifle that, would be irresponsible."

Let's hope the Detroit region's push for a unified urban-suburban transit system will benefit from the same rational thinking.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

NYC Debuts Public E-Bike Charging for Delivery Workers

Finally, they’re taking charge! The city’s first public e-bike charging station opened in Cooper Square on Thursday — the start of an overdue six-month pilot that is part of a “Charge Safe Ride Safe Action Plan” for delivery workers that Mayor Adams announced last year.

March 1, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Have Questions

What's an optimal rebate to get people to buy e-bikes without wasting money on those who were going to buy one anyway?

March 1, 2024

To Recruit Transit Workers, More Than Just Higher Pay Is Needed

Labor shortages continue threatening public transit systems, and a new report adds another layer to the conversation.

February 29, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: Streets for Skateboards

Aaron Breetwor on skateboards for transportation and designing streets for safer skateboarding.

February 29, 2024

Agencies Need to Use Federal Funding to Buy Land for Transit Oriented Development

Transit agencies do not prioritize transit-adjacent housing development often because they lack funding to acquire land.

February 29, 2024
See all posts