Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Detroit

End of an Era? Detroit’s Suburban Power Broker Won’t Block Transit Vote

A rendering of what Gratiot Avenue would look like with bus rapid transit. Image: Michigan RTA via Curbed
A rendering of Gratiot Avenue with bus rapid transit. Image: Michigan RTA via Curbed
A rendering of what Gratiot Avenue would look like with bus rapid transit. Image: Michigan RTA via Curbed

There was a time when Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson could appeal to white racial anxiety and do lasting damage to the Detroit region. It almost happened again last week when Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel nearly scuttled a vote on a regional transit tax that would fund a significant expansion bus and rail service.

Over the course of 40 years, 23 attempts to create a unified regional transit system had failed. Why would this time be any different?

Well, it's looking more and more like the politics of the Detroit region have changed. Reversing course, Patterson and Hackel have reportedly reached an agreement to put the transit expansion measure before voters in November.

The details of their deal with other board members of the Detroit Regional Transit Authority haven't been made public. But Patterson told the Detroit Free Press he is satisfied that his base of support in the affluent, sprawling northern Oakland County suburbs won't be "left out."

A lot is riding on this proposal. Detroit's disconnected transit system, with separate suburban and urban networks, combined with the region's notorious job sprawl, effectively puts job opportunities out of reach for many low-income Detroiters, compounding the region's economic problems.

But there appears to be a broad consensus, finally, that the whole metro area will benefit from a stronger transit system. Patterson and Hackel's reversal may be a sign that the suburban separatist tendencies that dominated local politics for so long have finally diminished.

Joel Batterman of the transit advocacy group Motor City Freedom Riders says he's not sure the details of what Patterson and Hackel negotiated. But the important thing is the proposal can move forward.

"Anything that allows us to vote on a regional transit plan this November is a good thing," he said. "The people of the region want regional transit."

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Tuesday’s Headlines Are Running Hard

More political news: Today's top stories delve into Kamala Harris' record on climate change and Republicans' plans for the Trump administration if he returns to power.

July 23, 2024

Disabled NYer’s are Victims of Gov. Hochul’s Congestion Pricing Pause

So many New Yorkers can’t use the closest subway station to their homes because they don't have an elevator. And Gov. Hochul just halted funding for 23 new lifts.

July 23, 2024

State DOTs Could Fuel a Resurgence in Intercity Bus Travel

Private equity firms are killing off intercity bus companies. Will public agencies fill in the gaps?

July 23, 2024

GOP’s ‘Project 2025’ is ‘Based on a Lot of Ignorance’

What does Transportation for America's Beth Osborne think of the transportation portion of the Heritage Foundation's playbook for a Trump presidency?

July 23, 2024

What a Surprise! Hochul’s Congestion Pricing Pause Helps Rich Suburban Drivers

Gov. Hochul's "little guys" certainly have big wallets. Meanwhile, the rest of us suffer with declining subway service and buses that are slower than walking. Thanks, Kathy.

July 22, 2024
See all posts