Transit advocates in southeast Michigan heralded the start of a “new era in public transportation," as a Regional Transit Authority’s board met for the first time Wednesday.
The RTA board consists of representatives from Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties, and the city of Detroit.
Its mission is to coordinate the region’s historically fragmented transit agencies--and pave the way for truly regional rapid transit.
The board did relatively little at its good-natured first meeting. Members retained legal counsel, discussed how to manage its initial $250,000 state appropriation, and took public comment.
Macomb County Commissioner David Flynn said the event is worth celebrating.
But, Flynn cautions, “It’s the beginning of a long, strategic plan of how we get rolling rapid transit…and how we finally connect the economic and the social fabric of southeast Michigan together.”
It was an emotional day for some, like Cindy Reese, who got involved in the fight for better transit after her grandson expressed frustration that he couldn’t get to school.
“When we didn’t have an RTA, we kind of felt like we didn’t have hope,” Reese said tearfully. “Now, we have hope.”
Advocates want the board to develop a master transit plan, put a transit funding mechanism up for a region-wide vote, and conduct a national search for its CEO. A Citizens Advisory Committee will also have input, but hasn't been formed yet.
This story originally appeared on Michigan Radio on April 10, 2013 and is available here: http://www.michiganradio.org/post/southeast-michigans-regional-transit-authority-holds-first-meeting