- In a joint letter to the Detroit Free Press, 23 CEOs from the Detroit metropolitan area urged the region’s political leaders to move quickly on a transit plan for the region, and said it must come up for a vote this November.
- While the group did not specifically endorse the recently-proposed $5.4 billion, 20-year transit plan, they called for immediate action after Amazon passed on Detroit for its second headquarters, known as HQ2.
- "The poor quality of our public transit is not lost on potential investors in our region," the business leaders wrote. "When Amazon passed on naming Detroit as a finalist for its second headquarters site, the lack of a workable regional transit system was one of a few key factors cited."
When Amazon left Detroit off its short list of contenders for HQ2, the lack of transit was cited as a reason and prompted a great deal of soul-searching among local elected officials and business leaders. It appeared to expose some fault lines in Detroit and the surrounding area on the region’s transportation options, something local businessman Dan Gilbert said must be addressed "once and for all."
But there still appears to be a lack of consensus on what should be done, only that something must be done, and soon. In an interview with Crain’s Detroit, DTE Energy chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson, a signee, said the letter is "not intended to endorse a specific plan," but is instead to highlight metro Detroit’s near-bottom ranking among the country’s top metropolitan areas for its public transportation options.
However, that lack of consensus is still apparent, especially on Wayne County Executive Warren Evans’ plan, the only one so far to be released. Evans’ plan would invest in new bus routes, express bus routes, bus stations and a new commuter rail service between Detroit and Ann Arbor, among other items. But Crain’s notes the proposal has come under fire from nearby Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, with the former bemoaning the increased tax burden and the latter wanting roads to be fixed before buses are added.
This letter is timely, as the area’s Regional Transit Authority board is set to meet on Thursday, April 19 and have representatives from Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties debate allowing a public comment period on Evans’ plan over the next month. It is up to the RTA board to put a vote on the ballot for November, but it is imperative for area residents to have something to vote on. At least everyone seems to recognize the problem, and that in the lack of public transportation options the letter notes, "there is an important piece missing."