Michigan Voters Boost Transit at Ballot Box

Walker's John Alkema can rest easy now that Walker residents have voted overwhemingly to stay in The Rapid system. Photo: Friends of Transit.

Walker resident and bus rider John Alkema. Friends of Transit

This Tuesday, a half-dozen Michigan communities got the chance to vote on public transit measures last night. Their response? Overwhelming support, which ought to send a strong message to the Legislature and decision-makers across the state.

The most-watched vote was in the Grand Rapids suburb of Walker, where a group claiming to represent Walker “taxpayers” argued the city should quit The Rapid, the regional bus system. Instead, 73% of Walker’s voters stood with Friends of Transit and said they wanted to keep their buses rolling. That’s great news for transit in Michigan, and more importantly, for Walker residents who depend on transit to get around. “If I were unable to access public transit, my life would literally stop,” said Walker citizen Tom Gilson.

Other Michigan communities with transit on the ballot included:

  • Kalamazoo, where a two-thirds majority approved renewal of the city’s transit millage, despite erroneous ballot language describing it as a new tax;
  • Spring Lake, with 72% favoring continued Harbor Transit service for the Grand Haven suburb;
  • Eaton County, where the ETRAN millage renewal passed with 60% in favor;
  • Ogemaw County, home of West Branch, with 52% in favor; and finally
  • Muskegon, where 53% of voters approved a new transit millage. Unfortunately, because a necessary amendment to the City Charter failed, that millage can’t actually take effect.

Another transit-linked race was in Troy, where voters recalled Mayor Janice Daniels for reasons that included her opposition to a new transit center in the Oakland County community.

This is the latest in a string of sweeps for transit millages across the state over the past several years. Michigan voters have spoken: the state that put the world on wheels is willing to pay for better public transportation. Now we need Lansing to listen, and make transit a priority from the top.

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