Happy Birthday RTA! :: Trans4M Celebrates Birth of Regional Transit Authority at First Meeting
“We have waited many decades, and we cannot wait no more. Transportation is a common need, for outskirts and for core!”
Sung to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, those words filled the lobby in a downtown Detroit skyscraper on Wednesday as people from across the four counties in the new Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority celebrated its first official meeting with a march and “birthday party.” The party culminated with a presentation of the cake and a card to the RTA’s incoming board members.
A host of Transportation for Michigan (Trans4M) partners, who led advocacy for the RTA’s creation last year, urged the authority to take quick action for improved transit. Partners urged the authority to undertake a nationwide search to land a CEO capable of navigating the challenges of funding and infrastructure that the RTA will face.
“There’s got to be some benefit from being the last place in the country to do this,” said Transportation Riders United Director Megan Owens.
“When we didn’t have an RTA, we felt like we didn’t have hope,” said Cindy Reese of Detroit, who has advocated for regional transit with MOSES (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength) for a quarter-century. “Now, all we have to do is get behind our new authority, and show them how we support them.”
“Transit is a justice issue, an economic issue, a development issue for our members and our community,” Reverend Louise Ott, of the Congregational Church of Birmingham and the Metro Coalition of Congregations, told the incoming members of the RTA board.
Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh and Macomb County Commission Chair Dave Flynn hailed the new authority. Both are members of R-PATH (Regional Partners Advocating Transit Here), a group of local and county officials from all four counties and the City of Detroit that pressed for the RTA’s creation.
The regional transit authority board’s first tasks include hiring an executive director and developing a regional transit plan. Advocates are pressing for a four-county public vote on funding the new authority by the end of 2014.
“Fifty years ago this month, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that ‘we are all tied in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,‘” said Joel Batterman of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, who coordinates the Trans4M regional transit campaign. “Now is the time for our region to come together…rebuild our transit system, and set a new precedent for regional cooperation for the common good.”
To view more photos from the event, visit the Trans4M Facebook page.