Many stories in our groundbreaking blog series have focused on projects that are helping bring Michigan’s transportation system into the 21st century. Strong community support is important to move these projects forward. Community support can come in many different forms. But when a project or service expansion requires an increase in public funding, community support must often include voter-approved taxes.
While tax increases are often unpopular, Michigan residents have proven they are willing to ante up for strong and cost-effective public transportation improvements. This year, communities across the state showed support for public transit by approving ballot measures to increase local funding. Here is a snapshot of public transit ballot measures that were successful over the past year:
- Residents in the Grand Rapids suburb of Walker kept The Rapid bus service rolling in their community with 73% of voters supporting it.
- In Kalamazoo, a two-thirds majority renewed the city’s transit millage, despite erroneous ballot language describing it as a new tax;
- Spring Lake saw 72% favoring, continued Harbor Transit service for the Grand Haven suburb;
- In Eaton County saw its transit millage renewal passed with 60% in favor;
- Ogemaw County, home of West Branch, with 52% in favor; and finally
- Muskegon 53% of voters approved a new transit millage. Unfortunately, because a necessary amendment to the City Charter failed, that millage can’t take effect.
Voter support for public transit, especially in rural and suburban communities, represents a shift in culture – away from solely car oriented systems – toward a more modern, sustainable and comprehensive transportation network. This cultural shift is necessary to make real changes at the state and local level and give Michigan the competitive edge it needs to attract residents and quality businesses. The display of public support sends a message to community leaders and state lawmakers that transit should be a top priority and is necessary to make cities healthy and vibrant places where people want to live.
Many other communities will likely follow the trend to improve – or at least maintain – public transit, and ballot initiatives will be key. Be on the lookout for public transit ballot proposals in the following communities, or those served by the following transit agencies, as their current millage periods are expiring in the next year:
- Alpena Dial-A-Ride
- Cadillac / Wexford
- Genesee County
- Isabella County Transportation
- Manistee County Transportation
- Marquette County Transit
- Niles Dial-A-Ride
- Ogemaw County Public Transit
- Ostego County Public Transit
- Roscommon County
- St. Joseph County Transportation Authority
- Shiawassee Area Transportation Authority (SATA)
- SMART Bus System
- Van Buren Public Transit
Be sure to follow our blog and social media pages for updates and news about upcoming ballot measures.