The legislature made progress this week toward increasing funding for Michigan’s comprehensive transportation system. Trans4Mers from across the state traveled to Lansing on Tuesday, May 20 to testify at the Senate Infrastructure Modernization committee meeting about the importance of increasing funding for Michigan’s complete transportation system.
On the agenda for the meeting were several bills to increase transportation funding. As passed by the House last week, increased funding from the proposed changes would largely bypass the traditional, full Act 51 formula; namely, the portions of the funding formula that support public transit, rail, intercity bus service, non-motorized trails and waterways, among other vital aspects of our complete transportation system. Chris Kolb of the Michigan Environmental Council explained during his testimony, “The function of the Act 51 formula is to distribute state transportation revenues through the state’s full transportation system, not just one leg of it.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, committee members introduced bill substitutes that proposed increasing overall transportation funding and putting more of it through the traditional, full Public Act 51 formula. The committee met again on Wednesday and reported out the modified versions of House Bills 4630, 5477, 5493, and Senate Bills 6 and 149
Trans4M members generally brought a similar sentiment to their testimony during Tuesday’s committee meeting, although everyone brought a unique perspective to the conversation.
Richard Studley of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce highlighted the importance of public transit for millennials, the elderly, and Michigan’s economy. He encouraged committee members to “be bold” with the funding package, noting that Michigan’s three major industries—manufacturing, agriculture and tourism—rely heavily on transportation. John LaMacchia of the Michigan Municipal League said that public transit is “critical for business attraction and economic development.”
Joan Gebhardt of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) shared a personal story about how her two children have left Michigan to find jobs. Her son, who lives in Southern California, bikes to work every day and takes public transit when it rains. Gebhardt also highlighted the importance of transit and non-motorized transportation for seniors in Michigan. “Twenty four percent of residents in Southeast Michigan will be over the age of 65 by 2040,” she said. “We need to have an all-encompassing bill that serves these citizens.” Candace Cooper, who is affiliated with Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), explained that unreliable transit has limited her access to certain jobs as she can only work within walking distance of her home in the case that the bus is late or does show up.
Representatives from People to Educate All Cyclists (PEAC) explained the importance of public transit for people with disabilities. “A road without buses leaves people with disabilities stranded,” said Laura Padalino, director of PEAC’s Active Transportation Initiative. James Kleimola, a student of the PEAC program, said cerebral palsy prevents him from getting a driver’s license and asked the committee to “please support buses so I can be independent.”
Testimony from Trans4M members and other advocates undoubtedly played, and will continue to play, an important role in shaping the outcome of the proposed transportation funding package. While the bill package seems to be moving toward a more complete and comprehensive funding solution, there is still much work to be done. Stay tuned to our blog and social media for updates on these bills and useful graphics that highlight the importance of a complete transportation system in Michigan.