Southeast Michigan Ballot Proposal: Tax for Regional Public Transit

OUTCOME: This ballot proposal FAILED. (Though 56% of Washtenaw County voters approved this proposal, it didn't secure a majority of votes throughout the 4-county region.)  Check the Washtenaw County elections site for more results.

In addition to city and county ballot proposals, Ann Arbor voters will also weigh in on a tax placed on the ballot by the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) of Southeast Michigan.

Below you’ll find information about the RTA's tax proposal. For a list of all ballot proposals in communities throughout Washtenaw County, check out the county elections websiteIf you need to see a SAMPLE BALLOTclick here.


Regional Public Transit Tax

The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan – known as the RTA – was created by the state legislature in late 2012 to coordinate regional public transportation initiatives. It covers the four-county area of Washtenaw, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland as well as the city of Detroit.

In early August, the RTA board – after compromise with leaders of Macomb and Oakland counties – agreed to put a 20-year, 1.2-mill property tax on the Nov. 8 ballot. It’s expected to raise about $4.6 billion over that period to fund bus rapid transit, a rail line between Ann Arbor and Detroit, an airport shuttle service, a regional fare card system and other services. (Click here to see the RTA’s master plan.)

How much will a 1.2-mill tax cost you? That depends on the value of your property. If you own a home with a market value of $200,000 and a taxable value of $100,000, you'd pay $120 annually. (Check out our Voter Vocabulary glossary for a more detailed explanation of how to calculate a millage.)

The RTA is led by Michael Ford, who previously served as CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. Washtenaw County representatives on the RTA board are Alma Wheeler Smith, a former state legislator (and mother of former Washtenaw County Commissioner Conan Smith); and Liz Gerber, a University of Michigan professor of public policy.

A group opposing the tax – No Massive Transit Tax – has formed, with former Republican state legislator Leon Drolet serving as treasurer. Supporting the tax is Citizens for Connecting Our Communities, led by the Lansing PR firm Truscott Rossman LLC. The Ann Arbor city council, Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board, Ypsilanti District Library board and Washtenaw County board of commissioners have approved resolutions supporting the RTA proposal. A similar resolution of support was tabled by the Ann Arbor District Library board at their October meeting.

Here's exactly what you'll see on the ballot:

A Proposal Authorizing the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) to Levy an Assessment

The proposal would authorize the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) to levy within Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties a property tax assessment:

  • at a rate of 1.2 mills ($1.20 per $1,000 of taxable value);
  • for 20 years beginning in 2016 and ending in 2035;
  • that may not be increased, renewed, or used for other purposes without direct voter approval; and
  • to be used upon the affirmative vote of an RTA board member from each RTA member jurisdiction for the purpose of construction and operation of a public transportation system connecting Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties, including rapid transit bus routes across county lines, specialized service for senior citizens and people with disabilities, commuter rail, airport express service, and other public transportation purposes permitted by law, consistent with RTA bylaws and subject to the limitations of the Regional Transit Authority Act.

If this new additional assessment is approved and levied, revenue will be disbursed to the RTA. It is estimated that $160,907,285 will be collected in the first year.

Should this assessment be approved?


In the News: Regional Transit Tax

Ballot measure would boost public transit, but cost tax dollars and traffic lanesMLive, Nov. 6, 2016

Major RTA transit millage on the Nov. 8 ballotFox2 Detroit News, Oct. 27, 2016

Local state representative rolls out RTA opt-out language  – C&G Newspapers, Oct. 26, 2016

Metro Detroit Transit Tax Assumes Funding From State and Feds That May Never ComeMichigan Capitol Confidential, Oct. 26, 2016

Southeast Michigan Ballot Issues: The Regional Transit Authority Millage RequestCitizens Research Council of Michigan, October 2016

New report analyzes transit millage proposalMichigan Radio, Oct. 25, 2016

Southeast Michigan’s Transit Future Will be Decided at PollsWDET, Oct. 25, 2016

Transit Millage: 'Moving the Region Forward' vs. 'Adding to the Tax Burden' – Deadline Detroit, Oct. 24, 2016

Bus-dependent seniors on board with Metro transit taxDetroit News, Oct. 24, 2016

What you need to know about the RTA millageDetroit Free Press, Oct. 23, 2016

Southeast Michigan residents: here's what to know about your transportation ballot proposalMichigan Radio, Oct. 22, 2016

Area hospitals support RTA proposal – Hometown Life, Oct. 21, 2016

Milliken throws support behind regional transitDetroit Free Press, Oct. 18, 2016

Results of transit millage not worth the tax hikeDetroit Free Press, Oct. 15, 2016

Anti-transit millage group citing Oakland County reportDetroit Free Press, Oct. 13, 2016

Editorial: Vote yes on transit taxDetroit News, Oct. 10, 2016

Quality health care riding on November's regional transit voteCrain's Detroit Business, Oct. 9, 2016

Opinion: Vote yes on RTA proposalCrain's Detroit Business, Oct. 9, 2016

DDA says regional transit would help support new jobs in downtown Ann ArborMLive, Oct. 5, 2016

Regional transit plan vote may impact 'U' Detroit Connector bus servicesMichigan Daily, Oct. 5, 2016

Effort to defeat regional mass transit tax launched, seeks to raise $600,000Crain's Detroit Business, Oct. 3, 2016

Transit plan opposition says tax increase too muchOakland Press, Oct. 3, 2016

Kevin Sweitzer: Vote Yes on the RTA PlanMichigan Daily, Sept. 29, 2016

Ypsilanti crowd enthusiastic about proposed regional transit servicesMLive, Sept. 29, 2016

Regional Transit Authority CEO: new system will provide comprehensive service to four countiesMacomb Daily, Sept. 29, 2016

Survey shows more support for RTA vote with educationDetroit Free Press, Sept. 28, 2016

A2Y Chamber endorses regional transit proposalMLive, Sept. 28, 2016

Public transit backer says RTA plan doesn’t go far enoughMichigan Radio, Sept. 26, 2016

Without an RTA tax, who pays for M-1 Rail?Crain's Detroit Business, Sept. 25, 2016

Majority of Ann Arbor council members back regional transit tax proposalMLive, Sept. 16, 2016

RTA vote yes effort kicks off ThursdayCrain's Detroit Business, Sept. 7, 2016

Ballot push for transit millage touts needs of seniorsDetroit News, Aug. 31, 2016

Michigan’s Highest Taxpayers Could Soon Pay MoreMackinac Center for Public Policy, Aug. 15, 2016

The Past, Present, And Future Of Public Transit In SE MichiganWDET, Aug. 10, 2016

In search of alternatives to urban sprawlModel D, Aug. 8, 2016

Editorial: Transit plan more attractive with compromiseDetroit News, Aug. 7, 2016

‘Michigan Matters’ Focus: Regional Transit Tax Millage And Presidential RaceCBS Detroit, Aug. 6, 2016

RTA's transit plan for Metro Detroit will be on November ballotWDIV Detroit, Aug. 4, 2016

Funding for regional transit plan to be on fall ballotDetroit News, Aug. 4, 2016

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson pleased with transit plan following compromise – Oakland Press, Aug. 3, 2016

Metro Detroit leaders reach deal on transit – Detroit Free Press, Aug. 2, 2016

Hackel, Patterson trying to build a wall in S.E. Michigan – Detroit Free Press, July 31, 2016

Macomb, Oakland concerns could blow up Metro Detroit transit plan – Michigan Radio, July 23, 2016

Oakland, Macomb concerns delay RTA board's vote on regional mass transit tax proposal – Crain’s Detroit Business, July 21, 2016




Ann Arbor

Increasing Term Length for Mayor & City Council

Washtenaw County

Road & Non-Motorized Path Tax
Veterans Affairs Tax

Regional Transit Authority (RTA)

Regional Public Transit Tax

What if I don't live in Ann Arbor?

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