How the funding works with a regional transit authority for Southeast Michigan


According to the diagrams in the fact sheet, the RTA would become the designated recipient of all federal funding coming into the region, and in turn that money would be disbursed by the RTA to local agencies like Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, SMART and DDOT.


Each local agency would receive federal formula funding in amounts as if it had applied independently, so formula funds earned by one agency’s ridership could not be diverted to another agency, according to the fact sheet. In a similar manner, the RTA would become responsible for distributing state funding coming into the region for local agencies.

But a proposed rolling rapid transit system is not eligible for state operating assistance funds, so it would not reduce the amount of funding available to other agencies in the state.

SB 911 would enable the RTA to levy either a special property tax or vehicle registration fee of no more than $1.20 per $1,000 of vehicle value, which is estimated to be $40 a year on the average vehicle. Any funding raised by the RTA from those sources would require voter approval by a majority of voters across the four-county transit region.

The regional fee would be the primary funding source for the regional rapid transit network, but also could be used to support local service.

Separately from the RTA legislation, SB 910 would allow counties to impose a vehicle registration fee not to exceed $1.80 per $1,000 of vehicle value for transportation purposes.

That also would require voter approval. If the county is in the RTA, the maximum fee the county could impose would be reduced by the amount of the RTA’s vehicle registration fee.

The RTA wouldn’t gain any control over locally provided funds such as the transit taxes that Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti residents pay for current AATA service.

Conan Smith, chairman of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners and executive director of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, said it’s not yet clear what the Ann Arbor implications are with amendments being kicked around, but it’s safe to say that AATA’s revenue streams are protected and the opportunity to seamlessly connect into a regional system is built in.