Edited and summarized by the Detroit - MI Documenters Team

Note-taking by Bridget Scallen

RTA establishes process for transit agencies to apply for ARPA disbursements; public urges transit expansion.

Live reporting by Dan Ignacio

RTA establishes process for transit agencies to apply for ARPA dispursements; public urges transit expansion.

Hello Detroit and southeast Michigan! At 1 p.m. I’ll live-tweet the @RTAmichigan (RTA) Board of Directors meeting for #DETdocumenters. 🧵

@DetDocumenters media partners: @BridgeDet313 @chalkbeatDET @freep @media_outlier @metrotimes @PlanetDetroit @wdet.

10:43 AM Nov 17, 2022 CST

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👀 $25 million for metro Detroit transit projects are up for grabs — the board will decide how agencies can tap in.

Also coming up: an updated master transit plan, results from a three-year paratransit pilot, year-end financials, and more!
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Join this meeting online, by phone or in person:

We’ll have more notes, recordings and archived materials:…

📎 Today’s agenda and meeting notice — get the meeting packet:
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⏮ The last RTA meeting we covered — Tiffany Pilson took notes:…

And I live-tweeted:…
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🗞 After public outcry, Detroit City Council postponed a $50 million paratransit contract with Transdev. Residents were unhappy with Transdev’s unreliability and the length of the proposed five-year contract. From @DanaAfana:…
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Wayne, Oakland and Macomb voters approved millages for regional public transportation. Notably, Oakland County voters eliminated the ability for municipalities to opt out of service and approved a 10-year millage. From @_ericdlawrence and Christina Hall:…
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❓ The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) oversees and proposes improvements to public transit in the counties of Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw. It works with DDOT, @smartbusorg, @CatchTheRide and other transit providers.
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The Board of Directors leads the RTA. Its members are appointed by Detroit’s mayor, county executives and the state governor. Your boardmembers:

• Freman Hendrix (Detroit)
• Erica Robertson (Wayne)
• June Lee (Wayne)
• Paul Hillegonds (state)
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• Donald Morandini (Macomb)
• Jon Moore (Macomb)
• Helaine Zack (Oakland)
• Jeannette Bradshaw (Oakland)
• Alma Smith (Washtenaw)
• Ned Staebler (Washtenaw)…
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🚩 Need image descriptions? Reply and I’ll provide them to you.

Something inaccurate? Email with the subject “Correction Request.” I’ll add corrections at the end.

Those are my pre-game notes. See you at 1 p.m.!
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The online meeting is now open; they’re still setting up.
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⌚️ At 1:01 p.m., the RTA Board of Directors meeting begins! After a brief audio issue, Boardmember Hillegonds calls the meeting to order. He says they have a quorum. #DETdocumenters
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A boardmember moves to remove the financial report from the agenda. The board approves this meeting’s agenda with that modification. They also approve last meeting’s summary.
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📣 At 3:03 p.m., the board proceeds to hear public comments!
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Robert Pawlowski, Wayne County Youth Council member, celebrates the passage of transit millages. However, he’s concerned about many bus drivers leaving SMART for the AAATA because drivers there have more pay and stronger labor organizing. …
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“We need to start having the union back these drivers and retain these drivers.”
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Another commenter asks about a new airport bus from Detroit to the metro Detroit airport. The board says they’ll take suggestions.
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Joel Batterman of Transit Riders United (TRU) comments on the success of Oakland County’s transit millage. “What that says to me, is that when they’re given the facts, the people realize that public transit is a priority investment. …
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Elected officials in this region might be behind the curve.” Batterman wants more action from legislators on transit. They also agree with commenter Pawlowski, calling for agencies to improve labor relationships and raise pay for drivers. …
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“I never had a problem with FAST buses appearing on schedule, but I do now.”
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Thomas Yazbeck of TRU: “People want to see an expansion of transit. But we gotta make it happen. … I’ve been working for over three years to try and improve transit in my immediate area and I don’t want to wait for another decade or more.” …
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He also calls for better labor relations with drivers and more legislative action. “I want to see movement.” Yazbeck wants more collaboration between RTA and SMART.
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That’s it for public comment.
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📝 At 1:15 p.m., the board proceeds to a financial report for the month of October. A staffmember named Jen reviews some of the details, and the board approves it.
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👉 At 1:19 p.m., the board proceeds to decide on a process for agencies to apply for RTA’s federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars. The agency set aside $25 million of these funds to develop a “joint program of regional projects.”
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Another staffmember presents the proposed process. They mention that RTA has already sent ARPA funds to agencies to cover operation costs. …
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This staffmember highlights fare modernization and transit corridor improvement efforts (including on Washtenaw Avenue in Ann Arbor) that will be funded with these ARPA dollars.
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Woodward Avenue is another target for transit corridor improvement. The staffmember, Ben, says RTA is looking to mostly fund pilot projects. Agencies will have to apply for this federal money, and RTA aims to start applications in the spring.
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Boardmember Hillegonds asks if Ben expects agencies to submit joint applications. Ben says yes. Hillegonds also says the priorities identified in this proposed process are what the board and transit riders have talked about. …
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Ben says these priorities affirm the master transit plan.

Ben also mentions a Gratiot Avenue corridor improvement study that will start soon, complete streets studies, and a recent grant for transit lanes on Michigan Avenue in Detroit.
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CORRECTION, courtesy of Ginny Lickliter of RTA: The October financials were tabled until December.

Ginny presented the September financials. The board approved this.
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👉 At 1:33 p.m., the board proceeds to consider a proposed update to RTA’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program (DBE). It would be effective from 2023-2025. Ben highlights the DBE manual’s mandate for “race-neutral and race-conscious” public participation. …
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Boardmember Hillegonds asks about how this relates to state funding… Ben says RTA has never been asked by the state about its DBE program. Boardmember Smith gives positive remarks for this update.

The board approves this update to DBE policy.
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👉 At 1:39 p.m., the board proceeds to consider a proposed compliance plan regarding the FTA’s Title VI nondiscimination requirements. …
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Ben says the update will ensure more people will be aware of RTA’s Title VI protocols, more support for non-English language materials and public engagement, and more engagement with “environmental justice communities” and Arabic communities. The board approves this update.
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Someone mentions they hadn’t voted on the proposed process for agencies to apply for ARPA dollars. After some laughter, they approve that proposal.
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📊 At 1:44 p.m., the board proceeds to a presentation on RTA’s 2022 update of its Regional Master Transit Plan. Another staffmember presents.
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The presenter says they expect Oakland County to go through a significant public engagement process now that its transit millage has passed. They say RTA will hire its own people to do in-person engagement on buses.
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This presenter emphasizes plan updates regarding downtown Detroit, especially regarding the circulation of transit vehicles there, and the implementation of zero-emission vehicles.
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A full draft update of the regional master transit plan will arrive in January.
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Boardmember Robertson asks how RTA will measure public engagement. The presenter says, “Right now, we’re just collecting and reviewing.” They say engagement in Oakland and Macomb is “always the hardest.” …
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Robertson looks ahead to elections in 2024: “How do we know we have enough people in 2024 to come and support?” She wonders how RTA will get buy-in from voters on transit initiatives. The presenter says staff will conduct monthly reviews of public engagement.
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Boardmember Bradshaw asks the presenter to spell out an acronym they were using. (Thank you!!) CAC stands for Citizen Advisory Committee. The presenter mentioned an upcoming Citizen Advisory Committee meeting.
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Boardmember Smith asks why RTA updates the regional master transit plan every three years. The presenter says it has to do with the agency’s available resources and to coordinate with SEMCOG’s own regional transportation plan. (Two different regional plans, hmm!)
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A few chat messages have been sent in the online meeting.
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📊 At 2:05 p.m., the board proceeds to a presentation summarizing RTA’s Michigan Ride paratransit pilot.
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The presenter gives an overview of the Michigan Ride pilot. It started in 2019 after MDOT awarded a $1 million Michigan Mobility Challenge grant to develop technology that lets paratransit riders book rides. …
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A vendor for the project went out of business and it was put on hold until another vendor was hired.
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This presenter says Michigan Ride was going well and was expected to expand until that vendor went out of business. They tried to immediately hire another vendor, but the presenter says, “It just wasn’t the same.”
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Michigan Ride uses a “primary persona” — a made-up person named “Carol” — to represent the average Michigan Ride user. “If it works for Carol, it’s going to work for most people.”
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The presenter mentions most paratransit trips have to be booked during business hours — Michigan Ride is 24/7. Michigan Ride’s app was closed in September. …
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The presenter also mentions displeasure among certain private vendors who didn’t like that Michigan Ride connected to their scheduling technology.
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This presenter says their vendor, Feonix, trained riders how to use the app. Overall, Michigan Ride users liked the app. However, the presenter says “we aren’t quite ready” to create a full-fledged program.
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The presenter mentions the Detroit’s proposed paratransit contract with Transdev, which is still pending City Council approval. Boardmember Morandini asks a question, but the online meeting’s audio quality isn’t good enough for me to understand what he said. …
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The presenter says they weren’t able to expand the pilot because they needed to be able to connect to additional scheduling software.
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Boardmember Robertson emphasizes accessibility, and asks if this app could be used on a mobile phone that isn’t a smartphone, with regards to people who do not or cannot use a smartphone. …
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The presenter says the app was only for smartphones, but argues that the app was not meant to be a replace the entire booking process for paratransit.
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✉️ At 2:26 p.m., the board proceeds to a communications report.
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Another person joins the meeting to give the communications report. They highlight efforts in attending events, engaging the public on social media, getting sponsorships, and updating RTA’s website.
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The presenter says the D2A2 intercity bus service had 5,000 riders in the past month.
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Seems this report, so far, is just about the D2A2 service. D2A2 has joined the Detroit Economic Club, Detroit Young Leaders, and other community commerce organizations in Washtenaw and Wayne counties. …
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D2A2 personnel will also attend the upcoming Citizens Advisory Committee meeting to do more public engagement. The service seeks to start a “membership drive” at the start of 2023.
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The presenter says D2A2 wants to do more engagement with businesses in Oakland County.
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Boardmember Morandini strongly wants a unified message about D2A2 with consistent talking points, for how RTA and other agencies communicate about the service to the public.
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The presenter mentions that tomorrow, @wxyzdetroit will interview RTA about the new bus service from Detroit to the Detroit metro airport.
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@wxyzdetroit 📝 At 2:36 p.m., the board proceeds to a staff report.
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@wxyzdetroit An earlier presenter comes back to the meeting to present this staff report. They celebrate the passage of the Oakland County transit millage, but stresses the need to identify the RTA’s next steps. “I do think it's an important conversation to have very quickly.”
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@wxyzdetroit Regarding RTA’s immediate next steps after the Oakland County millage: “Ultimately, the early implementation success that we see here is going to be what we’re judged on regionally and locally.”
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@wxyzdetroit Boardmember Hillegonds agrees with the presenter and asks other boardmembers to chime in with their thoughts. Boardmember Moore speaks, but again, the audio quality makes it difficult to hear him.
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@wxyzdetroit Boardmember Zack also speaks, but I miss the first part of her comment due to bad audio. Zack says she’s concerned if the millage will affect “I know the inner-ring suburbs … have been millaged to death.” However, she suggests using road taxes and some taxes on car drivers. …
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@wxyzdetroit Boardmember Bradshaw (?) says she’s reluctant proposing more millages. In regards to planning further millages, “I’m very cautious to have that conversation right now.”
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@wxyzdetroit Boardmember Staebler, who joined the meeting remotely and says he’s sick, pushes for stronger advocacy for more transit funding. “If not us, nobody will.” He says the region has very low transit funding. …
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@wxyzdetroit “The reality is, as a region, we still pay far, far, far, far, far less in taxes for transit than in almost anyplace else in the country.” …
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@wxyzdetroit Staebler calls for the board to fulfill its responsibility to advocate for transit. “If we don't do it, we're going to go another generation without our community having it and we're going to continue to fall further behind.”
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@wxyzdetroit Other boardmembers still seem hesitant. Boardmembers Hillegonds again asks whether they should start planning for a millage in 2024. He calls for coordination with county and transit officials if a millage is to be proposed. …
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@wxyzdetroit Another boardmember says RTA has to plan according to “what our current resources are.”
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@wxyzdetroit Boardmember Smith agrees with Staebler that RTA should strongly advocate for transit funding. But she says she’s unsure of the funding source. Boardmember Zack also voices, for the record, that she is a transit advocate. …
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@wxyzdetroit Boardmember Moore speaks too, but again, it’s difficult to hear him.
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@wxyzdetroit Back to the staff report. The presenter says RTA still needs to fund office space for its staff. They currently share an office with SEMCOG, but RTA needs to pay for its part of the office.
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@wxyzdetroit Another presenter now speaks about the staff report. They mention a need for public engagement now that transit millages have all been approved and reviews the ARPA funding that RTA will distribute. …
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@wxyzdetroit This presenter mentions that the RTA applied for a $1.1 million MDOT Mobility Wallet Challenge g rant. The application proposes a “Universal Basic Mobility pilot” that would expand fare payment options.
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@wxyzdetroit 💼 At 3:11 p.m., the board proceeds to new business. Nothing for this part of the agenda!
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⏱ At 3:11 p.m., the meeting adjourns!

Up next, the RTA Citizens Advisory Committee will meet Dec. 5:
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That’s my live coverage of this RTA Board of Directors meeting. As always, thank you for following along!

For more local meeting coverage, check out
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Are you a Detroiter who’s passionate about your community? Get trained (and paid) to document your local government at Detroit Documenters:…
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Read these tweets on Mastodon ( @civicDetroitDan/109360131711889622' target='_blank'>
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Updates and corrections may follow below.

Agency Information

Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan

The RTA was created by Public Act No. 387 to manage and secure transportation resources that significantly enhance mobility options, improve quality of life for residents and increase economic viability for the region.. Its 10-member board is appointed for three year terms by the county executives of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, the chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, the Mayor of Detroit, and the Governor of Michigan. The Governor’s appointee serves as chair and without a vote.


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