Thirty New Four Story Buildings In Easttown?

The 👉2023-05 meeting of the Rapid Planning meeting contained the "Rousing Debate".👈. Truly riveting reading for those of us who are the type of people who read meeting minutes. 🙂 Fortunatley for us, this conversation continued at 👉the 2023-09 Planning meeting (PDF, minutes)👈

The text from the meeting minutes has been edited slightly for readability.

The Thriving Plan

This first section of the conversation relates to communication with other transit agencies in regard to development of the Rapid's new master plan "Thriving". Those other systems include: Ann Arbor, MI (The Ride), Austin, TX (Cap Metro), Minneapolis, MN (Metro Transit), Seattle, WA (Sound Transit), Los Angeles, CA (LA Metro), and Indianapolis, IN (Indy Go)

Mr. Bulkowsk: in your interviews with the peers, are you speaking with transit people, advocates, riders? Who is giving you the information?

Mr. Ittigson: we are talking to staff at these other agencies. We spoke with two different people at Metro Minneapolis. One conversation was with the TOD person, and one was with their long-range capital planner. At CAP Metro there are five (5) people on the call representing different departments within the transit. For the LA Metro call, there will be a Sr. Level Program Manager as the main point of contact. Some of the Peer Interview Insights are that Minneapolis was identified as being successful in identifying funding. They put a lot into their policy and can drive development, and they are very well organized. 60% of funding comes from motor vehicle sales tax.

Mayor Bliss: it would be helpful to the board to better understand what we are able to do in Michigan. The opportunities to raise local funds for anything, including transit, are limited. We should also try to understand the enabling legislation we have to push at the state level to allow us to diversify our revenue streams. The conversations should happen with our lobbyists and those of us who spend time in Lansing.

Mr. Bulkowski: Not only enabling legislation but constitutional changes unfortunately in Michigan. We spent too much time selling the ‘getting there’ as opposed to selling ‘the there’. ‘The there’ is affordable housing, in walkable communities. It’s Eastown with thirty (30) additional four-story buildings. When we talk about affordable housing it includes corridors. At the Chambers Policy Event, it was a very intriguing conversation about corridors and transit is all about corridors. Where are the pictures of ‘the there’ that transit gets us to? No one wants a 40’ bus, but the vast majority want a cooler Eastown and that is only possible with a 40’ bus.

Mayor Bliss: the city has talked about mobility hubs on our TOD lines for years. We want more flexible systems, and mobility hubs, but if you are not engaged in public transit then how do you know what is needed?

Mr. Monoyios: one of our North Stars is the storytelling aspect. We need to accurately capture the story to create a unified vision at the end of the TMP process. When we talked with our peers, we asked how they got there, and the main themes were to Go Big, a lot of boots on the ground telling the story, and getting the community engaged

Mr. Ittigson: Cap Metro in Austin, TX passed the $8B measure for funding transit in 2020. Currently, they have a 1% sales tax which allows them to add on a property tax element for ‘Project Connect’, which is their long-range vision plan. A key takeaway is the city is forward-thinking, innovative marketing, and incentivizing outreach. Cap Metro hired community liaisons (called Community Connectors) for a two-year period who went out in the community and neighborhoods which was very effective. They also used several focus groups, and all participants were given a $50 gift card to the local grocery store. Sound Transit, Seattle, WA. has they have a large TOD program in which the state requires 80% of their TOD to be affordable housing. Another creative way they are funding transit is by using the annual car inspection fee. The Ride, Ann Arbor, MI. This is not a big city, however, we wanted to talk with them as they recently passed a large Mill and we wanted to understand how that was done and what lessons were learned. A key takeaway is they have a strong relationship with their member cities (Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti) The cities realized they had to go big, and they were successful in getting the $2.38M. In Ann Arbor, 61% of the community voted in favor.

Mr. Guy: could speak you (Mr. Ittigson) speak to the mechanics of the permanent mileage that was renewed?

Mr. Dillivan: Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti are permanent and the surrounding cities renew every five (5) years

Mr. Schweitzer: Both I and Mr. Monoyios were hearing from other communities that they like joint development. Such as agency-owned property that was integrated with private development. Mr. Schweitzer can see how that would grow development on the corridor and provide a revenue stream for the community

Mr. Monoyios: The big takeaway from Minneapolis was to Buy Property, work with the local jurisdictions, and build relationships. The same was said from Seattle as well. There is a lot that can be applicable to Division United as well.

Ms. Prato: are they (Minn/SEA) buying through operating funds, not capital funds. Is that how they have the flexibility to negotiate and buy quickly?

Mr. Monoyios: yes, however, all have a different arrangement for doing it. When it’s a local capture they don't need to go through certain regulatory procedures.

Mr. Guy: Who’s leading it, and who’s driving it? We know there are things that need to happen at the local government level with planning and zoning, economic development functions, transit functions, and housing groups. Sometimes MPO plays a part like in Minneapolis. Who is tasked with driving the overall influence?

Mr. Monoyios: these functions are representative of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), and we can assign these responsibilities as we work through the TMP process

The Model Michigan Mileage-Based User Fee Program

Here the conversation transitions to discussion of the "Model Michigan Mileage-Based User Fee Program". There is some hope out in the zietgiest that Michigan can, at some point in the near future, move beyond the current model of transportation funding - known as Act 51 [which is truly terrible] - to a more balanced and fiscally sustainable user-fee based system. And, no, the gas tax is not a user fee; however ardently Motorists insist that it is.

Mr. Hoffman: If the legislature wanted to solve this issue by the end of the year, they could be enabling an ACT that says we recognize the state constitution puts jurisdiction over provider fee policy in the transportation commission. Commercial vehicles pay 2 cents per mile. We are paying 12 cents a mile, so they are getting a free ride already and they are doing 32 cents a mile of damage. It is impossible to solve Michigan Transportation funding without going this route. Mr. Hoffman wants to ask this committee how is this good for transit. If this was a tax, we would get 10%, but it’s not a tax. The gas tax and registration tax cannot be more than 10%. A user fee is not subject to that. In this case, we should use comprehensive transportation instead of public transportation. The model plan he is advocating for is congestion fees go to comprehensive funding. Mr. Hoffman feels the only solution is to put the proceeds of the congestion fees into alternative modes. It is not just pavement we spend those proceeds on, it is the whole transportation in our environment. The Governor has signaled that nothing is going to be done until 2025.

Mayor Bliss: I agree with Mr. Hoffman, and it is an issue that needs to be solved. This is also a great opportunity to know who the allies in the state of Michigan are and can come together through a coalition and drive some change. I will be in Lansing this week, and I will start to identify some potential allies there. This was helpful.

Mr. Bulkowski: who is working on this. He noted he received an email that said "fix my state MI". Who is championing this? Is it a user fee or is it a tax?

Mr. Hoffman: milage-based user fees are inevitable.

Mr. Schweitzer: is MDOT looking at this?

Mr. Hoffman: yes, they say we are spending 50% of what we need to. Roads are turning to gravel. Mr. Bulkowski is correct in the sense no one will disagree with it. We will never have good transportation for people until the purpose is to maximize vehicle traffic, not people.

I am confident the last sentence of Mr. Hoffman's statement is inverted, and that he means prioritize people over vehicles.


Each meeting's agenda contains the minutes of the previous committee meeting.