Transit authority to evenly split federal bus funds between city, suburbs
SMART and the Detroit Department of Transportation will evenly split $55 million in federal and state funding over three years, the Regional Transit Authority decided Thursday.
The prior split between the suburban SMART system and the city DDOT system was 52 percent to 48 percent respectively, with the People Mover system receiving 1 percent off DDOT’s total.
That formula was used since 2013. Prior to that, DDOT received 65 percent to SMART’s 35 percent of any federal money.
RTA officials, who took over from SEMCOG the responsibility of allocating federal funds, said they examined a number of factors such as ridership, population and miles driven and decided SMART and DDOT were nearly statistically even in all categories.
“We sincerely believe this represents the best outcome for regional transportation and provides a foundation for our continued efforts together to deliver the 21st century public transit system,” said Michael Ford, the CEO of the RTA.
SMART officials reacted to the news with some caution.
“The federal funding allocation change will require SMART to make the appropriate budgetary adjustments in order to continue with our plans to replace our aging bus fleet over the next three years,” CEO John Hertel said.
But Paul Hillegonds, the chairman of the RTA board, said the unanimous decision was a “milestone” because funding allocation has been an issue that has divided and “set back regional transit in the past.”
“It’s a compromise,” he said. “But it splits the allocation formula in half by coordinating service in a way that will improve service for riders. In the end, I think it will be more efficient transit in the region and better coordinated transit. The riders are a winner.”
DDOT director Dan Dirks said: “This compromise is good for DDOT's customers and will help in their ability to travel. That is really what is most important.”