Former QLine manager new RTA official

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan has appointed Matt Webb, a former QLine streetcar program manager, as its new COO.

The organization remained without a full-time CEO after the position was vacated in March 2017.

Webb brings over 20 years of experience in large-scale, multi-disciplinary transportation planning and program management services in the areas of highway, rail and transit.

“We are very excited to have Matt join the RTA Team,” RTA spokesman Mario Morrow told The Detroit News. “Matt’s experience, passion and desire to bring regional transportation to southeastern Michigan makes him a perfect fit.”

The RTA has struggled with both inconsistent leadership, and trying to sell the idea of regional transit to the voters.

They narrowly lost a November 2016 vote on a $4.6 billion millage to expand transit service across Metro Detroit. Then the former CEO, Michael Ford, left in March 2017, after questions arose about his job expenses. The RTA then appointed former COO and deputy CEO Tiffany Gunter as interim CEO in April 2017. So Webb steps into Gunter’s previous COO position, which had remained vacant.

Gunter turned in her resignation in November 2017, effective Jan. 2, 2018. Carmine Palombo is the acting lead staff for the RTA, on loan from SEMCOG, since then.

“Matt is the right person at the right time to move the RTA to the next level,” said Palombo in a statement. “He has the experience, knows the industry and has all the right relationships. He is a hard worker and well-respected. ”

As program manager for the QLine, Webb led teams through the planning, design, construction oversight, safety and security certification and pre-revenue phases for the public-private partnership project.

He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University, and is a certified planner with the American Planning Association.

At last month’s RTA board meeting, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans unveiled a new master plan for regional mass transit. While both Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel expressed objections, Evans presented a 20-year transit proposal to the RTA board last month that needs voters to approve a $5.4 billion tax later this year.

It calls for a 1.5-mill tax to provide $170 million a year in operational funding while investing $696 million to support infrastructure. The tax would cost owners of the average house worth $157,504 in the region $118 a year.

Evans, who spearheaded the plan after meeting with regional transit and public officials, calls the initiative “Connect Southeast Michigan.” It’s designed to replace a smaller regional mass transit master plan voters narrowly rejected on the 2016 ballot, and it requires no legislative action.

That $4.6 billion millage failed 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent. Washtenaw and Wayne counties favored the millage, Oakland County voters were split and Macomb County strongly rejected it. The 2016 plan included a smaller 1.2-mill property tax that would have cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $120 annually.

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