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Detroit prepares to fight for federal bus funds

Sarah Hulett
Michigan Radio

A vote this Friday could determine how federal transit money is split between Detroit and its suburbs—and Detroit officials aren’t at all happy with what’s being proposed.

Right now, that federal money is divided based on ridership. So the Detroit Department of Transportation gets about 65% of the funding, while the suburban system—known as SMART—gets 35%.

That disparity has irked suburban transit officials for some time. And now the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) could vote to change that on Friday—a change that would mean an immediate $7 million loss for Detroit.

Detroit officials are howling. They say this will only punish the city’s already-stressed and whittled-down bus system--and its riders.

“This is something that would be effective now, and it’s unnecessary,” Adam Hollier, a spokesman for Mayor Dave Bing, told the City Council Wednesday. “SMART did not plan to have these dollars. D-DOT did plan for them.

“There is no plan for dealing with a $7 million loss. The city is strapped for cash.”

City Council members and other officials say they’ll be at the Friday meeting to try and change SEMCOG’s mind, or at least delay the vote.

They suggest SEMCOG shouldn’t make the decision because they’re temporarily safeguarding the funds, while southeast Michigan’s Regional Transit Authority starts up.

Detroit officials say they should wait, and instead let RTA officials decide the formula.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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