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SMART millage survives Macomb County recount

A SMART bus.

A razor-thin vote to continue supporting the SMART bus system has survived a recount in Macomb County.

Macomb voters approved the millage by just 39 votes this month. That prompted the group Michigan Taxpayers Alliance to  request a partial recount.

But MTA leader Leon Drolet says they stopped at about 75-percent of the way through Wednesday, as it became clear they wouldn’t gain enough "no" votes to overturn the official results.

Drolet--who calls bus service a “bad deal” for suburban regions like Macomb County and ran a campaign against the millage renewal—said the vote proved there’s declining support for transit service in Macomb County.

“The SMART tax passed eight years ago with 66-percent of the vote, and it passed four years ago with 60-percent of the vote,” Drolet said. “And this year it passed with 50.0001-percent of the vote.

“People are increasingly aware that they’re getting a very poor return on their investment in this type of a transit system.”

Drolet’s group says the vote was a missed opportunity to move toward transit alternatives, like subsidized ride shares.

SMART, Metro Detroit’s regional bus service outside the city of Detroit, had warned it would stop serving Macomb County if the millage failed.

“We are thrilled to be able to get back to concentrating on doing what we do best, which is getting 70 percent of SMART riders to work and getting people with special needs and those who are unable to afford a car to the places they need to go,” SMART General Manager John Hertel said in a statement.

“Now that this is over, we are going to continue to build on the successful service that has resulted in an 11 percent increase in ridership. Also, as always, we not only look forward to our collaboration with Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, but also our renewed and promising coordination efforts with the City of Detroit.”

Earlier this month, Detroit’s bus system, D-DOT, and SMART announced they would coordinate to streamline fare systems and pass options, making it easier on riders who use both systems. That increased coordination comes as Southeast Michigan’s Regional Transit Authority, meant to be an umbrella transit organization for the region, is flounderingafter Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson refused to back a ballot proposal to raise funds for more regional transit options.

Macomb is the only county where every community participates in SMART. Both Wayne and Oakland counties have opt-out communities.

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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