The RTA’s regional transit master plan, Nick Tobier on the creation of temporary utopias, and the music of Chris Buhalis …on episode 46 of the Saturday Six Pack


I know I’ve mentioned this episode of the Saturday Six Pack before, but, I thought that I’d better post a more comprehensive tonight, seeing as how it deals with the regional transit master plan that we’ll all be voting on come Tuesday.

For what it’s worth, I will be voting yes on the RTA initiative, which, among other things, would create a Detroit-Ann Arbor rail line with a stop in Ypsilanti, and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) between Ann Arbor and Ypsi. Hopefully, after you listen, you’ll agree with me that it makes good sense.

Joining us for our conversation about the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) plan, were Ben Stupka from the RTA, Gillian Ream Gainsley from the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA), and Megan Owens from Transit Riders United, each of whom can be see in the following image. [Stupka is at the top left. Ream Gainsley is on the right. And Owens is at the bottom left. If I’d had more time, I would have arranged them so that they were all looking at each other, like in the opening credits of the Brady Bunch.]


[If you would like to listen to episode 46 of The Saturday Six Pack, you can either download it from iTunes or scroll the bottom of the page, where you’ll find the Soundcloud file embedded.]

I know I said that this would be a comprehensive post, but, as I’ve been out this evening, canvassing for Hillary Clinton, I just don’t have the energy. So I’m just going to suggest that you listen to the fist segment to learn all about the regional transit master plan, and what it could mean to those of us who live and work in southeast Michigan.

As for why this is happening now, after 20-some previous attempts to coordinate mass transit across southeast Michigan have failed before making to the ballot, my guests seemed to think that the timing was finally right. They talked about how attitudes concerning both Detroit and mass transit had changed in recent years, and how politicians and business leaders had finally come to agree that a comprehensive plan was called for. Young Michiganders, they said, were demanding it. And this time, they said, it looked as though it was finally going to happen, assuming, of course, that the voters of Wayne, Washtenaw, Macomb and Oakland counties vote in favor of the RTA’s proposed transit millage, which would cost the average homeowner approximately $95 per year.

Here, if you’ve yet to see it, is a map of the proposed rail and rapid bus lines that will be constructed over the coming years, assuming, of course, that a majority of us vote yes on Tuesday.


[For a larger version of the proposed service map, click here.]

Then, at the 46-minute mark, after listening to a new song by our friend Peter Larson in Kenya, we were joined by University of Michigan art professor Nick Tobier, co-author of the Utopia Toolbox: An Incitement to Radical Creativity, a new anthology of amazing projects, thought provoking observations and artistic prompts intended to inspire those interested in doing things like reclaiming public space, facilitating community dialogue, and bringing visibility to places that are ofter overlooked. Tobier and I, in addition to talking about his personal work, which is focused on encouraging people to see their surroundings differently, also talked at length about the evolution of Ann Arbor over the time that he’s live here. [He moved to Ann Arbor just as the Tech Center burned down.] Here’s Tobier telling me, after discussing the forces in Ann Arbor that were pushing for Segway riding “ambassadors” charged with opening doors for people, shooing away panhandlers, and the like, that we need “more resistance.”


And, lastly, at the 1:17-mark, we welcomed in singer songwriter Chris Buhalis, who, in addition to playing songs off his new record, Big Car Town, talked at length about how Ann Arbor has changed in the time that he’s lived there, echoing much of what Tobier had said about the influx of non-local investment dollars changing the look and feel of the town. We also talked, among other things, about the politics that inform his music, the circumstances surrounding his decision to first pick the guitar, and his memories of growing up in a union family in Detroit. Here’s Buhalis telling us how he first learned to play guitar in Ypsilanti, after dropping out of college. He’d wanted to be a novelist, he said, but his pieces kept getting shorter and shorter, until they were songs… I could say more, but you should really just listen. It’s good stuff, I promise.


Oh, and, if you didn’t like this episode, it’s probably because I wasn’t drinking beer, as I was on antibiotics for a stomach issue, and even the thought of alcohol made me feel like puking.

Thanks, as always, to AM 1700 for hosting the show and station owner Brian Robb for running the board, making sure the bills paid, and insuring that the toilet paper and bleach stays stocked.

If you like this episode, check out our archive of past shows at iTunes. And do please leave a review if you have the time, OK? It’s nice to know that people are listening, and, unless you call in, that’s pretty much the only way we know.

Now, if you haven’t already, please listen for yourself, and experience the magic firsthand.

[Episode 46 of the Saturday Six Pack was recorded live on June 11, 2016, in historic downtown Ypsilanti, Michigan, in the studies of AM1700 Radio.]

This entry was posted in Ann Arbor, Art and Culture, Michigan, Politics, Rail, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Loser Larson
    Posted November 6, 2016 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Many people were intrigued by the scintillating banter on that’s night’s program.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    RTA: Reject that Trump Asshole

  3. Loser Larson
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Listen to “Crypt Defiler” by Desekryptor

  4. Meta
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Michigan Radio: “New report analyzes transit millage proposal”

    Voters in four Southeast Michigan counties will decide on November 8 whether to raise property taxes to enhance mass transit systems in the region.

    The ballot proposal would authorize the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan to levy a new 1.2 mill tax for 20 years in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, and Washtenaw counties. That would mean about $120 a year for the owner of a $200,000 house.

    The Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a non-partisan research group, released a report today analyzing the pros and cons of the proposal. The report said the new tax would generate $3.1 billion over the course of 20 years, with $161 million expected in its first year.

    According to Council President Eric Lupher, the report provides an examination of the issues so that voters can make an informed decision, but the Council does not take a position on the issues.

    “If you value mass transit, then this would be a good thing to accomplish,” said Lupher. He said the proposal could spur regional economic development, bring more federal money to the region, and make life better for the elderly, disabled and those without cars or a preference for public transportation.

    “While there are elements to the proposed use of funding we can consider positive to the region,” said Lupher in a written statement, “it must be recognized that the use of property tax as the funding mechanism increases an already high property tax burden relative to the rest of the state and many other metropolitan regions in the nation.”

    Lupher said generally, transit systems in other states are funded through regional sales taxes, and this is not an option in Michigan without an amendment to the Michigan Constitution.

    According to the report, funding for mass transit in metropolitan Detroit is far less than in other regions in the U.S. of similar size and industry. It says even if the ballot proposal passes, spending per person on transit in Southeast Michigan would remain lower than its peer regions, except Atlanta. But the spending gap would be reduced.

    Read more:

  5. Kim
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I have heard no compelling reasons not to support the RTA millage.

One Trackback

  1. […] we’ve also discussed it regional rail in the not so distant past as well, most recently on episode 46 of the Saturday Six Pack, where we discussed the release of the regional transit master plan authored by the Regional […]

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