DETROIT TRANSIT HISTORY
DETROIT TRANSIT HISTORY
The web-site which takes a look back at the History of Public Transportation in and around the
City of Detroit.
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For Comments and/or Suggestions, Please contact Site Owner at: admin@detroittransithistory.info
© 2009  (PAGE LAST MODIFIED ON 02-01-09)
A DETROIT TRANSIT FACTOID: TRANSIT CHARTER AMENDMENT #1

Did you know... That two (2) charter amendments voted on by
Detroiters during the 1960's still impacts the public transit scene
here in Detroit to this day?

When the DSR was founded back in 1922, the Detroit City Charter
required the transportation agency to operate solely from fare-box
revenues. It also required that the DSR be treated as a private
company and pay for service charges from other city departments. The
agency was also required to pay city and school property taxes. Two
attempts to relieve the DSR of these burdens were defeated by the
voters 2 to 1, both in 1949 and 1958.

But declining ridership revenues, along with rising operating costs,
continued to make it difficult for the DSR to remain profitable
solely from fare-box funds. Another attempt to amend the charter,
backed by an all-out campaign by then Mayor Jerome P. Cavanaugh, was
placed on the ballot in 1964.

On September 4, 1964, Proposition "G" was the first amendment to be
approved by the voters and brought partial relief for the DSR.  The
approved charter amendment would now:
a--Exempt the DSR from paying city and school taxes, which had risen
to $550,000 a year.
b--Eliminate $250,00 in service charges to other City Departments.
c--Extend DSR service beyond the then current 10-mile limit, upon
state legislature approval.
d--Permit the system to receive Federal funds. This change also
allowed the DSR to receive subsidies out of the city's general tax
funds, but "only" for the purpose of matching Federal grants under
the new $375 million urban mass transit act. Under that act, the
government would pay up to two-thirds of the net cost of new
transportation projects, while the city would pay only one-third.

Prior to these charter amendment changes, the DSR couldn't apply for
federal funds, much less generate the monies needed to pay the
required matching amount. This change later allowed the DSR to build
a new $15 million administration and central maintenance complex with
the use of Federal funds. The extension of service to outlying areas
was to prepare the DSR to later become a metropolitan transit
authority.
SAVING THE CITY'S DEPARTMENT OF STREET RAILWAYS (DSR) FROM BANKRUPTCY
(How the City of Detroit began subsidizing its Transportation Department)
A DETROIT TRANSIT FACTOID: TRANSIT CHARTER AMENDMENT #2

Did you know... That two (2) charter amendments voted on by
Detroiters during the 1960's still impacts the public transit scene
in Detroit, even to this day?

Despite the temporary relief given the DSR in 1964 under the passage
of charter-amending Proposition "G", things continued to proceed
downward for public transportation in Detroit. By 1969, with 46 of
the company's 68 routes losing money, the DSR was facing a projected
$5.6 million deficit. It appeared evident that without a major
increase through some form of subsidy, the DSR would be forced to
boost fares, make drastic cuts in service, or even shut down.

As a result, then DSR general manager Robert H. Toohey went seeking
relief from the City of Detroit, and was able to convince the Common
Council to place an amendment on the ballot that would allow the DSR
to be subsidized out of the city's general tax fund.

The subsidies would help support the system until a more permanent
funding source became available under the recently formed
Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA). (SEMTA had
been created in 1967 by the state legislature to develop a long-range
rapid transit plan for its six-county region and was empowered to buy
and consolidate all transit companies within that region, including
the DSR.)

On November 4, 1969, the voters of Detroit overwhelmingly approved,
by a 3 to 1 margin, Proposition "A"  which would then:
a--Authorize the DSR to receive subsidies from the city's general tax
fund and granting to the Common Council full budget control over the
DSR.
b--Take away the sole authority of the DSR Board of Commissioners to
operate the DSR as if it were a private company.

These changes would basically allow the agency to be treated as a
city department, under the control of the Detroit Common Council.
Proposition "A" authorized the current city policy of granting annual
subsidies to support its city owned transit system.

On July 4, 1974, under a revised City Charter, the city-owned transit
agency was reorganized as a revenue producing city department and
renamed, the Department of Transportation (DOT). This "temporary" fix
to Detroit's transportation problem has now lasted nearly thirty-one
years.
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