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Auburn Hills, MI—A decision by the Auburn Hills City Council to opt out of a regional bus service—and effectively leave Flint bus riders without a connection to Detroit by the end of 2022—has been called into question by the Oakland County Public Transportation Authority.
On Feb. 21, the Auburn Hills City Council voted to withdraw from the Oakland County Public Transit Authority, or OCPTA, which collects Oakland County communities’ millage funds on behalf of the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, or SMART.
At that time, it seemed the decision would end SMART’s services in Auburn Hills, where the Flint Mass Transit Authority and SMART connect for service to Detroit, on Jan. 1, 2023.
Since the vote, however, Marie Donigan, chair of the OCTPA, said that by law, the council had to vote on the opt-out before the end of January in order to do so without OCPTA input.
“The act that governs the Oakland County Public Transit Authority is Public Act 196,” Donigan said. “The law was really set up for (the opt-out decision) to be a ballot initiative where they got a vote of the people…which they did not do.”
Now, since Auburn Hills City Council’s vote happened after January’s end, OCPTA will have to vote to approve that decision with a two-thirds majority to make it official.
Donigan pointed out that Auburn Hills voters have supported the OCPTA millage in the past. In 2018, the last time the millage was voted on, it received 74% approval from the city’s voters.
On March 2, Donigan said the Auburn Hills City Council had not yet contacted OCPTA to take up the issue and, even if they are asked to, there is nothing in the law that requires them to do so.
“I can’t speak on behalf of the rest of the board, just on my behalf,” Donigan said of how she thought an OCPTA vote would go. “I’m really not interested in subtracting transit service from the region. I’m interested in adding transit service to the region and making it a better transit system.”
In an emailed statement, Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel said that he believed the council had notified OCPTA of their decision and they hope the board will consider the judgment of Auburn Hills’ elected officials in a potential vote.
“Following February 21, our City Attorney finalized our documentation, including a cover letter, and forwarded it to the new OCPTA Chairperson, Ms. Marie Donigan,” the statement reads. “The transmission of that letter and the adopted opt-out resolution took place on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. It is important to understand that Auburn Hills did not miss a deadline preventing the opt-out. Our expectations are that the OCPTA board will accept the statutorily permitted decision of the duly elected City Council of the City of Auburn Hills by honoring the action the City Council has taken.”
The OCPTA board does not have a regular meeting schedule, so it is yet to be determined if or when a vote on Auburn Hills’ opt-out of SMART will take place.