Tri-County Public Transit Agencies Launch Partnership to Enhance Regional Mobility
Three public transit agencies have unveiled an unprecedented effort to enhance regional mobility across the Mid-Michigan region. The Capital Area Transportation Authority, Eaton County Transportation Authority and Clinton Area Transit System are collaborating alongside Tri-County Regional Planning Commission to align the region’s transit systems in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.
The partnership is being hailed as historic and includes a shared management agreement between CATA and EATRAN, an expanded interlocal agreement between CATA and Clinton Transit that will facilitate the coordination of key bus service and funding support from the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Following a previously approved plan to bring CATA and EATRAN under shared management, the EATRAN Board of Directors, at its meeting Wednesday, Sept. 14, named CATA CEO Bradley T. Funkhouser its new executive director. Funkhouser will continue his role as CATA’s CEO while also taking on responsibility for EATRAN’s day-to-day operations.
The concept of regional mobility alignment between the three authorities brings the potential of a seamless “one seat ride” closer to fruition for Mid-Michigan communities. This increased collaboration removes the limitations of economic or geographic boundaries, and comes with more opportunities for people to live, work, play and seek services where they want.
In addition, major employment opportunities across the region – projected to grow even more with the construction of General Motors’ Ultium battery plant and a new Amazon distribution center in Delta Township – make public transit coordination across jurisdictions an increasingly important component of economic development. The regional partnership aims to close significant gaps in the current system where clusters of employers lack transit service. Many of these businesses attract employees from all three counties and beyond, including both urban and rural areas. The regional mobility partnership will evaluate the potential for new transit services to employment centers that include the Delta Township Industrial Park, Capital Region International Airport and Delta Township Marketplace Boulevard. As part of the expanded interlocal agreement Clinton Transit will now offer service to and from Ingham County for all trip purposes.
Leaders of the three transit agencies joined community stakeholders in hailing the benefits of the partnership and expressed their commitment to cooperation and transparency as the regional mobility plan takes shape.
“This partnership between CATA, EATRAN and Clinton Transit is a breakthrough in our region’s efforts to build a seamless, multimodal transportation network,” said CATA Board Chair Nathan Triplett. “There’s tremendous potential here to better serve our riders, our communities, regional development efforts, and taxpayers. Our agencies’ coordinated efforts will result in significant dividends for our region for decades to come.”
Gary Peterson, chair of the EATRAN Board of Directors, added, “We are thrilled to have Brad on board at EATRAN and look forward to working closely with our colleagues at CATA and Clinton Transit to develop a plan that brings together the best of all three organizations. We are committed to continuing the outstanding service currently being provided by our respective agencies, and will keep our employees, riders and community members informed of future developments as the process moves forward.”
“We are very pleased to be part of this groundbreaking partnership to enhance regional mobility,” said Gail Watkins, Clinton Transit Board Chairperson. “Creating seamless connections between our three transit networks will deliver tremendous benefits to residents and businesses across the Capital region.”
Funding to support the regional mobility partnership will come in part from a state grant awarded to CATA by MDOT’s Public Transit Management System. The three-year, $737,000 Service Development and New Technology grant is designed to help public transit agencies coordinate regional transit service to promote cross-boundary movement.
Jean Ruestman, administrator of MDOT’s Office of Passenger Transportation, noted that the state grant funding will assist the regional partners as they implement sustainable strategies for continued transit system development, and promote regional business and economic development opportunities.
“MDOT’s investment will help drive this significant step toward regional mobility, one that promises to deliver substantial benefits to residents and businesses across all three jurisdictions,” Ruestman said. “When we connect people to jobs, health care and other vital resources through a reliable, affordable and seamless public transportation network, we improve their quality of life, open the door to economic opportunities, and help build thriving communities.”
Jim Snell, executive director of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, said, “Aligning the networks of our public transit providers is a monumental step toward true regional mobility and all the benefits that flow from it, especially enhanced community connectivity and economic development. This exciting partnership helps solve one of the key challenges identified in our 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan – providing efficient, cross-boundary public transit, which historically has been affected by cost constraints and competing priorities held by each of the transit systems. Our leadership and staff look forward to seeing the fruits of this historic regional collaboration and stand ready to assist in any way we can.”