All levels of government share responsibility for portions of America’s vast system of transportation. In Michigan, drivers pay taxes when they fill their tanks with gasoline and annually register their motor vehicles. Motor vehicle taxes are apportioned in state law to the Michigan Department of Transportation, to the county road commissions, and to cities and villages.
While townships in many other states have primary responsibility for local roads, in Michigan the county road commissions and townships share transportation-related responsibilities. Road commissions (and county boards of commissioners where road commission duties have been assumed by the county board) are responsible for maintenance and construction of local roads, while townships are responsible for non-transportation uses of road rights of way, sub-surface rights of way usage such as utilities and communication systems, and law enforcement. In spite of state law assigning maintenance and construction responsibility to road commissions, the state transportation fund doesn’t provide sufficient financial resources for road commissions to perform their responsibilities at a level acceptable to everyone. Consequently, township boards voluntarily contribute over $150 million per year to their county road commissions to support road projects in their respective townships.
Public transportation is usually a county function in suburban and rural areas, but larger local governments may operate their own bus systems. For a variety of political and cultural reasons Michigan has lagged behind much of the rest of world in developing an efficient, modern public transportation system in its largest metropolitan area, and the lack of public transportation is viewed by many as a significant reason why Detroit has not performed well in attracting new residents and businesses.