12 ways Ann Arbor residents benefit from countywide expansion of AATA - and how it might cost them
What do Ann Arbor residents stand to gain from a countywide expansion of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority?
That was a question members of the Ann Arbor City Council posed to AATA CEO Michael Ford during a recent council work session.
Ford is asking the council on Jan. 9 to enter into a four-party agreement that will lay the framework for creation of a new countywide transit authority in 2012.
In an email to council members in mid-December, Ford further explained what he sees as the benefits to Ann Arbor residents, who could be asked to pay a new 1-mill countywide transit levy on top of the 2 mills they currently pay for AATA service under one scenario being considered. That equates to a little more than $100 in additional taxes for the average Ann Arbor resident.
Here's what Ford had to say in the email:
If voters approve a funding source for countywide transit, Ann Arbor will have a much higher level of service, commensurate with the higher level of contribution.First, it is important to understand that Ann Arbor currently enjoys a much higher level of service than outside Ann Arbor. For fixed-route service, this includes comprehensive geographic coverage, as well as more frequent service, and a longer span of service.
In addition, A-Ride and Good as Gold provide comprehensive door-to-door service for people with disabilities and seniors, while outside Ann Arbor, the level and availability of these specialized services is much lower. ... the existing millage funds and the existing millage will continue to be needed to maintain this service.
If additional funds are approved to implement the TMP (Transit Master Plan), they will be used to fund additional service and service enhancements in Ann Arbor. Included in the first five years of the draft TMP for Ann Arbor city residents are:
- More frequent service on most routes including Plymouth, Packard, Miller, etc. (10-20 minute frequency) Note: Washtenaw Avenue service will be increasing to 5-10 minute headways during peak times in January 2012
- More direct routes enabling more Ann Arbor workers, high school students and residents to get to their destinations more quickly and efficiently
- Bus priority measures that allow buses to move more rapidly through (or avoid) traffic, including signal priority and queue-jump lanes at selected intersections, these investments will dramatically improve service and set the stage for higher-capacity transit options
- Later service on weekdays, and Saturday and Sunday evening service for commuters, downtown workers, and students
- Connecting service to Commuter Rail or Bus Rapid Transit when such service begins
- Bus stop improvements, including improved amenities, bus stop accessibility, and more shelters and benches to make the transit experience more comfortable and accessible for all users
- Real-time information and enhanced methods to get information to customers
Finally, there will be substantial benefits for Ann Arbor residents from the creation of the countywide service:
- Enables Ann Arbor residents to travel to more destinations outside Ann Arbor, such as Detroit Metro airport and nearby communities
- Creates options for more people to travel to Ann Arbor for work, school, and shopping using countywide funding from outside Ann Arbor, decreasing the need for parking investments and road improvements within the city
- Ability to connect most efficiently to the greater region
- Get commuters on the periphery out of their cars and onto a bus outside Ann Arbor with more park and ride lots
- Get regional commuters out of their cars with urban express services and vanpools
The TMP sets the stage for local and regional transit investments, where Ann Arbor is the economic center of the county. The u196 board will continue to work with citizens in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw County on refining a plan for the most appropriate services before initiating incorporation of a countywide authority.
Local blogger Vivienne Armentrout, a former county commissioner, argues Ann Arbor taxpayers could end up being accountable for nearly two-thirds of the local tax revenue for a new countywide authority. She offers a detailed breakdown in a recent blog post, which assumes Ann Arbor taxpayers will pay a new 1-mill tax on top of the existing 2-mill levy.
Armentrout also argues that, under the 30-year countywide plan, programs that will not benefit riders until far in the future will start to cost the system much earlier. She cites $13.1 million for commuter rail and $4 million for high-capacity connector services in the first five years.
Another impact on Ann Arbor’s total share of the cost is that, under the countywide plan, other local governments no longer would pay "purchase of service agreement" charges for their bus service, Armentrout writes, noting that brought $1.3 million into the system in 2011.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.