Ann Arbor Transportation Authority begins planning to create a countywide organization
As it develops a master transit plan for the region, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority wants to transform itself from an Ann Arbor-focused organization into a larger, countywide agency.
CEO Michael Ford earlier this week provided an update on that process along with several ideas for how a transition might work, but officials underscored they are still in the early planning stages and haven't figured out how to fund a countywide entity.
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
“There has been almost unanimous support,” he said. “We’ve found that people really like the idea of a countywide transit system and they appreciate the need (for) a countywide organization to run that system. There is trepidation that involves anything about going to taxpayers for additional money, so there’s also caution there, but we’ve gotten agreement that the plan and a countywide organization is the way to go."
Ford offered a tentative timeline on Tuesday that called for the establishment of the new authority and dissolving the current authority within a year, though officials said it could take longer than that.
Starting this week, AATA is holding additional meetings with local and county officials.
The scenario Ford presented on Tuesday would spread representation on a new board among communities throughout the county based on population and geography. Under that plan, Ann Arbor had seven representatives; Ypsilanti and Pittsfield Township each had one representative; Ypsilanti Township and Augusta Township each had two and five other outlying regions each had one.
One of the initial points along the timeline is drafting a statement of intent, which would go for a vote before the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners within several months. Following that, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje would appoint the current seven-person board to the new board as Ann Arbor’s representatives. The other regions would then begin appointing representatives.
Benham said municipalities grouped together in the various regions would collectively decide how to appoint a representative to the board.
If enough municipalities opt to participate in the new authority, it would amend its articles and adopt a millage resolution to go in front of voters, possibly in the Feb. 28, 2012 election. If that millage passed, all AATA assets and liabilities would be transferred to the new authority. If the millage failed, the authority could remain as it is today, or try again.
Benham said he doesn’t yet know what kind of millage would be put in front of voters. Over the next 30 days, officials will be working to develop a list of potential funding sources. A new board would then work to implement the fleshed-out master transit plan and figure out the best way to fund it,, Benham said.
“Clearly the plan needs additional money,” Benham said. “You aren’t going to get double the service with no additional money."
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for annArbor.com. Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.