AATA board officially cuts Link service, approves contract for new park-and-ride
The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's Board of Directors voted tonight to eliminate the Link bus service, but said it would continue discussing ways to provide transit service downtown with the city's Downtown Development Authority.
"The Link service will be stopping because funds from the partners who were providing the funding for that service have stopped," said AATA board chairman David Nacht. "This is a painful and difficult decision because this is a service we really pushed hard and it was closely identified with our agency."
Since 2005, the AATA, DDA and University of Michigan Parking and Transportation Services had a partnership to jointly fund the operation of the Link downtown circulator route, which helped link university students with businesses and other destinations.
The DDA's governing board took action June 3 to discontinue funding for the Link, but indicated it will consider a new downtown transit service in the future. Following the DDA, U-M's Parking and Transportation Services decided not to continue funding the Link and to directly operate bus service between U-M's Central Campus and Oxford student housing to the east.
As a result, the funding and function for the Link no longer exist, AATA officials said.
"My wife's going to be very disappointed," said Ted Annis, an AATA board member. "I've got to go home and tell her now, 'No more purple bus.'"
In other action, the AATA board voted 5-0 to award a $1.14 million contract to D&R Earthmoving of Howell for the construction of a new park-and-ride lot on Plymouth Road. The AATA received construction bids from six companies, and D&R was the lowest bidder, agency leaders said.
AATA officials said the project involves extensive drainage work, a new traffic signal, lighting, signage, and about 245 parking spaces. About $1.5 million is set aside for the project, and board approval would be required before making any changes that would exceed that.
Ypsilanti officials concerned over AATA costs
Ypsilanti officials showed up at tonight's meeting to voice concerns over AATA's rising costs in the city.
S.A. Trudy Swanson-Winston, Ypsilanti's mayor pro-tem, said the city wants to work with the AATA to avoid a 30 percent increase in the city's contractual costs over the next three years. She urged AATA board members to look hard to find some way of lessening the burden.
Michael Bodary, a Ypsilanti City Council member, said he's been looking at the costs of keeping open the Ypsilanti Transit Center, where he says a quarter of the city's police incident calls come from.
"That's too much," he said of the calls, which he says are straining public safety resources in Ypsilanti. "I've had citizens come to me and say maybe it's time we close it."
Peter Murdock, another council member, said Ypsilanti's viewpoint is that survival of the transit system is predicated on development of a regional transit system. AATA officials indicated that's their goal.
"We're a regional economy, and we want to be a regional transit service," Nacht said.
"Let's do it," Murdock responded.
The city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township both have informed the AATA that they will not be able to pay the entire amount of their "purchase of service" agreements next year and beyond, which could lead to service cuts. AATA board members had a proposal before them tonight from CEO Michael Ford to consider using federal stimulus funds allocated to AATA to temporarily avoid service cuts in those municipalities.
Board members decided to hold off on a decision on that resolution, pending more discussion.
Annis said he wants to put a stop to Ann Arbor taxpayers subsidizing transit services in Ypsilanti and elsewhere and find creative cost-cutting solutions. He urged Ypsilanti officials to attend the AATA's next Planning and Development Committee meeting to talk more.