AATA chairman on regional transit: 'We would like to work with Detroit'
MACKINAC ISLAND — U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Hansen Clarke, both Democrats from Michigan, are expected to take the stage tonight at the Mackinac Policy Conference to discuss transit funding, urban core development and Michigan's status as a donor state.
Ann Arbor Transportation Authority officials are on hand for the event hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber and say they look forward to those talks, which come as the AATA continues to push ahead with plans to form a new countywide transit authority.
Meanwhile, talks continue about forming a regional transit authority for Southeast Michigan, including Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
They'll miss the chance to talk to state lawmakers since the Legislature is in session this week, but they're looking forward to networking with others interested in transit.
"We hope to meet some of the folks from the transit services in the other three counties so we can get to know them, and whatever happens in Lansing, we want to work closely with them and coordinate service," Bernstein said as the conference kicked off Tuesday.
Bernstein said if that involves working together on a broader RTA, "that would be great," but for now the AATA is moving ahead with forming a countywide authority.
"We think we've been doing pretty well in Washtenaw County with AATA and we want to continue that and find a way to work cooperatively with the others," he said. "We would like to work with Detroit, but we also don't want to lose control of our transit, so that's why we're here, to talk with everybody and come up with a plan that works for them and works for us."
The cities of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor are working out the details of the articles of incorporation for a new countywide authority before they go to the county board for approval.
If an RTA is approved, "we're ready to move in that direction," Bernstein said. And if for some reason neither an RTA or a countywide authority pan out, he said, the AATA will figure out a way to expand transit services under the current governance model.
"So I think we're in good shape to respond to whatever might happen politically," he said.
As for Michigan being a donor state, Bernstein believes Southeast Michigan's ability to show a viable transit plan will help change that.
"If we can show a viable transit plan, considering Detroit is the largest metropolitan area in the country without a transit plan, I think we can get more federal dollars," he said. "And I think certainly folks in Washington have to recognize we are a donor state and we should get some of that back. Transit alone won't balance it, but it will help."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.