You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, May 29, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

AATA chairman on regional transit: 'We would like to work with Detroit'

By Ryan J. Stanton

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.


Jesse Bernstein

AATA CEO Michael Ford and Chairman Jesse Bernstein are among hundreds of regional business leaders, politicians and educators on Mackinac Island for the conference.

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 Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Wed, May 30, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

As a taxpayer I want nothing to do with this. It will not benefit Washtenaw County, just suck money out of the county. The same goes for AATA and their transit plan for Washtenaw. That "whoosh" you hear are your tax dollars being sucked out of your pockets.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, May 30, 2012 : 12:07 p.m.

I hope Michael Ford and Jesse Bernstein paid their own way to that joke of conference. That thing has been going on for 31 years with an alleged purpose of: " The Mackinac Policy Conference - the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual event – brings together business and government to re-energize Michigan. Since 1981, the Conference has provided access to Michigan's top business professionals, legislative leaders, corporate CEOs, entrepreneurs and veteran regional champions. " 31 years of "re-energizing" by allowing business leaders and CEO's to rub elbows with politicians in a semi secretive setting. Call me a cynic but the conference has been a colossal failure for the average tax paying citizen.


Wed, May 30, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.'mon now................this is AATA!!

Tex Treeder

Wed, May 30, 2012 : 11:32 a.m.

Ann Arbor taxpayers to AATA chairman: "We do not want to work with Detroit."


Wed, May 30, 2012 : 4:33 a.m.

..... Oh! And by the way, if the state established a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) based on HB5309 and SB909 then this is what Ann Arbor can expect: -- Up to 20% of AATA revenue will be siphoned away for use elsewhere; -- Unilateral operational decisions by the RTA board that will alter (read: reduce) local public transportation services for Ann Arbor citizens, without recourse; -- Unfettered land use within Ann Arbor city limits unrestricted by local ordinances or codes. (It is best for Ann Arbor if you can contact your state representative and state senator about changing the wording or out rightly rejecting the bills.)


Wed, May 30, 2012 : 4:15 a.m.

Federal and state grant dollars are for capital projects like laying track and building railway stations. However, the local municipalities (like Ann Arbor) end up paying for operating expenses and maintenance. That swishing sound that you hear is our millions of tax dollars being sucked away by railway salaries, fuel costs and repairing of rail cars. It is called subsidizing a business model that would otherwise be insolvent. (And all this to transport ten riders from Detroit to Ann Arbor and back again).


Wed, May 30, 2012 : 4:09 a.m.

Yes! The public transit here is ridiculously underdeveloped compared to the population density.

Dog Guy

Wed, May 30, 2012 : 1:17 a.m.

For politicians, the beauty of large-scale public transportation projects is that immense amounts of tax money may evaporate without result or tracking. Few are bothered by the failures because all that most folks want from public transportation is to get some other drivers off the road.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 11:08 p.m.

Go ahead and keep suggesting we "work with Detroit" That will kill your dreams quicker than anything!

Ron Granger

Tue, May 29, 2012 : 10:38 p.m.

Now Ann Arbor taxpayers can subsidize Detroit's bus system. As a bonus, the connected bus systems can bring Detroit's crime statistics to our doorsteps.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 10:54 p.m.

Bernstein says: "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 why are we wasting all of this money on consultants putting this County-wide boondoggle together?


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 9:46 p.m.

"Detroit is the largest metropolitan area in the country without a transit plan" When was Detroit ever run by something other than Democrats? This is what you get.


Wed, May 30, 2012 : 2:04 a.m.

Billy Bob- There are many ways to say "This is what happens when everybody gets their way," which is another way of saying there hasn't been another side to say "no" - only one side competing for as many "yeses" as they can get.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Tue, May 29, 2012 : 11:57 p.m.

Navy...You are kidding, yes? "This is what you get." Sounds like a party blurb to me.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 10:50 p.m.

Perhaps xmo is suggesting that a little bipartisanship might do Detroit some good.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 10:36 p.m.

Ann Arbor, with its high quality transit plan, is also run by Democrats. So your comment is just stupid and partisan.