AATA conducting survey to gauge interest in expanding transit service in Washtenaw County with new tax
Ann Arbor Transportation Authority officials today announced plans to conduct a community survey to gauge interest in expanding transit services throughout Washtenaw County - possibly with a new countywide millage to go before voters.
Local transportation officials have been discussing the option of layering a countywide 1-mill property tax on top of the current 2-mill tax residents in Ann Arbor pay for AATA services. Other areas of the county, such as Ypsilanti, currently contract for AATA services through purchase agreements that are starting to become a burden on their budgets.
"We need to move in a direction where we can have expanded transit that reduces the burden on the local governments and provides a regional growth engine for jobs," said David Nacht, chairman of AATA's governing board. "And I am optimistic that as people view transit through the lens of economic opportunity, in their own self-interest, they will have a positive outlook toward the growth of transit."
AATA is turning to the team of CJI Research and Triad Research Group, which specializes in transit and tax surveys, to conduct a telephone survey of 1,100 registered voters in Washtenaw County. The results will be available Nov. 5.
The survey will provide AATA with feedback from residents countywide, as well a breakdown of input from specific geographic areas. There have been talks of going to voters with a millage proposal next year, but no decisions have been made yet.
"There really is no proposal at this time," said AATA spokeswoman Mary Stasiak. "We've been asked to expand countywide by many community leaders, and right now our board is just trying to look at evaluating the attitudes of the community."
Stasiak said a 1-mill tax would raise about $15.5 million a year in Washtenaw County, which would significantly expand transit services. She said it's premature to discuss details, though.
Stasiak said a $40,000 federal grant is paying for the costs of conducting the survey. She said Livingston County is doing a similar survey as well.
Nacht acknowledged it's a lousy time to ask anyone to reach into their pocketbook, but the current economic conditions are a good reason to talk about transit.
"What we have to do as a community is say, 'What is the best way to make sure that the broader Ann Arbor economic area is going to attract and retain employers and keep the value of our homes up and provide jobs?'" Nacht said. "We know that Google came to Ann Arbor citing the AATA's service as a reason. I firmly believe that the future economic health of our community depends upon expanding transit throughout the county."
Today, AATA also announced a $55,825 marketing campaign aimed at boosting the agency's image and conveying the benefit of its services to the community. Officials said a survey done by the agency in 2006 indicated a need for such a marketing campaign regardless of whether AATA goes for a millage.
The marketing campaign is being geared to convey the message that public transit is a valuable community asset, and that the community needs to invest in transit to preserve quality of life in Washtenaw County. The target audience of the campaign will be adults age 45 and older.
AATA is hiring the OrangeEgg agency to run the campaign and using Myra Klarman as a photographer. Advertising will be done through print, online, radio, and television media sources, with social media components.
Ryan Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com 734-623-2529.