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Posted on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 5:25 p.m.

AATA hoping to complete plan for expanded transit in Washtenaw County's urban core by April

By Ryan J. Stanton

Now that a countywide expansion of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has been halted, work has begun on a new strategy for expanding transit services in the county's urban core.

In a new written report to the AATA's governing board, AATA CEO Michael Ford said he has followed the Ann Arbor City Council's directive and engaged in discussions about an expanded transit network with leaders from Washtenaw County's urban core communities.

Ford said the urban core footprint includes the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline, and the townships of Ann Arbor, Pittsfield and Ypsilanti.


The AATA is looking to expand transit services in the county's urban core, but funding and governance issues still need to be worked out.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Meetings have taken place with representatives from each of those communities, Ford said, and discussions have centered on the transit needs and expectations of the involved communities.

"The plan will address service, governance and funding and our target for completion is April 2013," he said. "We are currently focused on the development of a service cost and evaluation model."

Ford said a review process has been designed to ensure the AATA board and local elected officials are kept closely informed at each step along the way. Any needed clarifications and refinements will be made before passing the plan on to the city of Ann Arbor for review, he said.

Ford mentioned in his report to the board he also met with representatives from the village of Dexter and the Western-Washtenaw Area Value Express to discuss transit needs. Although they're not included in the urban core footprint, the AATA wants to keep the lines of communication open with neighboring communities and service providers as a new program is developed.

AATA officials haven't yet released specifics for how the expanded urban core transit services would be funded, but one option is that jurisdictions where new services are added could pay for the services through purchase-of-service agreements with the AATA. It's still unclear whether specific communities might levy special millages to come up with the additional funding.

Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber said another idea being considered is the formation of a new transit authority for eastern Washtenaw County — including Ypsilanti, and Pittsfield and Ypsilanti townships — and having that authority levy a millage and partner with the AATA to provide services.

"I don't know how it's going to shake out," he said. "There are a number of different options. This all has to do with revenue. In the city of Ypsilanti, our current charter millage does not cover the payment even for the current service we're getting, let alone an increase in service."

Eastern Washtenaw communities already pay for services from the AATA through purchase-of-service agreements, which some view as a less stable model since it leaves the continuation of services subject to the whims of future elected officials in each community.

"We need to have something that is a permanent source of funding for transportation so that one act from one unit of government can't mess up the whole transportation system," Schreiber said.

If the solution happens to be establishing a new transit authority, Schreiber said he'd gladly welcome any other communities beyond eastern Washtenaw that want to join.

"One of the challenges is figuring out what that millage amount would be," he said. "I would expect it would be less than half a mill."

Schreiber noted Ypsilanti already is at the state constitutional limit for millages for general operations, so it can't increase its transit levy. He said he's not counting on the formation of a Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority to be the solution for his community.

"I think we need to get something done this year, and we have to just assume that the RTA is not going to help us out right now," he said.


The footprint of a new Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor takes shape along Fifth Avenue on Thursday.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The AATA board meets at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 17 inside the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave., in downtown Ann Arbor.

The board is expected to vote on a 2013-2017 capital and categorical grant program that includes $43.5 million in spending over five years.

That includes $10.4 million in spending this year, $7.3 million of which is federal formula funding, $1.4 million of which is other federal funding and $1.7 million of which is state funding.

The single-biggest expense item shown the plan comes in 2015 when $12.35 million is scheduled for replacement of large AATA buses.

The plan also shows $625,000 this year for the purchase of vans for the AATA's expanding vanpool program, plus another $550,000 each year from 2014 to 2017 for more vans.

The report also shows $1.3 million for replacement of large buses this year, plus $1.3 million for expanded bus services this year.

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.



Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:46 p.m.

I am glad to see that the AATA is planning to revamp their efforts to expand the breadth of the transit programs for Washtenaw county. I would hope that funding remains a major concern but that the costs are not valued over quality of service. As a student in Ann Arbor without a car,I depend on the bus to get around, but at the same time I am conscious of the economic impacts of large-scale public transport, because a well-implemented plan would meet the transportation needs of those who rely on public transit. The idea that the AATA will garner the support from townships willing to fully fund and support a new plan would definitely be best, and work with those who previously opted out and develop a plan they would actually support. Expanded public transit is important, but it is only effective if there are enough people willing to use it.

Shoham Geva

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

Despite all the negativity and problems about funding, it's hard to ignore the fact that there's a very real population within and around Ann Arbor that doesn't have options beyond public transit. This includes socioeconomically disadvantaged adults, the differently abled population, a lot of teenagers, and a fair amount of senior citizens. There are benefits to giving these groups mobility, and as a teenager myself who relies on AATA to be able to take advantage of many of the resources in our community (the university, the neutral zone, and the community foundation to name a few), I'm pretty grateful that such a system exists. In general, Ann Arbor has a lot of great resources and is in itself a great resource; it's a shame that people were prevented from using them just because they don't have transportation options. Providing those options are not necessarily Ann Arbor's responsibility, but you can't deny both the need of the affected populations and Ann Arbor's relatively well off position in our region.

Shoham Geva

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

I'm glad AATA has continued in their efforts to expand transit options. There are still many demographics in and around Ann Arbor that have low to no mobility, and this is a great step towards expanding their transit option, as well as perhaps quelling some of negative sentiments attached to the budgeting of the countywide transit plan.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

Lack of affordable parking options is the primary reason why many in Ypsi ride the bus to Ann Arbor. The employers in Ann Arbor should pay the majority of the costs associated with bus service or move their businesses to communities that have ample free parking.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

Ypsilanti Township should not be included in the expensive AATA system. The Township Board should not waste any more money on a plan that is obviously designed to subsidize a bus system that is too costly for the two cities that it primarily services. If the City of Ypsilanti can't afford their current bus service, then AATA should focus on providing less expensive service. Stop wasting taxpayer dollars.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

And....still no bus service for well-populated settlements like the area south of 94 on Whitaker, Schooner Cove, or vast parts of the areas along Michigan Ave between Platt and 94...

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.

FYI - I'm told the "urban core footprint" also includes Ypsi Township, and have added them to the third paragraph of the story.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 10:21 p.m.

Thanks Ryan for that clarification. Looking at the comments it appears that some just want to limit expanded public transportation at all costs; even if neighboring areas outside of the Ann Arbor code wants them and have current ridership to support the expansion.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

Good lord, what part of NO does AATA not understand? Here we go again, AATA is over 80% subsidized with operational losses of over 24,000,000 dollars a year. I see allot of mostly empty busses running around Ann Arbor every day. Does razing AATA's downtown station which is in good condition and completely operational make sense? No, it doesn't, but AATA wants a new one and they don't care what it will cost taxpayers. Fiscal responsibility and operational efficiency are severely lacking within AATA's mode of operation. AATA's mad push to expand the scope of its operation at any cost is disturbing and irresponsible.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.

Ann Arbor Voters should have been allowed to vote on the AATA expansion before it ever began, and before it overwhelmingly failed. And we are again, with the AATA agenda being expanded quietly to other communities. AATA obviously has too much money, if they are constantly planning expansions. Oh wait - they operate in the red. They have no money. Who is in charge of these constantly attempted expansions and how do taxpayers reign in the spending?


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

Why didn't the county wide plan that was rejected already contain all the information needed for this much more limited attempt? This is a sure sign of incompetence in the exisiting management. More studies and more wassted tax dollras.

Jack Eaton

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

It is good to see that the AATA will focus on areas that are willing to provide financial support for transit service. All forms of transportation (roads, bridges, buses, rail and air) require significant subsidies from government. Expanded transit will require voter approval of additional taxes. Ann Arbor residents pay a 2 mill transit tax. Ypsilanti residents pay a one mill transit tax, which, as their Mayor admits, does not cover the cost of the current transit service in that town. AATA needs to find a way for the new service area to contribute sufficient funding for the planned service. I hope AATA does not expect a millage increase in Ann Arbor before these other communities begin paying a millage as high as ours.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

The taxpayers in the Township are not willing to subsidize Ann Arbor's busses. Under current plans, Ann Arbor and Ypsi City would get buses that stop every 10 minutes at most corners and Ypsi Township would get a 15 person van to drop people off at a bus stop that runs once every 45 minutes and only goes to the Ypsi City Bus depot. There's no way it is equitable even if we only paid 1/50th the millage that AA pays.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 11:47 a.m.

Urban is where most of the people live in relatively high density. Buses are big vehicles designed to transport lots of people. Why did it take a vote from tax payers to force that idea on the people in charge of buses?

Basic Bob

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 8:35 p.m.

@N.Urfe, No citizens of the county were given the opportunity to vote. Our city council members and township trustees did not think it was necessary to place it on the ballot because expansion lacked broad support.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

Didn't some of the communities get to vote not to participate in the AATA expansion? In any case, they did not allow a2 voters to vote on the county wide expansion.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

What vote are you referring to?


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 10:37 a.m.

It seems like everyone wants to levy a special millage and take more of our hard earned money. When is this demand for more taxes going to end?

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

hermhawk, please don't ask us to fund your bus riding in another city. We already subsidize bus ridership within the city. Where does it end? PS - I RIDE the bus.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

I take it you DON'T ride the buses. What about those who do and can't afford a car? Who speaks for them. Are we NOT our brothers keepers.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 3:10 a.m.

I am pro public transit but my impression is that AATA spends like it is a far bigger transit system than it is. Why does the Blake transit center need to be rebuilt? If it's not buses or drivers stop wasting money on it.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

All bus systems do that. Every "executive" that runs a bus system (and that includes project managers, and entry level people), wants to run a larger bus system. And they'll claw, scratch, and fight to get whatever funds they need to do that. Even if it includes passing new taxes and putting government further in the red.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 1:23 a.m.

"Ford mentioned in his report to the board he also met with representatives from the village of Dexter and the Western-Washtenaw Area Value Express to discuss transit needs. Although they're not included in the urban core footprint, the AATA wants to keep the lines of communication open with neighboring communities and service providers as a new program is developed." Oh, they do, do they? They just can't take NO for an answer. How many people do they have working on this now? And yet they don't have the resources to disclose their promotional spending.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 1:21 a.m.

The AATA is refusing to disclose how much taxpayer they spent forcing the failed issue of the countywide transit expansion. THEY NEED TO COME CLEAN! And now they're rushing to spend more money.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

Sumi Kailasapathy is the new Council Member from the First Ward.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

Thanks, Vivienne. I know a2politico was trying to obtain the information but was constrained by the high cost of the FOIA charge. Who or what is CM Kailasapathy? If the details are available, someone needs to write an article and get it out there. I'll take a look at your blog entries.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 2:11 a.m.

That is known because of a request from CM Kailasapathy. The numbers are roughly $1.5 million total, $0.5 million local money. I recently did a blog series on the recent history of the AATA. I need to pick up the continuation. Here are the recent posts:


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

Point of Service Agreements (POSA) are the most efficient and flexible means of providing limited service to outlying areas. Each individual route can have a POSA which can be terminated after a year or extended for another year if demand along the route justifies continuation. New routes can be added at any time and adjusted as necessary during the contract period. With limited funds the AATA must be careful not to lock itself into transportation arrangements which have mostly empty buses traveling all over the county.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

Seems like they already have transportation to get to the buses, therefore no need for the Township to spend millions subsidizing intercity bus routes.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 6:10 a.m.

Ypsilanti Township has one of the HIGHEST ridership's on the AATA routes, outside of Ann Arbor. Did you know that Veracity? Probably not!

Dog Guy

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 12:12 a.m.

As in Warner Brothers cartoons, "A new plot . . . and this one's surefire!" (Unless firearm metaphors violate the guidelines.)


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 11:07 p.m.

Glad to read the AATA is not given up their plans to expand public transportation in Washtenaw County's urban core. I read another article on that Ypsilanti Township will soon market public land-space near Huron/Whittaker Roads. Considering that Ypsilanti Public Library in the Township is out that way, the retail strip mall in the area could use the revenue gained by public transit bus service and could spark additional retail growth in this area, I hope the AATA will consider adding a route on Huron/Whittaker in their urban core transit expansion plans.


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

The township is not an urban core and should not be forced to pay for the busses between Ann Arbor and the City of Ypsilanti. It is too cost prohibitive to have bus routes through the cornfields. If we needed bus service, we wouldn't have chosen to buy homes in the Township. Most homeowners chose the Township because of low taxes. Let's keep it that way and not make a committment to pay for high priced bus service that will benefit only a few.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

There's lot of people who live in the unserved area of Ypsi Twp who cannot get to jobs or school from that area due to the criminal lack of any kind of bus services. Imagine if all these people...many of them younger and students...could contribute to the area economically by being able to get out of the house.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 6:08 a.m.

Veracity, Do you LIVE in Ypsilanti Township? As for "adding more routes" it was a route on Whittaker/Huron in the past that received decent ridership before the retail strip mall was developed in this area. The Federal Grant that supported the transit out this way was depleted and the route was eliminated. Nothing this, what makes you believe --on your own accord mind you-- that residents in the Southeastern side of Ypsilanti Township don't desire Public Transportation options? Have you polled all of these residents or conducted a survey?


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

Can you provide demand figures to justify expanding transportation and establishing new routes? I have not even seen usage figures for present routes. Ridership is subsidized as it is and spreading our limited resources may be wasteful if few passengers travel on the routes. Point of Service Agreements (POSA) is the most efficient way of providing transportation services to outlying areas and maintaining flexibility as well.