AATA taking steps toward countywide expansion of transit services
The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is taking steps to become the public transportation provider for all of Washtenaw County.
Under a plan laid out by the agency's treasurer, that could mean a tax decrease for Ann Arbor residents and a tax increase for all other county residents.
At its meeting last week, the agency's Board of Directors adopted resolutions affirming AATA’s commitment to developing a countywide transportation plan and a new vision statement.
AATA bus stop
“Approval of these agreements is a significant step in achieving our long-held goal to implement services countywide," AATA Board Chair Paul Ajegba said in a written statement. "Our vision provides a framework and focus for AATA to reach out to the community and develop a consensus on what transportation services are needed and desired by people throughout the county.”
CEO Michael Ford has recommended AATA reorganize under Act 196 to prepare the transit agency to administer funding for expanded service, including countywide transit service and a portion of commuter rail operating costs.
The AATA is hiring a consultant to get the community involved in creating a vision for that plan and identifying service needs throughout the county.
The AATA recently conducted a survey to gauge interest in expanding transit services throughout the county. It likely will involve going to voters with a request to approve a countywide millage.
A report from AATA Treasurer Ted Annis recommends the agency eliminate the current tax of 2.06 mills Ann Arbor property owners pay and replace it with a countywide tax of 1 mill.
Under the current funding method, AATA operates on a budget of about $25.46 million. That could increase to $33.25 million under a 1-mill county tax method of funding, according to Annis' report.
That's an increase of about $7.8 million. Annis claims another $3.7 million in funds could be freed up through efficiencies and also says the current AATA operating expense level of $104 per bus service hour can be reduced to $84. Annis notes the University of Michigan bus system operates at $55 per hour, and a countywide transit system in Bay County operates at $85 per bus service hour.
Annis' report also recommends separating WALLY - a north-south rail system proposed between Washtenaw and Livingston counties -Â from the expansion plan and handling its funding separately.
Ajegba said AATA wants Washtenaw County to get the biggest return possible on its investment in an expanded public transportation system.
“Whether people use public transportation or not, everyone benefits from its presence in the community," he said. "Homeowners are able to retain value in their properties, business owners benefit when public transportation brings customers and employees to their locations, seniors and individuals with disabilities can enjoy increased mobility and parents can count on transit for a safe ride for their children.”
The AATA is seeking advice from other Michigan transit systems that have operated as Act 196 authorities. A public discussion on the topic will be held at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at AATA’s main offices, 2700 South Industrial Highway.
The AATA was chartered in 1969 by the city of Ann Arbor as a special-purpose unit of government. It's supported through local, state and federal funds and fare box revenues.
The service currently operates 27 public transit routes, paratransit services and carpool-vanpool matching, as well as other transit services throughout urban areas of the county.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529.