Ann Arbor agrees to Ypsilanti's request for membership in AATA
The city of Ypsilanti's membership in the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is one step closer to becoming official after action taken by the Ann Arbor City Council.
The council voted 10-0 Monday night to approve changes to the articles of incorporation for the AATA, which is being renamed the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority — or AAATA.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said welcoming Ypsilanti into the authority is a way to create a more unified transit system linking the two communities.
"I'm very much in favor of this," he said. "They are our closest partner in so many things, and part of the urban core. I think it's important we recognize this."
The changes give Ypsilanti all rights granted to members of the authority under Act 55, the state law under which Ann Arbor incorporated the city's transit authority in July 1968.
The changes also alter the composition of the authority's governing board, increasing it from seven to nine members — giving Ypsilanti one member appointed by its mayor with concurrence of the Ypsilanti City Council. The other new seat will be an additional Ann Arbor representative.
The new articles of incorporation still need to be acted on by the Ypsilanti City Council and the AATA board. Ypsilanti has specifically requested to become a member of the AATA as local officials look for ways to expand transit services in the county's urban core.
It's possible other communities such as Ypsilanti Township and Pittsfield Township could follow Ypsilanti's lead and join the authority in the future.
When adopted by all parties, the amended articles of incorporation will be filed with the Washtenaw County Clerk's Office and the Michigan Secretary of State.
The proposal voted on at Monday night's meeting was sponsored by Hieftje and Council Members Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, and Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward.
"It is one step that's necessary," Briere said. "This does not address funding. It's only the beginning of the discussion."
Jerry Lax, an attorney for the AATA, said the new articles create a mechanism by which funding for services can occur if voters in both Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti approve it.
Ypsilanti contracts for AATA services through a purchase-of-service agreement right now. Lax said there's interest in enhancing services between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
"This is a first step. It doesn't by itself create new funding, but it does give Ypsilanti a more active role in governance and does create a mechanism where the voters in both jurisdictions can approve additional funding," Lax old council members.
Council Member Chuck Warpehoski, D-5th Ward, was absent.
Kunselman said he's a strong proponent of retaining the AATA as an Act 55 authority — instead of a countywide transit authority organized under Act 196, which was contemplated last year.
He said communities east of Ann Arbor — Ypsilanti included — are responsible for a significant amount of the AATA's ridership, which brings in federal dollars.
"There is a strong connection between the communities to the east — the urban core — and the city of Ann Arbor," he said. "And I think it's important that we give a voice at the table for the communities, particularly the city of Ypsilanti, to at least talk about the needs for service."
Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber said the Ypsilanti City Council is probably looking at putting the articles of incorporation on its June 18 agenda for approval.
"It's not just for Ypsilanti. It's for Ann Arbor, too," he said. "I think what it gives Ann Arbor is what the AATA has been looking for, and that is really making it more of a regional transit authority. This is taking it one piece at a time. I think the city of Ypsilanti's piece goes down easiest." Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.