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 Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

Milan opts out of new transit authority; Dexter vote planned for November

By Amy Biolchini

After a lively discussion, the Milan City Council joined the vast majority of municipalities in Washtenaw County in its 4-3 vote to opt out of a new countywide transportation authority at a recent meeting.

That leaves the village of Dexter and the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti as the remaining three municipalities that have not yet voted on participating in an organization whose creation was initiated by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.

The new authority is all-inclusive unless a municipality votes to opt out, as 21 of the municipalities in the county already have done. Saline and Ypsilanti Township have passed official resolutions expressing their desire to participate in the transit authority.

Milan Mayor Kym Muckler and council members Dominic Hamden, Michael Armitage, Doug Gilson voted against joining the countywide transit authority, while council members Martha Churchill, Brett Moyer and Michael Williams voted for it during the body’s Monday night meeting.

Screen shot 2012-10-31 at 3.47.45 PM.png
Members of AATA were present at the meeting, including CEO Michael Ford.

Benjamin Swayze, administrator for the city of Milan, said all of the council members voiced their support for countywide transit. However, the consensus among the four members who voted against joining the new Washtenaw Ride authority was that the plan provided by AATA was lacking details.

As most of the major decisions regarding the footprint of the new authority and the millage rate will not be decided until after the opt out period the AATA has extended to Dec. 12, members of the Milan council were not ready to commit to the unknown, Swayze said.

“If there was more guarantee in the plan, it would have passed,” Swayze said.

After the AATA voted to incorporate the new transit authority in early October, every municipality in Washtenaw County was included in it and had a seat on the new Act 196 board by nature of the articles of incorporation.

Cities and townships were given a 30-day period to communicate to the AATA if they wanted to opt out of the new transit authority, which the AATA has extended to Dec. 12.

The AATA had suggested a proposed tax for participating municipalities of 0.584 mills to fund the new transportation authority. Under that rate, the city of Milan would have contributed about $98,000.

Milan currently does not have a contract for services with the AATA. It previously had a public transportation department, which closed in 2007.

Swayze said Milan may be interested in a contract for transportation services in the future, but the city’s budget currently cannot accommodate the payment without making a cut to another department.

Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti both were members of the four-party agreement to help the AATA form the new transportation authority, and do not have votes planned on their involvement. The Dexter Village Council is planning to vote on whether it wants to stay in the authority at its Nov. 12 meeting.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


John S. Armbruster

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

What I find disturbing is that three members of the Milan City Council could even consider supporting this disaster. Time for them to move on. They do not represent the opinion of those Milan citizens in Washtenaw County.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

Haaaa! Another Hieftjeite Boondoggle about to bite the dust! Michael Ford should have footprints on his backside ALL the way to the city limits, carpet bag in hand! Maybe there is some sense left in this town, after all.

Patricia Lesko

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

As @Vivienne Armentrout points out, the Mayor (whose idea this county-wide transit debacle it was) and the AATA Board members (whom Hieftje appointed) had no plan for the probability that virtually the entire county would opt out of their pie-in-the-sky transit scheme shows just how out of touch they are (and have been) with reality. The Pittsfield politico who questioned why Pittsfield taxpayers should be asked to pay for AATA shuttles to Canton was on the money! The withdrawal of almost the entire county from this scheme is a political disaster. AATA's Board has frittered away millions of dollars on consultants, staff time and advertising (print, radio and tv) to try to sell the Mayor's Edsel. For the past 24 months Ann Arbor residents running for Council, speaking at public hearings and meetings, certain City Council members (Lumm and Anglin) and local political activists have pointed out that residents want better LOCAL bus service, not county-wide service. Hieftje and his political supporters have been obstructionists to improved local transit. They have attacked local transit by siphoning off precious alternative transit dollars to pay for studies and consultants relating to the Intermodal/Interplanetary/Parking Tower/Train Station to nowhere. Council members up for re-election in 2013 who refuse to vote to withdraw the city from this morass will suffer serious political backlash come the August 2013 primary elections. Perhaps incoming members of City Council (along with the members who have been advocating for local transit all along) will unilaterally replace AATA's Board with members all of whom live in the city, regularly take the bus, and are committed to improving local transit.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

To clarify, I have not myself pointed at Mayor Hieftje as the primary actor in this effort, though he has certainly been supportive and influential in it. The Mayor has, of course, been the primary driver with regard to the commuter train emphasis in the overall plan, for which the money has not yet been found.

Fat Bill

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 2:13 a.m.

Frankly, transit at the county level isn't nearly on a large enough scale. Wake me up when we start talking about regional integrated mass transit. Until we get to that point, we are still on the JV team...

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

Washtenaw County residents may find themselves part of a larger regional transit authority. I've just written a post that updates the information about it. Washtenaw County would join Wayne, Detroit, Oakland, and Macomb. Originally this SE Metro authority did not include Washtenaw, but BOC chair Conan Smith persuaded the BOC to vote to join, and his wife Rebekkah Warren introduced the bill in the Senate.

Eat Local A2

Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 1:13 a.m.

From AATA's own website: "The Ride: Moving You FORWARD". We're supposed to just get on the bandwagon, and be 'taken for a ride', and we'll be moved 'forward'. You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

If Saline is part of this venture, look out. The roving bands of delinquent youth out there, many of them crudely tattooed, can now just climb on a bus and come terrorize Ann Arbor, too. Can the cops just meet all the Saline buses with drug dogs?

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

I have calculated that the new tax will have to be 1 mill in order to support the services proposed for the urban area. That does not include any special service to Saline. My calculations do not include the Village of Dexter. There is a budget gap for the entire 5-year plan of $33 million, but only about 85% of that is allocated to the urban area. This means that Ann Arbor will be paying a total 3 mills, Ypsilanti City 2 mills, and Ypsilanti Township and Saline City 1 mill.

Widow Wadman

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.

Thank you for the calculations. This helps me to understand the practical side of the issue.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

But if the new millage really remains 0.58 mills as stated in the story, the new tax is about $88. Add that to the current $300 you are paying.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 8:52 p.m.

That's easy. If you mean a house with assessed value (taxable value, not SEV) of $150,000, the new tax would be $150. You are already paying just a little over 2 mills, or $300. So the total tax under the new authority would be $450. If you mean market value of $150,000, the amounts would be half of what I said above.

Widow Wadman

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

Ms. Armentrout, do you know what the current tax is in Ann Arbor that supports the AATA and how much additional the new tax would be for someone owning say a $150,000 home? You seem to be able to calculate.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

"The real question is whether anyone will be held accountable for failing to know the general lack of interest other communities had in this plan. Heads should roll." Yet another instance of borderline incompetence Ann Arbor taxpayers have been forced to endure over the past several years. Mr. Ford and others who tried to railroad this giveaway of millions of dollars of our (i.e Ann Arbor taxpayer) assets should be fired immediately.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 10:29 p.m.

Accountability would involve paying back the thousands of dollars in consultant fees that resulted in this magnificently ill conceived and poorly executed farce.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

After the new Ann Arbor Council takes office in November, I expect they will opt out too.

Jack Eaton

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

The Ann Arbor City Council will likely vote on a resolution to opt out of this plan at its November 19 meeting. That meeting is where the new members of Council will take office. If Ann Arbor, the City of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Saline and the Village of Dexter continue with this plan we will be asked to increase our transportation millage and fares are expected to rise $0.50 per ride to finance it. In exchange, we (Ann Arbor) will transfer all of our current millage, our buses, buildings and transit property over to a new entity. That entity will be one more layer removed from local control than the current AATA, with representatives from the other communities having a say in our local transit service. Whatever the wisdom of the original countywide plan, the failure to get the vast majority of the intended communities to participate suggests that we should pull the plug on this plan. The real question is whether anyone will be held accountable for failing to know the general lack of interest other communities had in this plan. Heads should roll.

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

Ken, you are asking the right questions. AATA was evidently so certain that everything would fall into place, there were no real provisions for dealing with the present situation.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

Will the "New Authority" become involved with POSA's to the opt out Communities similar to what AATA offers or will bus service just be within the 4 Communities that opted in? Secondly, with so many "districts" having opted out and for all intense of purpose ceasing to exist, does this not require that the Articles of Incorporation be re-written? Curiously, the City of Saline is the lone survivor of the District that was representing them, so Saline by default now has direct representation on the Board?

Ron Granger

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

I really wanted Ann Arbor taxpayers to subsidize my roadtrips to Milan for a Roy's BBQ sandwich, and a Big One.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 12:08 p.m.

You forgot the Dairy Barn for a summertime milkshake.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 10:27 p.m.

Ok I confess I got a chuckle out of this one

Widow Wadman

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

What about Lodi Township and the Village of Barton Hills? Would these municipalities be part of the county-wide transportation authority and subject to the proposed tax?

Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

Jack, all opt-outs reported on my map were based either on media reports, reports from people who had attended meetings, or direct calls to township or village offices. I did not attempt to list dates.

Amy Biolchini

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

Good points to raise. Lodi Township and Barton Hills Village have in fact opted out. I've updated the table.

Widow Wadman

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

Okay. I called Lodi Township Hall. The trustees of Lodi Township voted on October 2, 2012 to opt out.

Jack Eaton

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 7:10 p.m.

A comment by Dave Askins on the Ann Arbor Chronicle includes a list of all the opt out communities as of October 22. There, he notes that Lodi Township opted out on October 2. Vivienne Armentrout's blog has visual representations of the communities that opted out. Looking at the opt out areas represented on a map makes you realize just how little buy-in this plan had. Although the map shows that Barton Hills opted out, I have seen no report of the date or details of that decision.

Widow Wadman

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

A little research revealed that the Board of Trustees of Barton Hills Village voted on October 8, 2012 to opt out of the county-wide transportation authority. I couldn't find similar information on Lodi Township.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

So basically. the new "county-wide" authority will include the areas serviced now plus Saline and maybe Dexter. And this will cost how much?

Top Cat

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

So Mr. Ford and your fellow empire builders at AATA, how do ya' like them apples ?