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Posted on Tue, Oct 26, 2010 : 9:48 a.m.

AATA needs everybody's input on developing master plan

By Guest Column

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (TheRide) is in the middle of 20 critically important public meetings that are being held across Washtenaw County throughout the month of October. These meetings will go a long way in developing a first-ever comprehensive Transit Master Plan - an initiative we’re calling Moving You Forward - which will help Washtenaw County meet its needs today and three decades from now.

With a little less than a week left to go in October, now is the time to make sure your voice is heard as TheRide aggressively seeks community feedback and input on how best to fashion a long-term transit plan that pays special attention to future economic growth, protecting the environment and public health, and assuring a high quality of life for all county residents.

The meetings are designed to gather clear insights on what residents throughout the 720-square-mile county want their local communities to look like in 30 years and how public transit options can best help transform those visions into reality.

For a variety of reasons it simply makes sense for citizens - including those who don’t take advantage of public transit options - to proactively get involved by attending and participating in one of these public meetings that are being held at various times and at convenient locations throughout the month.

Let’s start with traffic congestion. Washtenaw County is home to about 350,000 residents and its population is expected to grow by 38 percent over the next two decades. Further, those over age 65 now make up 10 percent of the county population and the senior population is expected to mushroom by 162 percent in Washtenaw County townships by 2020.

Without a well thought out public transit plan that growth could serve to further add to congestion and traffic delays (think U.S. 23 during rush hour but on local roads), a dearth of parking spots, a loss of green spaces and declining air quality, and mounting headaches and frustration for commuters.

AATA has been the area’s leading public transit entity for more than 40 years. Manchester Senior Services, WAVE and People’s Express have also helped fill the need for public transportation. But the fact is that Washtenaw County lacks a comprehensive transit system that connects all of our communities together. This patchwork approach has left many areas of the county with no public transit access at all - even to seniors and those with disabilities.

The Moving You Forward Transit Master Plan aims to help resolve this situation. By early next year - after more than 60 public meetings, hundreds of one-on-one interviews and an unprecedented community outreach effort - the Transit Master Plan will be released and will serve as the blueprint for the future of the entire county. The focus will then immediately shift to identifying the necessary steps to make the plan a reality.

We encourage all Washtenaw County residents, business owners, government leaders, students, commuters and all other stakeholders to visit to find a public meeting in their area. For those who cannot attend a meeting, the website has a Transit Master Plan game that will allow residents an interactive option for providing feedback on the future of transit for our area.

Whether in-person or online, it’s our county, our future and we need everyone to get involved. Michael Ford is the chief executive office of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.



Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 10:57 a.m.

The problem with Michigan transit is the lack of a regional planning authority with power granted by the state constitution. Mass transit should be planned by an expert team who present their best plan and ask for feedback. That is a far different dynamic then endless public meetings asking those who show up to provide useful elements of a plan. Often our transit leaders are focused on buses or some element with little understanding of how to create a sustainable master plan or even who the core ridership should be. If youre talking about freeway traffic, then you want to attract those who drive to work every day and can chose mass transit or not. Other states call those choice riders, which rankles some who mistake the word choice for preferred riders, which is wrong. Those who show up to these meetings are often the opposite the handicapped, homeless, activists, pensioners and other needy who demand more benefits funded by others to support their lifestyles. While such people do have legitimate needs, their demands must be put in perspective since they will never form the bedrock of a viable taxpayer funded amenity transit system. We need the vibrant working tax payers who will support the system at the ballot box with their wallets. For example, do you think that either gubernatorial candidate understands that subway type light or rapid rail systems are regional amenities and never become stand alone profitable enterprises? Then why do other states have and expand them? Because they support healthy regional growth patterns that more then justify the cost! Then there is the shadow of SEMCOG, the auto industrys sales model for Michigan and our elderly Senators who have uniquely failed to move state transit ahead for the last 40 years as others have prospered. So how to we get past the public meeting dance and move on to something real? A. support a constitutional convention so we can create mechanisms that will support real mass transit (without that, regional transit is all but dead here); B. Demand legitimate, successful, experienced regional mass transit leadership teams and reject posers who work from the inside to push their failed areas of experience, such as buses; C. Recognize that choice riders dont ride cheap, clunky mass transit like bus rapid transit, buses and streetcars except as a small local connector element. D. Drag the our elderly Senators and the auto industry to the table and demand that they publicly state their position on mass transit. If they will work behind the scenes to kill mass transit or anything but buses as they have in the past, we want to know now. E. Community meetings should be as much about regional planning and the FUTURE OF MICHIGANS ECONOMY as mass transit since they are the same issue. We presently rely too much on the well meaning but clueless and THAT NEEDS TO CHANGE!


Wed, Oct 27, 2010 : 8:22 a.m.

If it is a master plan for washtenaw county I don't want AATA involved in anything outside the city limits of Ann Arbor.


Tue, Oct 26, 2010 : 12:39 p.m.

Mr Ford I for one will take you up on your offer, and attend the next meeting at the Mallet's Creek Branch library tonight. You may not like what I have to say, but that's the wonder of our Republic.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Oct 26, 2010 : 12:21 p.m.

Focus on increased service within the current service area (i.e. Ann Arbor, Pittsfield, and Ypsilanti). None of this Ann Arbor tax money paying for buses in Chelsea business.