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Posted on Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 4:02 p.m.

Public Transportation Agreement will benefit all in Washtenaw County

By Guest Column

The Ann Arbor City Council is holding a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Monday to gather input on the proposed process to develop new transit services in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. I encourage residents to attend this meeting or contact their council member to voice their opinion.

Nearly two years ago, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, also known as TheRide, began leading the development of a countywide transportation plan to help meet our region’s long term economic and quality-of-life needs.

The creation of the Transit Master Plan included more than a year of research, planning and public discussion and involved more than 1,200 people and 70 public meetings throughout the county. The goal was to ensure that this plan would take every community’s needs into account. Now it is time to decide whether discussions about how to implement the collective vision of the Transit Master Plan should continue.


Michael Ford is the chief executive officer of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.

Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti must now consider whether to join Washtenaw County and TheRide in a Public Transportation Agreement that will set a fair, transparent and efficient process for creating a new countywide transit authority. If all provisions of the agreement are met, the new authority would eventually be responsible for serving the transit needs of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and all of Washtenaw County. Before each entity votes on the agreement, it’s important to understand what it does and does not do.

First, the Public Transportation Agreement protects Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti from losing any existing service if a countywide transit agency is created. Ann Arbor’s existing public transportation millage will continue to fund service in Ann Arbor. Ypsilanti’s transportation millage will fund service in Ypsilanti. Any additional voter approved funding would be used to enhance existing services while also helping to bring more workers into our region’s job centers and expanding mobility for seniors and people with disabilities.

Second, the agreement identifies the conditions that must be met before a countywide authority is incorporated. Most importantly, the new countywide transit authority will not operate or be funded until a funding request is approved by voters and the remaining conditions are met.

Third, if a new countywide transit authority is formed, the agreement ensures Ann Arbor will maintain significant control of the authority. Ann Arbor would have five more board members than the next largest district and six more board members than all other districts.

Finally, the agreement makes clear that all communities have the opportunity to opt out of the countywide transit authority. Opt-out communities would not be required to pay for or receive transit services from the new authority.

Currently, TheRide provides more than 6 million passenger trips each year - mainly in the urban areas of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. That equals about 32 people riding a bus for every hour of service provided. While Ann Arbor has adequate service and Ypsilanti has a minimum level of service within their borders, transportation needs are not dictated by political boundaries.

As it stands, about 40 percent of Washtenaw County’s population has no access whatsoever to regular public transportation. Our population is aging, transportation preferences are changing, gas prices will continue to increase. If we do not act now to begin meeting these needs, the lack of regional transportation connections will pose a serious challenge to our future success as a county. By joining TheRide in a Public Transportation Agreement, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County will be taking a much needed step towards securing the future economic, social and environmental well being of our region.

To for the most accurate and up to date information about the Public Transportation Agreement, visit or call 734.272.9791.

Michael Ford is the chief executive officer of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.



Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.

I find the third point especially troubling. Why should the conglomerate ofmunicipality's out side of Ann arbor be happy when AAT a suggests They will dominate the planning and operation of thsystem to ensure It remains Ann Arbor centric. Why should I vote to allow my taxes to predominately find Ann Arbor'S needs? Ann Arbor is not the nexus for all things important. II for one will not support this effort, nor should any one in Western Washtenaw County.

Steve Hendel

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

Wake up! Ann Arbor taxpayers subsidize township residents, not the other way around; that's one reason township taxes are generally lower than Ann Arbor levies. Example: we all pay the same County tax rate, but townships which contract with the County for police services receive a discounted rate from full cost; those that do NOT contract still receive some service from the County (Sheriff), as well as the State Police. Another big subsidy: the City's Purchase of Development Rights program, which benefits PRIMARILY township residents by protecting them from development and preserving their rural/agricultural lifestyle.

Karen Sidney

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

Let's be very clear what is in the agreement before Council. The agreement obligates the city to transfer the present tax millage to a new county transportation authority. It further requires that the assets of the AATA, our buses, the bus station etc be turned over to this transportation authority. The city will have representatives on the board of the transportation authority, but only a minority representation. The agreement is written like the sale of a property, the city is required to do these things after contingencies are removed. Let's also be clear what the agreement does not do. It does not guarantee that the current level of service in the city of Ann Arbor will be maintained. It does not guarantee that the present Ann arbor millage will be spent in the city of Ann Arbor. Perhaps the most significant problem is that the agreement does not provide a means for Ann Arbor to withdraw, with a return of the millage and assets, if the county transportation authority proves unsatisfactory to the citizens of Ann Arbor. It is important that our Council members allow a city vote on the transfer of our millage. Not just a vote under the conditions where it is required by the state constitution, but a vote under any ,before they authorize the transfer the millage (and assets) that the citizens voted to pay for a city bus service, not a county one.


Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

If rider fares can't support service, why should taxpayers? Really, there are no needs, I repeat, no needs in our township that are not currently being met. If there were, someone would be providing it. There is simply no need for this service out here in the country that would even remotely justify taxpayer support. This is one of the reasons taxpayers are so angry at government that continues to promote non-sensical programs that only add to our tax burden.

Steve Hendel

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

If, under the 'new regime,' services to Ann Arbor residents will be only preserved, then why will they be paying an extra 1 mill? Could it be because: (1) the cost of maintaining, let alone improving, service to Ypsilanti exceeds the amount raised by Ypsi's 1- mill levy? I ask only because there is a history of the Ann Arbor levy partially subsidizing Ypsi service. (2) the cost of extending service to out-county areas exceeds what would be raised by the 1-mill additional levy? It is true that there was an extensive program of: The creation of "...research, planning and public discussion and involved more than 1,200 people and 70 public meetings throughout the county." However, from reading the newspaper accounts of these meetings and discussions, I gathered that their main purpose was to accumulate County-wide wish lists of the transit services people would like with minimal if any reference to the cost of those services; it was thus preordained, as I am sure the AATA (pardon me, The Ride) and it's consultants knew, that the highest-cost options would emerge as the 'people's choice.'


Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 12:16 a.m.

"That equals about 32 people riding a bus for every hour of service provided" Has anyone ever seen 32 people on a bus on the west side? "Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital." "figures to lie liars figure" "There are two kinds of statistics: the kind you look up and the kind you make up" "Definition of Statistics: The science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures."


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 11:32 p.m.

What a joke Again. ...another column riddled with self interest This is all about empire building and wasting tax money


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 11:10 p.m.

I like the idea of helping develop a broader transit system. I think this needs further consideration. I am not sure that people in other parts of the county are that interested in public transportation, has there been an adequate study to assess interest? I am not able to ride the bus and get where I need/want to go, but I can see the advantages as well as convenience for those without cars.


Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 9:14 p.m.

My frustration is that while we are being asked for the money, I have no information on how my area in Western Washtenaw will be served. I am not aware of any potential schedules.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 3:06 a.m.

There is a survey that has been conducted recently (also there was one over a year ago, a bit lukewarm). They are releasing the results in March.

Tex Treeder

Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 10:59 p.m.

Why the assumption that we have to build a high speed rail connection as part of an overall plan? This is part of the nonsense that real estate developers and many politicians try to ram down our throats, that "development is good: It increases the tax base." Development for its own sake is not good. I like my city the size it is. I don't feel a need to artificially stimulate growth.


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 10:49 p.m.

"Public Transportation Agreement will benefit all in Washtenaw County" but mostly Mr. Ford's pocketbook, because he will run a larger organization, so he will get a bigger paycheck, and so will his deputies. This plan does little for the rural parts of the county, infrequent buses, on major streets only. It does little to help people who need to get to jobs, because in reality, the frequency of buses will end up being less, since the is no promise of a Federal match for the higher operating costs, and the Federal money may or may not be there with the budget cutting in Washington. Raising fares to cover the cost of the service would mean a 5 times higher price for each bus ride (currently the tax and other funds that are not fares, cover 84% of the cost of the service). Wrong answer...very wrong answer.


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 10:46 p.m.

Mr Ford is getting good with his propaganda releases. Well maybe not good but persistent. He sure is out to protect his cash cow!

Vivienne Armentrout

Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 10:29 p.m.

Mr. Ford is a very effective spokesman and has made it his policy to provide transparency to the public through this process. I especially appreciate the access that I have enjoyed as a blogger and a member of the public to committee meetings and documents. AATA staff have also been extremely cooperative and pleasant in providing materials. That said, a few things are glossed over here. One is that, while bus transit is usually what is being discussed (and I thoroughly agree with the sentiments on connectivity and support an expanded bus network, if funded at least in part countywide), two major components of the Transit Master Plan are commuter rail and &quot;high-capacity connectors&quot; (which may be rail, bus rapid transit, or other high-tech solutions). I've summarized some of the costs in a blog post. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The current plan (still under review) calls for 66% of capital spending and 36% of operating funds to go to those two items. (The connectors are Plymouth Road-State Street, to serve the UM, and Jackson-Washtenaw, from Wagoner Road to the water tower in Ypsilanti.) These are less about the county's people and more about business development.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

Sorry, that should have been the intersection of Jackson and Wagner.

Richard Wickboldt

Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 9:45 p.m.

I have already told my council persons (ward 1) to vote down this plan for now. The following is a part of my communication to them: As to the county wide transit authority and system. Sure would be nice for such a type of system. However we should not be taking the lead here. We have a very fine transit/bus system in AA and paid by our taxes. Let some other entity take on the lead and get other townships to pass their tax and commitment first. Then once we see there is a real need and commitment; we can decide to hand over our tax money. The decision should be a ballot vote!

Alan Goldsmith

Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 9:36 p.m.

The guy with the private vehicle allowance tells us about how we need buses. Lol.


Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

Say what? What ever happen to &quot;practice what you preach!&quot;


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

First off, I ride my bike daily, year round or use AATA when the streets are too bad to ride. Second, the AATA is very good at what they do. But, I live in AA and pay my millage to support the AATA and wonder why I should have to support this move toward county wide service. I think we have the cart before the horse. We first need to get a county wide millage passed before the AATA starts using AA tax dollars to plan the county wide plan. I am sure that this millage would not pass as its almost impossible to get townships to tax themselves for police protection. We need to continue the dialog with the cities around AA but I don't want to pay for FTE's to plan a service that out county residents do not want to pay for.


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 11:59 p.m.

No man is an island.

Tex Treeder

Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

Couldn't agree more. Although I only ride my bike to work late spring through early fall.