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Posted on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.

Washtenaw County seeks applicants for representatives on new Regional Transit Authority Board

By Amy Biolchini

After the lame-duck Republican-led Michigan legislature passed Senate Bill 909 to create a Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority earlier this month, Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Chairman Conan Smith is readying to make two appointments to the new governing board.

The new law includes Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties in the new transportation authority, which will be overseen by a 10-member appointed board.


Conan Smith, chairman of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, is seeking applications for two representatives to serve on the new Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority board.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Each of the four counties will appoint two members, and Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will each appoint an individual to the body.

Chairman Smith is now seeking applications from qualified Washtenaw County residents who wish to serve on the board. Smith’s support of the new RTA has been at odds with Ann Arbor city leadership as well as a narrow majority of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.

Senate Bill 909 enables the new transit authority to implement a bus system on four corridors, including a 47-mile route between downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor’s Blake Transit Center. Stops on that route would include Ypsilanti, Detroit Metro Airport and Dearborn.

The Ann Arbor City Council unanimously passed a resolution Dec. 10 to object Washtenaw County’s inclusion in the new RTA.

The Board of Commissioners had passed a resolution in a 6-4 vote Nov. 7 before the state legislature voted on Senate Bill 909, stating that Washtenaw County should have control of any transportation funding intended for the county and that residents should be able to vote on the county joining.

The concern of the Ann Arbor council is similar to that of some of the members of the county board, in that federal dollars given to both municipalities would first have to pass through the RTA board as a result of the new legislation. For Ann Arbor, that means millions of dollars that help fund the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority would be removed from their immediate control.

The state legislature also has passed Senate Bill 911, which gives the new regional transit authority the power to raise vehicle registration fees in the four-county area to pay for services. Voters would have to approve any funding mechanism for the new authority.

The average cost of passenger vehicle registration in fiscal year 2009-10 was $103. Under Senate Bill 911, registration fees could be raised by a maximum of $1.20 per $1,000 of vehicle value, and could result in $75 million from annual registration revenues that could go to the new RTA. Between $7 and 9 million of that could come from Washtenaw County.

Smith is seeking to name two applicants to the new board, though it appears the city of Ann Arbor and the AATA will continue to lobby to remove Washtenaw County from the new transit authority.

Applicants must be a registered Washtenaw County voter. Washtenaw County employees, elected officials or employees of a public transportation provider are not eligible to be appointed.

Individuals with transportation and land use planning experience, professional transit workers and those with leadership experience will be given preferential consideration.

A cover letter and resume must be submitted by 3 p.m. Friday to Lisa Moutinho, Washtenaw County Management Analyst, by email to

Two to four applicants will be selected by an advisory committee for an interview. Those candidates must be available for an interview either in person or via video conference the morning of Dec. 27.

The advisory committee will host a public interview with the the applicants 8 a.m. Dec. 27 in Room A of the Washtenaw County Learning Resource Center at 4135 Washtenaw Ave. in Ann Arbor.

The committee consists of Smith; County Commissioner Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor; County Commissioner Rolland Sizemore Jr., D-Ypsilanti Township; Ann Arbor Transportation Authority CEO Michael Ford; Principal at Milliken Realty Bill Milliken Jr. and Director of Advocacy and Education at the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living Carolyn Grawi.

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



Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

I commute through Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw on a daily basis. If the transporatation is aimed at reducing my average of 76 miles daily roundtrip and others similarly situated, maybe they should appoint people who are commuting on a daily basis. I know exactly what it will take me to get me out of car, as do the other people who have daily commutes.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

Fresh from his snickering appearance at the City Council meeting where they asked that Ann Arbor withdraw from this fiasco, Conan Smith doing his best to kiss up to Bob Ficano and Rick Snyder. And despite his public outcries, County Commissioner Yousef Rabhi seems on board with this stealing of Washtenaw County 'fee' dollars and loss of local control. His fellow Board members need to keep this in mind when they elect a new Board Chair in 2013 and forget about 'tradition'.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

Watch them add expense to vehicle tabs in Washtenaw, while siphoning all the money to detroit. Where it will actually accomplishing nothing of value. Thanks Conan!

Joseph Welch's Ghost

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

Not good for Washtenaw County. Not good for Ann Arbor.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

The only reason that I can think of that is authority included Washtenaw was because our current transit systems works, people in our region actually use public transportation (and not just because they are carless), and in the region we are leaders (show me another city around the midwest that has good and used bus transportation). The problem is - Metro Detroit is much much larger, much less interested in transit, and has corrupt and ineffective leadership in it's major hub city. This adds no value to Ann Arbor or Washtenaw county, and will just deplete the value AATA has now. The only way to successfully grow transportation in this region be to put a whole lot more money into mass transit (many billions) -or- to start it with Ann Arbor and grow outward from there. Don't start with a dysfunctional and disinterested party to grow success, start with success and grow upon it.

Tom Todd

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 11:45 a.m.

A Sticker for your plate is $30 dollars in Oregon why not here? what a complete rip-off of the tax payers, this is an abomination!


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

Time for conan to pay back his pals....gotta love pork...


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 3:20 a.m.

How about some career politicians?

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 12:30 a.m.

I imagine Conan wishes he could appoint himself to all of the positions.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

His ilkness?

Basic Bob

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 4:46 a.m.

A great time to use "his ilk" in a sentence.

Vivienne Armentrout

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 12:12 a.m.

Blow-by-blow account of passage of the bills posted here, along with some useful links.

Dog Guy

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 12:11 a.m.

Ten years ago I bought a high-miles 1996 van for $2,100. Judging by my registration fee, Michigan claims that it is still worth $22,000. Where do I protest my van assessment?

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

In some states referendums have reduced the outrageous vehicle registration fees to small fixed amounts.

Tom Todd

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

Ten years from now with RTW we will all be walking.

Basic Bob

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 4:45 a.m.

The registration fee is a small part of the overall cost. I'm sure you pay ten times as much in insurance for what the insurance carrier considers to be a worthless wreck. You probably pay more in oil changes, too. Has your luxury ride gotten more environmentally friendly in its old age?

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 12:27 a.m.

It is an incredibly regressive tax against people who cannot afford newer vehicles, and can least afford it.