AATA bus service to Ypsilanti could be reduced under proposal passed Tuesday
Bus service to Ypsilanti is expected to be reduced under a plan passed by the City Council Tuesday night.
But under the worst case scenario, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's service to the city would have been eliminated altogether because of the city's inability to pay its share of the service. The city's plan still needs approval from the AATA Board of Directors.
At issue was whether Ypsilanti could pay its share of the bus service, which AATA says has been subsidized for years.
The council's resolution passed Tuesday calls for:
- A 21-month agreement with AATA from Oct. 1 through June 30, 2011.
- Eliminating Packard Road's Route Five into the city, but with a possible turnaround at Hewitt Road at Ypsilanti High School. Shortened schedules are planned for Routes 10 and 11, which service the northeast and southeast sections of the city and Ypsilanti Township, with the last bus running at 9:30 instead of 10:30 p.m.
- Using $101,000 of AATA's $6.1 million allotment in federal stimulus money to offset the city's bus service budget shortfall for 2010.
The City Council also is asking AATA to reconsider a proposed 30-percent rate hike for bus service, with yearly 10 percent increases through 2012.
If AATA accepts the resolution, the route changes could take place by May 2010.
But AATA manager Christopher White said even if the AATA Board of Directors approves the $101,000 in stimulus funds, it would be a stopgap measure at best.
AATA has been subsidizing the Ypsilanti bus routes for several years, but is now asking the city to pay its full amount for service - around $245,000 for next year - or lose the bus service by spring 2010.
AATA officials said Ann Arbor residents, who pay 2 mills toward the bus service, are already taxed enough and Ypsilanti needs to pay its share. If AATA agrees to the resolution, it's expected to hold a series of meetings between now and May 2010 with officials and the public to get input on the changes and reductions in service.
The city was already facing a $463,000 budget shortfall. Last spring, AATA officials said the city needed to pay the increase as part of a process to eventually take on the actual costs for bus services. By 2012, the city will be expected to pay around $291,000.
Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber, who voted against the resolution, asked the board to hold off on the vote until he and council members could further look at the details. He said keeping the present bus service was a priority for many reasons - one being that many young people move to Ypsilanti but commute to jobs in Ann Arbor.
"I'm against (bus) service reduction," Schreibner said.
Council Member Peter Murdock, D-3rd Ward, who called for the resolution vote, said the council needed to quit putting off the decision. He said the council has been wrestling with the issue for years and needs to find a more permanent solution instead of being in crisis mode every six months.
Murdock added that the council also needs to keep the public in the loop on the city's fiscal situation. He said the city may consider a millage to pay for bus service. "We need to tell the people what our plans are," Murdock said.
Several residents spoke out against the resolution, including members of the Advance Ypsilanti PAC. Resident Beth Bashert said she thought it was unfair for the council to call the special meeting so soon after a major holiday when the public was not likely to be tuned in to the issue. She also said the decision was being made by council members who have probably never ridden the bus and have no idea what difficulties reduced bus service would cause for riders.
"You're dictating sacrifices that you don't have to make," Bashert said.
Terri Blackmore, executive director of the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study, offered figures for the number of riders commuting to jobs in Ann Arbor daily - 3,836 from Ypsilanti, 6,327 from Ypsilanti Township, and 1,419 from Superior Township.
Blackmore also said 1,156 riders from Ann Arbor, 2,201 from Ypsilanti Township, and 460 from Superior Township use the bus to get to jobs in Ypsilanti.
"I just think it's critical (for the bus service to remain intact)," Blackmore said.
White said AATA's Board of Directors may meet sometime this month to discuss the resolution and give the City Council an answer.
File photo of AATA riders.
David Wak is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach our news desk at email@example.com or 734-623-2530.