Ypsilanti joins Ann Arbor in opposing Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority
The city of Ypsilanti will support Ann Arbor in its effort to request Washtenaw County be removed from the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority.
City officials said Tuesday that plans to explore a possible urban core regional transit system with Ann Arbor and Saline, and the townships of Ann Arbor and Pittsfield should move forward.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The Ypsilanti City Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that will be sent to Gov. Rick Snyder, the Michigan Legislature, Governmental Consultant Services Inc. consultant Kirk Profit and the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.
Council Member Pete Murdock announced plans in January to bring forth the resolution.
The RTA legislation passed through the state House Dec. 6, with a 57-50 vote and was signed into law in December. The legislation created an RTA for the city of Detroit and Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.
Murdock said he was approached by Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, who emailed him and Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber asking them to consider voicing their opposition.
The Ann Arbor City Council unanimously passed a resolution objecting to the RTA Dec. 10 during a special meeting.
Murdock said the city should devote its efforts to maintaining a long relationship with Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Transit Authority. Murdock said over the past month, he's met with several county officials to discuss how the legislation impacts the area.
"I think we all generally came up with the conclusion that we need to form some regional authority that consists of the core urban area," Murdock said. "It's critical to have Ann Arbor as part of this. ... They have an interest in having Ypsilanti as part of their services."
Although council passed the resolution, some members expressed concern over what message it would send.
"My concern is if we pull out of the larger picture, is it ultimately going to affect our funds or our ability to continue our millage," said Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson. "Won't we still be competing for the same dollars that the RTA is?"
Murdock said there is some concern regarding how federal money would be allocated.
"People are a little nervous about how that's going to go," he said.
Richard Murphy, one of Washtenaw County's representatives on the RTA governing board, addressed council and advised members to be cautious before supporting the withdrawal of Washtenaw County.
"I believe it has significant benefits," Murphy said. "We wouldn't want to see Ypsilanti give up its seat at the table without careful consideration. ... We want to be part of the conversation about regional transit."
Murphy said the RTA will expand the eligibility for federal transit funding, and it opens the door for the first realistic financing plan to implement an Ann Arbor- Detroit Commuter Rail system.
Murphy said the only way for the county to be removed is by an act of legislation.
Murphy acknowledged that there are some flaws with the legislation that the board is working to sort out.
Mayor Paul Schreiber said the county has an immediate transit problem that needs to be solved now.
"I think that the RTA at this point doesn't work for us," Schreiber said. "I think the RTA is the right thing to do long term, but it just isn't right for us now. ... Washtenaw County transportation has been punched in the gut."