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Posted on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 9:06 a.m.

AATA board approves Detroit airport shuttle and voices support for regional transit authority

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's governing board voted Thursday night to approve a new Detroit airport shuttle service and voiced support for a regional transit authority.

The airport shuttle service is expected to start in April, scheduling trips between Ann Arbor and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

That's one step forward for the AATA as it pushes ahead with a countywide expansion of public transit services in Washtenaw County.

"The staff is working incredibly hard and is getting a great deal done. I'm very excited and proud of the u196 people," said AATA Board Chairman Jesse Bernstein, referring to those serving on an unincorporated countywide transit authority board called the u196 board.


Jesse Bernstein

That's a reference to Public Act 196, the state law under which a proposed countywide transit authority replacing the AATA is expected to be formed.

"I think we're moving in the right direction and at the right tempo to figure out what kind of transit we should have in this county going forward," Bernstein said.

While the AATA makes its own plans for a new countywide authority, talks are picking up at the state level about a new regional transit authority for Southeast Michigan.

The AATA board passed a resolution offering conditional support for state legislation to create a four-county RTA.

The board went on record saying it supports an RTA to provide connector corridor transit services and will participate in the planning and implementation. But to guarantee the continuation of existing services, AATA leaders say the RTA must find its own source of new funding.

"We support the notion of a regional transit authority for the major connecting routes and we believe we should stay independent," Bernstein said after the meeting. "Any monies for those routes should be new money not taken from our funds."

The Senate Transportation Committee earlier this week kicked off debate on the RTA concept being pushed by Gov. Rick Snyder's administration. Early plans call for connecting 22 communities through 110 miles of road along four designated routes.

Senate Bills 909-912 create a 10-person authority that would put before voters of Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties a funding mechanism to pay for the system.

According to a MIRS article published on Tuesday, the idea is that the Detroit Department of Transportation and the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, along with AATA, could redirect routes to allow the new RTA to run its routes on underused roadway with long buses that could activate green lights as they approach.

In theory, the buses would only stop at the designated stops while reaching speeds of 65 mph, according to MIRS.

The AATA board also took action Thursday night to extend its contract with Steer Davies Gleave, the consultant first hired in April 2010 to help craft a 30-year transit master plan. The original contract with the international consultant amounted to $399,805.

The board voted on a $193,318 contract extension last July, which has kept the consultant working on the AATA's countywide expansion, including support to an ad hoc financial task force that is developing funding recommendations due to be released soon.

The latest extension approved Thursday keeps the consultant on through June 2013 at an additional cost of $95,500. Added up, that's nearly $700,000 the consultant will have been paid by the AATA to assist in planning and implementing the countywide expansion.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Sat, Feb 18, 2012 : 4:38 p.m.

How about a break down of the $ 700,00 ..? We can hire a limosine and have DOOR to DOOR servcie!


Sat, Feb 18, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

How about connecting to "THE GOLDEN SPIKE". it been in the works/planning/ reserach for over 30 YEARS. So where is that money? Consulatant FEE?

Jimmy McNulty

Sat, Feb 18, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Wow, the AATA voices support for its own expansion project. Whoodathunkit.

A Voice of Reason

Sat, Feb 18, 2012 : 5:16 a.m.

Out of control. AATA you are about to put the low income taxi drivers and shuttle service drives who pay taxes out of business. Our unemployment in this city is horrible and you are about to displace those workers with your conquering empire! Occupy the AATA! PROTEST FOR THE TAXI DRIVERS! What do not we have people working for AATA that have talent so we do not need to hire a consultant? Too much money that is being wasted. BOARD--Take control and stop being yes men/women.

A Voice of Reason

Sat, Feb 18, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

Why do we not have people--excuse my typos.


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 6 p.m.

Let the turf war begin! RTA vs. AATA "The board went on record saying it supports an RTA to provide connector corridor transit services...", yet still decides to launch it's own "connector corridor" route to the airport (thanks to dipping into fund reserves). Whose to say the new RTA could have offered this connector route and save those funds for other AATA priorities? So is the RTA pushing into the AATA's turf? or is it the other way around? The AATA is clearly staking out its ground (including parts of Wayne Co) in the coming turf war.


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 5:37 p.m.

Grabbing everything they can before the tax payers catch on!

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 4:01 p.m.

I don't fly, so a shuttle to the airport doesn't help me at all. How about a shuttle to Vernier and Mack? I go there sometimes.


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

All aboard the John Hieftje Railroad! Enjoy the "ride" and watch our tax dollars disappear in ways we never hoped nor imagined. . . Get ready to be railroaded, a2 and Washtenaw County. . . Your bus service is soon to be forced to the "back of the bus."


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Bernstein said after the meeting. "Any monies for those routes should be new money not taken from our funds."- Isn't that because your are already running a deficit!!!! DDA is raising rates for resident parking downtown while givng discounts to people who park downtown to ride to the airport on a bus- this whole thing stinks!! How about leaving AATA out of the mix have an independent council decide on a regional plan. AATA is not breaking even currently and i trust they do not make good business decisions with tax payer money. Isn't the current SMART system cutting way back because they are not able to be self-sufficient so now AATA wants to take over their routes. This town gets worse everyday we have the wrong leaders running public service

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

I would suggest your asking two different questions and rolling them in to one. 1. Are there any government entities that make good decisions with public monies? 2. Are there any government entities that don't end up in a deficit position? Its possible to make good decisions but at the same time be underfunded and thus end up in a deficit. ....hypothetically.


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

Are there any government entities that make good decisions with public monies and don't end up in a deficit position?