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Posted on Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

AATA shifts focus to expanding transit in urban core after Ann Arbor shoots down countywide plan

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor City Council delivered the final knockout blow Thursday night to plans for a new transit authority called the Washtenaw Ride.

The council voted 10-0 to opt out of the countywide authority, which would have replaced the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, following the lead of most of the municipalities in the county. Without Ann Arbor at the table, the current countywide transit plan is now dead.

City officials stressed they remain interested in having the AATA continue talks with the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and four townships — Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Pittsfield and Scio — to come up with a better way to improve transit in Washtenaw County's urban core.

"This is not so much the end of this discussion of expanded transit, but a restart and a reboot of a discussion including the local partners," said Mayor John Hieftje.


Riders board an AATA bus at the Blake Transit Center on Oct. 3. The agency saw record-high ridership this past year.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Immediately after Thursday's vote, the AATA sent out a news release announcing its intention to shift its focus to transit upgrades in the urban core.

"Efforts to extend the benefits of transit to a greater number of Washtenaw County residents will continue," said AATA CEO Michael Ford. "This issue is a high priority for our region's economic vitality and growth. Public transit enjoys broad support in Washtenaw County."

AATA officials said all communities will be invited to participate in any new public transportation model that evolves, but initial efforts going forward will focus on communities that have thus far expressed strong interest in being part of a regional transit network: the cities of Ann Arbor, Saline and Ypsilanti, the townships of Pittsfield, Scio, Superior and Ypsilanti, and the village of Dexter.

"Leaders from these urban core communities still want to partner with AATA on expanding public transportation services to both businesses and constituents," Ford said.

Debating the costs

The AATA has been working aggressively over the last few years toward the goal of expanding transit services throughout Washtenaw County. There was some debate Thursday night among council members about whether those efforts have been a waste of time and money.

Council Member Jane Lumm took issue with others who suggested it was fine that the plan for the Washtenaw Ride didn't work out.

"This is not fine," said the 2nd Ward council member. "I think this whole process has been a colossal waste of resources and we should be honest about that."

Thumbnail image for Jane_Lumm_071612_RJS_001.jpg

Jane Lumm

Lumm said she hopes the AATA refocuses its attention where it should be: making Ann Arbor's transportation system the most effective and efficient it can be.

Council Member Margie Teall, D-4th Ward, said she doesn't think the efforts that have gone into having discussions with the community about expanding transit have been a waste.

"It's all been something that has certainly raised the awareness of transportation and its possibilities for Ann Arbor and for the surrounding communities, of which I think we are a part," she said. "We are part of a region. We aren't in a bubble here, and I don't think we should view ourselves that way."

Teall said she's looking forward to the start of new discussions about expanding transit services in the county's urban core.

Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, said he's disappointed in the townships that opted out because a countywide transit system would have added a lot of value to the community.

"And I think we should be careful not to confuse outcomes with decisions," he said. "I mean, the fact that this seems to have not gone the direction that many of us had hoped is independent of whether it was a good decision to try. And I think that it was the exact opposite of a waste of resources."

AATA officials said they don't have a tally of the costs to date associated with the countywide transit planning process, but it likely reaches into the seven-figure range when factoring in staff time, money spent on attorney fees and consultants, and other costs along the way.

Since April 2010, the AATA has entered into contracts totaling $780,623 with one consultant — Steer Davies Gleave — to assist in planning and implementing countywide transit services. The AATA also has contracted with CJI Research Corp. for survey work related to countywide transit.

In July, the AATA's governing board approved spending up to $500,000 over five years for professional marketing and public relations services through Quack! Media and Pace & Partners Inc. The contract covers public relations, education, community outreach and other communication services in support of the AATA's initiatives, including but not limited to its expansion efforts.

"I think, as we've all said here, regional transit is going to happen," Hohnke said. "And so it was absolutely appropriate to begin exploring how to do that. Whether it happens sooner or later, it's going to happen, and so I'm grateful for the efforts that the AATA and other members of the community undertook to explore this, and I think we gained a lot of value that will serve us well in the future."

Hieftje said he doesn't think it's fair to criticize the AATA for crafting a plan that didn't work out. He noted the Ann Arbor District Library, which had its bond proposal for a new library rejected Tuesday night, was criticized for the exact opposite: going to voters before coming up with a detailed plan.

"I think when you take something to voters and you want people to accept something, you have to fill out the details, and that's what the AATA did," Hieftje said. "That doesn't mean that plan is no longer useful. There are whole areas of the urban area of the county for which that plan is useful."

Lumm said she's believed all along that there's a more incremental and less risky way of expanding transit services, possibly through purchase-of-service agreements.

"The important lesson learned here is that we can't impose either our vision or our will on Ann Arbor residents, let alone other jurisdictions in the county," Lumm said. "And I think we should stop trying to do so much of that and perhaps start listening a bit more."

Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, said the out-county communities are very tax-averse and have always been that way, so it was no surprise when they started opting out.

A new focus

Council Member Tony Derezinski, D-2nd Ward, tried to call Michael Benham, the AATA's strategic planner, to the podium Thursday to hear his perspective before the council voted.

Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward, and Kunselman objected and tried to block Benham from speaking, but they were overridden by their peers in an 8-2 vote.

"While we're disappointed with the possibility of kind of being taken off our strategy … we're very heartened by the language in the resolution that says keep going," Benham told council members.

"And so whatever your action tonight, we're committed to continuing to work with you, with the other communities in this county — particularly those in what we call the urban core — and we're very optimistic that we can arrive at the vision of expanded transit for those who need it the most."


Sabra Briere

Ryan J. Stanton |

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, said many council members and others want to see discussions continue for expanding transit.

"We feel quite strongly that some form of improved transit system that makes it possible for people to commute between Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Pittsfield and Ann Arbor Township in a reasonable length of time is extraordinarily desirable," she said. "Many of us also feel that it's very important that we include services within and between our neighborhoods."

Members of Partners for Transit also encouraged council members to stay focused on expanding transit services. Ann Arbor resident Joel Batterman, who has been working with Partners for Transit, said it's sad that Ann Arbor is ending the current initiative, though.

"It would have been substantially better transportation for people in Ann Arbor, including extended hours of bus service, increased transit frequencies, and new, more direct routes serving the neighborhoods on the west side of town," he said.

Batterman said it also would have meant the transit service area would be expanded to better match where people are living today.

"When the AATA was formed about 1970, 56 percent of the county's population lived in the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti," he said. "Today only 39 percent do."

Batterman concluded rural townships might not be ready to participate in a transit authority, but the more urbanized areas that did choose to opt in would have brought a majority of the county's people and the great majority of transit-dependent residents within reach of the services they need.

"I encourage the council to take the initiative in the coming year and work toward a new accord on expanded transit," he said. "Ann Arbor residents overwhelmingly support better transit."

Carolyn Lusch, Partners for Transit coordinator at the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, agreed it's important that Ann Arbor keep moving forward.

"Over the past few months I have spoken with so many people — families, seniors, businesses, churches, young people and students — both in Ann Arbor and across the county who all are interested in and have great need for significant transit improvements," she said. "They tell me about how they have to call taxis to get groceries. They have to miss doctor appointments, call up favors from family members or just walk two miles to Meijer. The need for transit still exists."

First Ward resident Mike Garfield, executive director of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, said he's been advocating for regionalizing transit for a while now.

"There have been a lot of twists and turns along the way, but I think what's going on right now might ultimately be the best thing for expanding transit in the Ann Arbor area," he said of council's move Thursday to refocus on the urban core. "We need to reboot this thing."

The AATA was counting on voter approval of a countywide transit tax to fund some of the services it already has started to implement under its five-year countywide plan. AATA officials said they'll now be reviewing the feasibility of continuing to provide some of those services.

That includes increased bus service along Washtenaw Avenue between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, the AirRide shuttle between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport, ExpressRide routes connecting Ann Arbor with Canton and Chelsea, and an expanded NightRide service area east to Ypsilanti.

"We understand these services enjoy widespread popularity with AATA passengers," Ford said. "We hope to avoid any reduction or elimination of AATA operations."

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.


Shoham Geva

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:40 p.m.

Despite all the negativity and problems about funding, it's hard to ignore the fact that there's a very real population within and around Ann Arbor that doesn't have options beyond public transit. This includes socioeconomically disadvantaged adults, the differently abled population, a lot of teenagers, and a fair amount of senior citizens. There are benefits to giving these groups mobility, and as a teenager myself who relies on AATA to be able to take advantage of many of the resources in our community (the university, the neutral zone, and the community foundation to name a few), I'm pretty grateful that such a system exists. In general, Ann Arbor has a lot of great resources and is in itself a great resource; it's a shame that people were prevented from using them just because they don't have transportation options. Providing those options are not necessarily Ann Arbor's responsibility, but you can't deny both the need of the affected populations and Ann Arbor's relatively well off position in our region.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Nov 12, 2012 : 10:27 p.m.

The AATA people responsible for wasting tons of money on this bad idea deserve to receive all the criticism they get. They did not start their planning and spending from a basis of reality but from the untethered lands of 'good' intentions and expansive imagination.


Sun, Nov 11, 2012 : 12:25 a.m.

Hey Ryan - why not research AATA's financial situation in a little more detail? I believe that the CEO makes more than the Ann Arbor City Administrator and that the employees recently received a pay increase. How much do the AATA employees pay for their medical insurance? What is the AATA retirement plan cost? I think this information would be readily available and valuable to the overall AATA discussion.

A Voice of Reason

Sat, Nov 10, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

All you folks that think big government is the answer and want more and more of it, we welcome to the AATA and the Library system in Ann Arbor. I think your board of directors are not only a full of "yes" men and women and meet too often since they are focused on expanding and improving all the time. Service the people with the money you have and focus on your primary mission vs. creating new ones. Library: You are not in the meeting space or food service business and not in the winning "library of the year" awards. There are business in this community that provide these services and they pay taxes. Stop thinking you need to compete with them! AATA: You need to service the people of Ann Arbor or you should rename yourself the Washtenaw Transit Authority. Service the people of this community and the lowest cost possible. I have yet to see a full bus, ever!

Sam S Smith

Sat, Nov 10, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

If AATA and the city counsel were a sound business, most people would have been fired.

Basic Bob

Sun, Nov 11, 2012 : 3:08 a.m.

Voting you down for spelling. * Council *


Sat, Nov 10, 2012 : 2:18 a.m.

Perfect! Focus on Ann Arbor and its' outlying Townships! Let the rest of the area come up with their own Transportation plan!


Mon, Nov 12, 2012 : 4:13 a.m.

It is not the township's responsibility to pay for buses outside the township boundaries. AATA is very overpriced. Just look at how much time and money they wasted on their grab for control of county transportation options. The Township priority should be to provide essential services to its residents, not to subsidize the buses in neighboring communities.


Sun, Nov 11, 2012 : 12:12 a.m.

Privatized services? Umm....that's already provided with the taxi system but this is not what's being talked about here. We, the Township residents pay (via the contracted services and AATA ridership fees) for those buses going to and from Ann Arbor to Y-Town. Now, we could follow your model (jump out of the AATA system, come up with something of our own) BUT, where would that leave AATA? Without plenty of needed revenue. So, would you prefer AATA to go away or be downsized due to a sharp drop in revenue from Y-Town pulling its' contracted services? Nope, didn't think so. Neither would AATA.


Sat, Nov 10, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

Yes. The Township has many options that would provide a less expensive service than AATA. It's not our job to subsidize expensive and frequent buses between the two cities. The Township should only focus on providing a link to existing services. We could have private companies submit bids to provide dial a ride service to the Ypsi bus station. The small number of persons who would use that service should pay the vast majority of the costs.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

Here's the latest update on Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter rail

Rita Mitchell

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 7 p.m.

A note for cost considerations: The sunk costs of Ann Arbor city staff time spent on AATA issues means that those staff were not working on other city-related issues. That means that the cost of city staff time should be included in any accounting of the cost of the AATA now-dead proposal.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sat, Nov 10, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

I promise you that the city has a formula for allocating staff time to projects that shows the cost in dollars. It is used for grants and even budgets. I think Rita is right - the cost may be real, even if only in lost opportunity to do other important work. But sometimes that may also result in purchased services for that other work. It is not "free".

David Cahill

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.

You're incorrect here, Rita. City staff handle varying workloads without adding/hiring people for each project. The countywide plan's costs all come out of the AATA "bucket".


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

I ended up talking to some of the board members for the Ypsi library last month. They agreed with me on one thing. When will a bus go out to the other library? That one sits empty while the one on Michigan is at capacity most times. There is two nice libraries and one nice strip mall. When will AATA realize its bus ridership will increase if they simply add a shuttle run to this neck of the woods. We pay our fair share for this so why not? Time to rethink these bus runs.


Sat, Nov 10, 2012 : 6:15 a.m.

Let's get some FACTS here. A bus did at one time go out to Whittaker Road (i.e. - by the 2nd Library). During the time that bus service was provided to this location, a FEDERAL GRANT provided funding. Not the residents of Ann Arbor. Not by Ann Arbor residents paying taxes to fund a bus to the Ypsilanti Public Whittaker Road a FEDERAL GRANT. Now since that fact is out of the way, let's start with other FACTS. Ypsilanti Township has the second highest ridership on the AATA besides Ann Arbor. In other words, on top of payments for Contracted Services via taxable revenue, Ypsilanti Township residents robustly fund the AATA by ridership. If the Township pulled our contracted services with AATA, the transportation authority would be at a LOST to make up these dollars. Now, since that wouldn't occur, as many residents of Ypsilanti Township depend on AATA transportation services. Instead, the question that should be asked is why since the Township has the 2nd highest ridership within the Authority, why doesn't AATA don't service the Township after 9:30 PM Monday-Friday, just on Saturday until 7PM (I believe) and on Sunday's nearly not at all. Wonder would any A2 residents like to tackle that question....

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

You should talk with your township officials and ask them to contract with AATA for a shuttle. AATA is usually open for more contracts. Who do you mean when you say you "pay your fair share"? You do know that only Ann Arbor is currently taxed for AATA and everyone else is on a contract basis?

David Cahill

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

Jack (Eaton), I don't think it's right to count as part of this boondoggle's expenses the time spent on it by full-time salaried AA City staff. These people are paid the same amount regardless of whatever stuff crosses their desk. In other words, these staff salaries are not "marginal costs". What the AATA paid, OTOH, is a fascinating subject, and well worth exploring. I have heard that it paid substantial sums to at least one well-known community group to advocate for the transit plan. All AATA records are FOIAble. (Hint, hint.)

Jack Eaton

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 7:04 p.m.

Again, I disagree. If we didn't have a City transportation planner, we could hire another police officer. If we reduced our law department by one lawyer, we could hire another fire fighter. A reduction in work load allows a reduction in staff. For example, much of the AATA's budget for the WALLY commuter rail planning is staff time. If they reduce staff time by the $200,000 budget projection, they could reduce transit administrative staff by two highly paid administrators. FOIA requests have been submitted.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 6:19 p.m.

"The AATA was counting on voter approval of a countywide transit tax to fund some of the services it already has started to implement under its five-year countywide plan. AATA officials said they'll now be reviewing the feasibility of continuing to provide some of those services." If the AATA has $500,000 to waste on "professional marketing and public relations services," it obviously has more money than it knows what to do with, and most certainly doesn't need any more. To talk of cutting service due to "funding" is just ridiculous. Why does a transit authority need "public relations" to the tune of $100K a year? If bus service is so critical and in in such hot demand, why does it need to be "marketed"? The answer, of course, is that it does not need to be marketed, and spending half a million dollars on public relations and marketing is a disgrace and a farce. And I say this as a big supporter of public transportation.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

I live in western Washtenaw county and my concern with this is what level of service would I get for my tax increase. Never could find out how often or where I could get on a bus. Unless my service would be comparable to a city resident, i.e., bus goes down my road or to a location within walking distance, both very unlikely, it would feel to me that I am funding AATA for a useless service. I cannot believe a municipal agency would ask for a tax increase without clearly explaining, "here is what you will get for your money." That makes me think whatever we would get would be useless.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5 p.m.

Now that Detroit is dead....for all intents and purposes... Ann Arbor is becoming the new Detroit... and the burbs want nothing to do with it..... How about that choo-choo to Detroit....can we waste some time on that now?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 9:38 p.m.

Fine reporting.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

They're starting testing on the cars from Ann Arbor to Detroit on Monday actually, so yes, there will be some time spent on that now.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

Thank goodness. I really was afraid this thing would not die. This is FANTASTIC news. Oh, and: "This is not fine," said the 2nd Ward council member. "I think this whole process has been a colossal waste of resources and we should be honest about that." With just a couple more like Lumm, we could really go places. Again, a heartfelt thanks, Ms. Lumm.

Atticus F.

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

One point that really irritates me, is that I have friends that live in Scio Farms, a community of about 3,000+ people, and the bus does not go there... But on the flip side of the equation, we make a big point of saying how important it is that we send a bus out to Dexter, to cater to a small handful of UM workers, who will probably end up foregoing the bus system all together. It exemplifies the short sightedness of our officials, and their willingness to ignore the needs of lower income people in our community.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 8:52 p.m.

No, it isn't millions of dollars. Here are some figures I got from AATA a few months ago for POSAs for different communities: Ypsilanti City $319,610 Ypsilanti Township $297,653 Superior Township $32,552 Pittsfield Township $147,392 I'm guessing that the Superior Township is one bus. I don't have details about how often it operates. AATA has a formula to calculate these service contracts. Scio Township had one, and discontinued it. Maybe residents should look into what they could get that would work.

Atticus F.

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 6:21 p.m.

I actually live in Ann Arbor, Vivienne. I also appreciate your insight... But it makes me question the efficiancy of the bus system, in the sense that it really wouldn't cost a whole lot extra to extend the Jackson road bus route by 2 miles. It also leads to the question of how much are the citizens of scio being asked to pay for a bus to travel 2 miles past its normal route? Are the people of Scio being asked to pay millions of dollars to have a bus drive 3 minutes out of its way? This also leads to the greater question of, are people rejecting this because it's inefficient, they feel like their money is being misused, and being overcharged for a simple service that shouldn't cost that much.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

Atticus, you should go to your township board (Scio Township) and ask them to reinstate the Purchase of Service Agreement with AATA. Since Scio citizens do not live in the area that supports the AATA with a tax millage, you must contract for this service. I agree that you need this service and hope you can persuade your officials to reinstitute it.

Peter Eckstein

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.

Didn't the consultants from London tell us this was the Smart Plan? Did't lots of buses carry expensive signs saying it was the Smart Plan--or "It's your plan."? How could all those folks in the rest of the county be so dumb as to turn it down? Could it be that they knew something the consultants didn't know?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:02 p.m.

there are two kinds of taxpayers in Ann Arbor - producers and consumers. Despite the growing trend towards corporate-run gaga, servicing the human individual first and foremost has to be government's primary focus. Progressive planners should dump their unworkable model of corporate/education dribble down "individuals" to be serviced and support the human "prosumers" who live here for a more believable return to economic progress. People will still thrive and survive in Ann Arbor without the UM, without any high-rise high-tech centers, and and even without the AATA. Yes City Coucil, it is true. The only taxpayers are people for people.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

Designing a future city (or county) service around "work" providers does not work. Only the human residents can be provider and consumer in this real world - the taxed prosumer. And local government services in support of its geographically-based resident survival does work for that smple reason - protect its only real tax resource. Servicing local human needs far outweighs the need to satisfy corporate and/or fleeting university "individual" demands (like highrises crosswalk laws and train stations). Unlike the dependent resident population, those producers are imaginary "individuals" who may come and then suddenly go - investment lost. Spending resident capital for non-resident servicing is a taxpayer gift and should not be taken for a wrong-headed progressive plan. The AA in AATA should stand for Ann Arbor - meaning the people as a community living here. When Lansing wants to live in Ann Arbor and ride to work on the bus maybe that will change.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:15 p.m.


Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4 p.m.

"Efforts to extend the benefits of transit to a greater number of Washtenaw County residents will continue," said AATA CEO Michael Ford...... Public transit enjoys broad support in Washtenaw County." --------------------------- what exactly did Mr Ford think all those "opt out" votes meant?

Stephen Landes

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

Sounds like that famous line from "Casablanca": "Round up the usual suspects". Same voices telling us that no matter what the people appear to want these folks will continue to beat this subject until we see how good it is for us. Enough already! If AATA wants to expand their service and really provide transportation for people they can start with, TAH-DAH, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Does the service really meet the needs of people who want to live without their own personal transportation? Is the system efficient. About 30 years ago I had the opportunity to work for a company in Ann Arbor. I thought I would sell one of our cars and take the bus to work. When I checked out the bus schedule I found that my one-way commute would take 45 minutes. My drive at rush hour was only 15 minutes. I recently checked that bus ride again using the AATA ride calculator and found the travel time would now be 65 minutes! My interpretation? In 30 years the system performance has degraded 50% as my trip would be half again as long as before. That is NOT a recommendation for more funding, expanding the service, or even increasing the fare. AATA needs to get its act together, proving that it can provide outstanding service in its current service area before aspiring to be something greater.

E Claire

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

No, they do not meet the needs of citizens. I noted to Vivian A. above that to go grocery shopping from my home, where I pay taxes to subsidize the bus system, it would take 4 buses and about 3 hours of my time.

David Cahill

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

The only saving grace of the AATA's pratfall is that I think no Ann Arbor City funds were spent on it. Most, if not all, of the money came from a federal grant. Of course, that's still somebody's money. (Yes, Ryan, please look into the funding.) It seems that the present AATA leadership is a prisoner of its delusions. There is just no market (or stomach) for a grandiose transit system. AATA should remember that "In Michigan There Can Be Nothing Wrong With The Car."

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

In one 11-month period, $0.5 million of Ann Arbor transit millage funds were spent on the countywide effort. AATA has had a couple of employees dedicated to this purpose for a couple of years. It would indeed be good to have an accounting. AATA does not present these numbers in an accessible form.

Jack Eaton

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:22 p.m.

To the contrary Mr. Cahill, the City spent a bundle on this boondoggle. Our City transportation planner was deeply involved in this effort (and is now a member of the AATA Board!). Our city staff, including the law department, worked on the four party agreement. Our legal staff also offered advise on the composition of the "countywide" transit authority's Board (finding that the compatible offices act prohibited simultaneous membership on the AATA Board and the "countywide" Board). Only if the city administration is required to produce a thorough accounting of staff time and city expenditure on this project will we know for sure just how much city funds were wasted.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

Before the AATA expands transportation to Washtenaw County, how about restoring routes that have been cut in A2 city? How about restoring weekend routes? Fix the routes in the urban core of A2 before expanding to other communities.

5c0++ H4d13y

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

The coalition of the willing never materialized.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

"AATA officials said they'll now be reviewing the feasibility of continuing to provide some of those services. That includes increased bus service along Washtenaw Avenue between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti..." My experience has been that the AATA Route #4 between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti is always overcrowded, jam packed, standing room only - even with the "increased" bus service. If that route is so popular and well used, why not increase service instead of reducing it?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

How much AATA money was spent on this fiasco? Why not restart the process by getting all new leadership for AATA. You know, managers that might have a clue.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 9:39 p.m.

We need to start with the AATA board first!!

Alan Goldsmith

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

"Thanks Ms. Teall for that great "has certainly raised the awareness of transportation and its possibilities for Ann Arbor ". She thinks $1M worth of "awareness" is a good expenditure. Of course she thought the same about TWO percent for art" Ms. Teall was also one of the committee that approved the ugly giant German water fountain at City Hall--something she modestly didn't take credit for during her campaign for City Council this year. Once again, Teall is representing AATA and not the voters in the 4th Ward. Jack Eaton would have been an outstanding replacement for this clueless political hack who continues to not understand the needs of her ward and our city. .


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

On a broader note with serious national implications, aren't you glad that states and other local government agencies can't print money? You can bet you boots that most of them would if they could.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

Amazing - two self-aggrandizing organizations brought back to reality in a single week. AADL and AATA.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

Lansing has been seriously considering a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) which will usurp the powers of all other transit authorities in the state, including the Washtenaw Ride Transportation Authority or 4-Party County Transportation Authority if it existed. The AATA and local communities were silly to attempt implementation of its own expanded transportation authority until the powers of a state-mandated regional transportation authority were known or the prospects of formation disappeared. Unfortunately, lost revenue invested in the effort to create the new county transportation authority will not be recouped. However, terminating further efforts does restrict further financial losses.

Ron Granger

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

I wonder if this would be like when Lansing usurped the local cable authority. Previously, Ann Arbor and similar communities would negotiate directly with cable providers for monopoly access to the cable infrastructure. If you had a problem with the provider, you could seek help from the local cable authority. They had the power to mediate disputes, etc. Then lansing decided to go for a power and money grab - they wanted to negotiate those licenses and they took the power from communities. However, they did not provide any mechanisms for dispute resolution. With other monopolies you can contact the Michigan Public Service Commission for help. Unfortunately the legislation gave them no power to the MPSC to regulate this monopoly. Consumers were robbed. Surely Lansing would like to control all of those federal transit dollars that communities like Ann Arbor currently compete for. Let's hope that won't be history repeating itself.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

A2 is not the world class, cutting edge, forward community it claims to be.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

"A2 is not the world class, cutting edge, forward community it claims to be....." because it won't pay for buses to farm country for people who don't want them?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

Totally agree. Get a good bus system for A2 residents in place before looking at expanding. The current system is woefully lacking in many areas. And yes, A2 is often full of itself.

Ron Granger

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

So what are those employees, who spent so much time working on this, "working" on now? What are we paying them to do? How much extra headcount at AATA is jawing about grand transport schemes? I once worked at a company where golf was a critical part of the culture. You didn't get anywhere in that company if you didn't go play golf at least a couple times a week with colleagues and vendors (guess who paid!) Those were business meetings, on the golf course, during the work day. But they had lofty goals! Lofty!

Ron Granger

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

"AATA officials said they don't have a tally of the costs to date associated with the countywide transit planning process, but it likely reaches into the seven-figure range" They are spending millions of taxpayer dollars and not even keeping detailed records? How is it that they have such an uncontrolled budget? Where are the financial controls? How much did they spend on catering for "planning" meetings? How much did Zingerman's make off this? How about an audit? FOIA, please. How is it that they have so many city funded employees with all this time to spend on projects outside the city? I had some doubts, but now I know for certain - I do not trust Those People with my money. As my fellow commentators are so fond of saying, those millions would have hired some fire fighters and filled some pot holes.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

I can't help but consider the possibility that there will be service cuts throughout the AATA system now due to this failure. Has this been discussed or considered?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

I agree and it would serve the community well IF Ryan would dig to find those figures!


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

And as I read the thoughtful comments of Ms. Armentrout and Mr. Eaton I can only shake my head about who was sent to council instead. What were you people thinking? Thanks Ms. Teall for that great "has certainly raised the awareness of transportation and its possibilities for Ann Arbor ". She thinks $1M worth of "awareness" is a good expenditure. Of course she thought the same about TWO percent for art. 19 votes, people. Next time.

Richard Dawn

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

I would suggest that the transit adverse council frugalists and like minded citizens begin to reflect upon and comprehend some simple equations. Residents do not pay enough taxes to cover the costs of municipal services provided to them. Businesses make up the bulk of the difference. If you want appropriate police and fire protection, attractive parks, etc in the long run, a community needs to have a diverse and growing commercial and business tax base or the community will whither on the vine as others in Michigan, formerly dependent too heavily on manufacturing have done. As Michigan Future ( ) and numerous similar analysis point out, business needs a talented, educated workforce, a competitive tax structure, and a robust public transportation system to attract and retain the workforce and entrepreneurs of the innovation economy; which holds the best promise for our overall economic future. Without pursuit of investment in and enhancement of these critical elements of business infrastructure, Ann Arbor may lose the competition for tax base and its quality of municipal services to communities and regions around the country and globe that better understand these equations.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

"Residents do not pay enough taxes to cover the costs of municipal services provided to them" That's disheartening to read, considering how exhorbitant our property taxes are!


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

I disagree that a "robust public transportation system to attract and retain the workforce and entrepreneurs" will attract and retain a workforce. In most cases we don't have the population density to make it work. Wasted taxes isn't attractive to entrepreneurs. If you are spending money do it on parking and ease of access.

Jack Eaton

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

I pay my transit taxes and support improved local transit. Perhaps you should use your best persuasive skills to convince residents in the opt out communities that they "need" transit. I object to the use of Ann Arbor transit taxes for the cost of planning transit services for communities who are not interested in contributing to the cost of providing that expanded service. After you convince residents in Lima Township (and elsewhere) that their economic well-being depends on accepting urban-style transit in their rural community, perhaps they too will support transit taxes.

rusty shackelford

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:20 p.m.

Yes, please provide more transit where people actually live. It's ridiculous you can't ride from Ypsi to Ann arbor after 5 on a weekend, yet we're providing shuttle service to Canton, effectively helping people to NOT live in Wash county. I've been saying this the whole time they've been wasting years going on with their magic buses to Manchester and god knows where else.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.


Jack Eaton

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

Imagine what might have happened if the other communities who eventually opted out had been asked early in the planning process to contribute to the cost of planning for "countywide" transit. I think AATA would have found out long ago that those communities were not interested in spending on the planning process and that might have given these transit dreamers a heads up on where their plans were headed. But no, they spent local transit funds on this effort rather than on actual transit service. Jane Lumm deserves our thanks and our support. This has been a grand fiasco. Let's not forget that our AATA has included more than $200,000 in its 2012-2013 budget to plan commuter rail service for Livingston County residents. Those communities are unwilling to contribute to the cost of planning commuter rail service and should be expected to oppose contributing to the cost of operating the very expensive commuter rail service. Fiasco, part 2. We should ask AATA and the City to provide detailed accounting of the total cost for the years of planning the "countywide" transit system. While the Mayor has a vision of regional transit, I can only visualize rooms full of six-figure salaried transit administrators, city staff, lawyers and consultants.

Ron Granger

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Excellent points! Ann Arbor taxpayers should not be paying the cost of planning for other communities. If they won't even fund the planning process, why should we bother?

Jack Eaton

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

By the way, Council Member Stephen Kunselman deserves a lot of credit too. He proposed offering the resolution for Ann Arbor's opt out and worked to gather the 6 votes on the new Council (beginning November 19) in support. This resolution was hurriedly added to this Council agenda so the new Council would not get the chance to take credit for resolving this fiasco. Hopefully, the new Council will be more responsible about the costs of these visions the Mayor has.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

Ypsi township may not have opted out yet, but a public vote never would have passed. The "Regional Transit Plan" was the quid pro quo offered to Ypsi City if they passed a millage to fund part of their transit costs. It is not the Township's responsibility to pay for an expensive city bus system that is no longer affordable by the community that supplies the most riders. An inter-urban bus should be paid for by the two urban communities that benefit from it. If Ypsi township pays half the millage that Ypsi City pays, it ends up paying a far greater amount (due to its larger population and increased property values). And for what? A disproportionately small representation on the transit board and a 15 passenger van that circulates in the cornfields and drops off passengers at a bus stop where it could be a 45 minute wait for a bus that only goes to downtown Ypsi. And the cities get buses that run every 10 minutes from every neighborhood. The township has too small a population density to make mass transit an affordable option. We like the lower tax rates - that's why we moved here. If the City of Ann Arbor doesn't want to pay for parking options, then they need to pay for their transportation options themselves.

Basic Bob

Sun, Nov 11, 2012 : 3:01 a.m.

"The two urban communities" If you include the City of Ann Arbor and the City of Ypsilanti, it makes sense to include the two charter townships in between, which have significantly larger populations than the actual city of Ypsilanti. Granted there are cornfields in some parts of the townships, but there are also large sections of sufficient density to support public transportation. But that bus has sailed.


Sat, Nov 10, 2012 : 2:21 a.m.

Wrong. It could have passed. If the Township Board would not have thought so, they would have never Opt-In, in the first place. As for the mileage, that's debatable depending on the cost. Either way, most Ypsilanti Township residents want increased Transportation options. The key is how to make this happen affordability!

Linda Peck

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

Jane Lumm for Mayor. She is always right on the money.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

@Linda - we had two Howard votes plus two Jack Eaton write-ins in my household.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

@rsa221: not when the mayoral race is contested in an even-year; again, look at Tuesday: around 44% of the ballots cast were straight-party. And even if Ms. Lumm were to run and win in 2014 as an I, she likely would lose in 2016 to any D.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

@SalineTeacher, she could run (I). Independent candidates are becoming more popular, Maine's new senator Angus King was an example in the 2012 election.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:57 p.m.

Ms. Lumm has the wrong letter after her name to get elected as mayor; Tuesday made that clear once again. What are the chances of Ann Arbor switching to non-partisan elections?

Linda Peck

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

Brad, I was one of the 6,000 - to prove that there are people who want a change in this office. My hope is that Jane Lumm will give us the chance to vote for her next time. She has power and knows how to use it. Plus she is smart, really smart. Not that our current mayor is not these things, but let us say we differ in opinions.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Hey - Albert Howard got over 6,000 votes, so just imagine how many she would have received.

Jeffersonian Liberal

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

You just can't fix stupid. These people will never give up there plan to get tax payers in the outlying communities to fund their failed European model for mass transit. The Socialist Progressives may have won the election Tuesday, but we are not going to roll over and let you steal our money without a fight.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

First Ward resident Mike Garfield, executive director of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, said "We need to reboot this thing." I have a boot you can have.

Ron Granger

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

What makes you think those same Paid For By You employees aren't still working on a way to force it through?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

I agree with him. If it comes up again, we boot it - again.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

Yes, of course the council proponents now wish to say it was not a mistake, having pushed it forward to fail. They clearly did not understand county politics. I predicted this outcome 18 months ago when they started talking about it. As I make it clear in my post the townships had little to gain by imposing new taxes on themselves. I wish I felt more secure in the alleged new direction of the AATA. They have set many things in motion that I suspect are going to stay right where they are. Express buses to Canton and Chelsea - extended service to Ypsilanti on the Ann Arbor dime. The consultants who crafted the plan (Steer Davies Gleave) are based in London (England). They clearly did not understand governance in this part of the world. Their plan was broadly regional, with express buses to Livonia and Plymouth, for example. There were many bad decisions made here, based on hope rather than understanding. And WALLY lives.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

According to the National Transit Data Base for fiscal year 2011 the cost per service hour AATA filed with the feds showed COMMUTER SERVICE (AKA Canton and Chelsea Express) was a whopping $143.98 per service hour to operate.

E Claire

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:23 p.m.

"Express buses to Canton and Chelsea - extended service to Ypsilanti on the Ann Arbor dime." Exactly, thank you. I pay property taxes and, therefore, subsidize the bus system. The 15 is the only bus that comes near my home. The way the route/schedules are set up, if I were to rely on this to grocery shop, I would have to wait for the 15, take it downtown, wait for a bus that went near a store, shop, wait for the bus back downtown, then wait again for the 15 to go home. There are a few times a day were the bus will go near Kroger but its a one way loop so there's still a trip downtown and waiting, with groceries, involved. Why don't our routes go both ways? The 15 is packed with people standing up at night to leave downtown yet there's only 1 bus per hour after 5:00. Sorry, but I'm not prepared to pay for people from Canton to get to AA when I'm not being served by the system I'm paying for.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, said he's disappointed in the townships that opted out It shows that the townships have more sense that city council! I wish the council had come to its senses, but that's not the case based on some of the ridiculous comments made!


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

The council voted 10-0 to opt out of the countywide authority, which would have replaced the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, following the LEAD of most of the municipalities in the county. It would be hilarious THAT a2( I use a little a on purpose) is following the LEAD of other municipalities IF it had not cost us so much to go down that dead end road!


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, said he's disappointed in the townships that opted out because a countywide transit system would have added a lot of value to the community. "And I think we should be careful not to confuse outcomes with decisions," he said. "I mean, the fact that this seems to have not gone the direction that many of us had hoped is independent of whether it was a good decision to try. And I think that it was the exact opposite of a waste of resources." Riiiiiiiiiggggghhhhhhhht...................


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

Remember! NO only means MAYBE!


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

That same comment about value to the community struck me too as the most idiotic comment of the story. Isn't this the guy who came up with the stupid cross walk law?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

When Hohnke was speaking, were Hieftje's lips moving?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

AATA blew $M on this effort? The A2 taxpayers have to love that. From a leadership perspective, maybe it would have been better trying to establish a relationship with the most promising customer (Ypsi?) over lunch? And if they don't bite just head back to the AATA office to make the A2 system the best possible?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

Just what I was thinking Jimmmy. Hire a consultant because they really do not know their business. And it fails. And they want us to agree with their ideas?

Larry Baird

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

This article is missing some key statements from last night: Michael Benham, the AATA's strategic planner, admitting that the current ramped up level of service is financially unsustainable and was made in anticipation of a new funding mechanism being in place "by now". Council Member Kunselman saying that the city of Ypsilanti has not had a purchase of services agreement (POSA) in place since June and we are in effect subsidizing part of that service. Council Member Higgins expressing her continued frustration with the AATA over the lack of improvements on her constituents' bus routes within the city.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

Wow. If what you say is true Mr. Baird, the fact that they're throwing away half a million dollars over five years for "public relations" is even more appalling.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Yes, even in the final TMP document they kept wistfully referred to the other source of income they had hoped to have. That was the vehicle license fee from the Regional Transit Authority plan that is still not enacted. (I did a recent post on this The RTA legislation would have allowed Washtenaw County to have an additional and separate vehicle license fee. (In addition to the new vehicle license fee that the RTA would levy.) Of course, it would have required a countywide vote. Any expectation that would pass?


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

From the daily " Ozonian " dated 11-9-12 " City council sees the light of reason briefly through the normal clouds of stupidity "


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

We don't want it but you're going to keep trying. That's the spirit. Nonetheless, it does my heart good to see a big stupid and wasteful program stopped if only temporarily.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

Thank you Ms. Lumm. A voice of reason. The most colossal waste of resources (and taxes) has been the salaries of most of the city council - who do not seem to understand any part of the word "NO". Despite the fact that the voters just handed you a resounding "NO" on further taxes. Ms Teall et al. - now that we are starting the next 4 year depression, I would suggest you shelve any further "discussion" of increasing urban transit and start lowering your property taxes to reflect the 30-40% decrease in property values during the previous 4 year depression. That is what surrounding municipalities have done.

Janet Neary

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

The comment that in 1970 59% of the county's population lived in AA and Ypsi, while now only 39% do, is a curious argument for regional "mass" transit. What that fact says to me is that the population is even more spread out than it used to be, which means that mass transit is even more impractical. We need a real urban core to have real urban transportion, and wishing doesn't make it so. I seem to remember figures that showed a very high per-ride cost if you count all the subsidies from various levels of government -- perhaps taxis for all would be cheaper. (I don't mean that as a serious suggestion, but we do have to look at costs as well as benefits.)

rusty shackelford

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

That itself is a tricky number, because it seems to leave out Pittsfield Twp, through which some of the busiest AATA routes pass and many of whose residents ride them. If you include pittsfield, you've got at a bare minimum 48% of the county along the Washtenaw Ave corridor


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

Too bad AATA reached its point of diminishing returns so quickly, evidenced by years of balance sheets in the red. Yes, public transit is popular, especially when generous a2 taxpayers provide free, or heavily subsidized service to everyone else. Like everywhere in the US, benefits are popular, especially when someone other than the beneficiary pays. Of note: No mention is made of mass transit anymore. That's because we're devoid of mass that makes mass transit viable. If non-a2 people want busses and service, let them pay for themselves. a2 citizens would prefer to have a2 service, inside a2, for a2 tax dollars Want a regional system? Start from scratch, and leave AATA and their assets out of it.

Alan Goldsmith

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

Michigan Suburbs Alliance? Where was the organization head Conan Smith? You know, the one with a possible conflict of interest with his dual loyalties as County Commissioner? Mike Garfield? Another political supporter of the Mayor who has been involved with no bid City contracts. WIth supporters like these, no wonder folks are skeptical. It's clear, Ann Arbor taxpayers want and already pay enough taxes for a stellar transportation service--they just aren't receiving it. It's no wonder they aren't on the bus for paying more when the current organization had failed to meet the needs of Ann Arbor first. Hopefully the new members of Ann Arbor City Council will make sure this is done before spending more dollars for a plan that doesn't

Jack Eaton

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

I neglected mentioning that when the City reopened the RAA contract to accommodate the single stream system, there were only a couple of years left on the contract. Among the modifications made to the contract was a many year extension of its duration. That change saved the RAA from having to compete in any contract bidding for many years to come.

Jack Eaton

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

Ryan, you quote the Mayor as saying "back in the late 90's the city put recycling pick-up out and RAA was low bid. The city was happy with the service and the contract was renewed. When single stream came along it required changes in the contract . . ." In other words, the contract was put out for competitive bid before Mr. Hieftje was Mayor. When that contract came up for renewal, it was not offered for competitive bid. When the contract was opened to make changes for the single stream system, it again was not offered for competitive bid. And later, when RAA returned to Council to reopen the contract to increase the amount charged to the City because they could not perform the services for the amount in the contract, it again was not offered for competitive bid. As Alan points out, the contract is a no-bid contract in spite of the many times it has been reopened to make changes to the terms of the contract.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

Alan, are the "no-bid contracts" you're referring to just the situation where a few years ago Recycle Ann Arbor, our local nonprofit agency that started curbside recycling in Michigan, agreed to open up its contract with the city when single-stream recycling was implemented? I've asked the mayor about it before. Here's his take: "I wasn't on council until November of 1999, but as I understand it, back in the late 90's the city put recycling pick-up out and RAA was low bid. The city was happy with the service and the contract was renewed. When single stream came along it required changes in the contract because payments to RAA were based in part on tonnages, etc. But RAA had a contract. They were not legally required to change anything to accommodate single stream. But, they agreed to make changes in large part because they saw single stream as a way to increase recycling and keep more waste out of the landfill, a core goal of RAA. "So, yes, there was an existing contract and RAA agreed to open it and make significant changes when they didn't have to. The city could not have legally put it out to bid at that point. Single stream has been a success, more tons recycled and from the feedback I receive it is a big hit with residents."