Ann Arbor officials want to let voters decide if city should build new Amtrak train station
Photo courtesy of city of Ann Arbor
But whether the resolution will pass is yet to be determined — it involves taking up to $550,000 from the city's general fund cash reserves for the next phase of the project.
Critics have been calling for a public vote on the so-called Fuller Road Station project — now called Ann Arbor Station — since shortly after it first came to City Council a few years ago.
That's because the city's preferred site for Ann Arbor Station is the footprint of a surface parking lot that's technically a piece of city-owned parkland in front of the University of Michigan Hospital on Fuller Road, and the city's charter requires a public vote for any sale of parkland.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The resolution was added to the agenda Friday afternoon and already has multiple co-sponsors, including Mayor John Hieftje and Council Members Sabra Briere and Marcia Higgins.
Taylor believes the project is too important to let politics get in the way. He said it seems a major focus of the opposition has been the absence of a public vote, not the merits of the project.
"Commuter rail and expanded Amtrak service are too important to Ann Arbor's future to let some folks play politics," he said. "It’s not required, but when the fiscal and design plan is ready, we'll put it to a popular vote. People will see for themselves the economic, environmental and quality-of-life benefits."
Taylor added, "It will pass in a landslide."
Taylor believes a public vote isn't required because there's technically no sale of parkland, but he's hopeful putting the issue on the ballot can help settle the issue once and for all, and the city then can move forward on a new station to improve the existing Amtrak intercity passenger rail service.
This is the second time Taylor has proposed letting voters have direct say on a controversial issue that's nagged the council. He did the same with the public art tax that's on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Taylor said it's unknown at this point when the City Council might put the question of a new Amtrak station to voters, but he said 2014 is not an irrational estimate.
The resolution states the City Council will set a date by which the city will submit the question to voters "at or before the completion of a final design."
The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded the city a $2.8 million high-speed rail grant for conceptual planning, environmental documentation and preliminary engineering related to Ann Arbor Station. The completion of those tasks will allow for future final design and construction of an improved intercity passenger rail station on the busiest stop between Detroit and Chicago.
The city, working with the Michigan Department of Transportation, still needs approvals regarding environmental impact and site selection from the FRA for the project to go forward. Taylor said he understands the FRA's environmental and site determination will take at least 12 months.
"Then we'll need to complete preliminary engineering to determine what the structure will actually entail, then we'll need to finalize financial plans, then we'll take it to a vote," he said, adding the design and financial details will be made available for public review prior to the vote.
The resolution calls for a budget amendment to provide a local match for the $2.8 million in federal high-speed rail funding the city was awarded, transferring $550,000 from the general fund's cash reserves to fund the next phase of work on Ann Arbor Station.
It also would direct the city administrator to seek alternative funding for $300,000 of the $550,000 local match from other eligible local partners — such as the University of Michigan or the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority — that might be interested in sharing the cost.
The city previously thought an in-kind local match from expenditures already made going back to fiscal year 2009-10 would cover the city's share.
According to the resolution on Monday's agenda, the FRA recently notified the city that arrangement was disallowed due to the prior work no longer being recognized as timely for environmental review processes administered under the National Environmental Policy Act.
City officials note the FRA has advised the city it continues to support improved rail system access in Ann Arbor and has committed federal funding to help plan Ann Arbor Station.
A grass-roots citizens group called ProtectA2Parks released a white paper on Friday that outlines its arguments against building a new train station on Fuller Road. The group pointed out the city's 2012-13 budget already included $307,781 as a local match for the $2.8 million federal grant.
The $307,781 was for items the city thought would serve as a local match, but city officials are now learning they will not serve as a match, so the $550,000 is on top of the budgeted amount.
ProtectA2Parks supports consideration by the city of retaining the site of the current Amtrak station on Depot Street for a train station, and the white paper presents arguments in support of that position.
"It is the position of the group that the existing site can be improved to adequately meet the project's need and purpose," the group said in a press release.
While the mayor has suggested that other sites in the city might serve to mitigate the loss of parkland along Fuller Road, the group argues Fuller Park is unique in many ways.
The resolution on Monday's agenda and accompanying staff memo from Eli Cooper, the city's transportation program manager, don't mention Fuller Road.
The move away from the name "Fuller Road Station" comes as city officials go through a required analysis of alternative sites, including that of the current Amtrak station. However, city officials remain confident a close evaluation will prove the Fuller Road site is preferred, and they continue to argue there are too many logistical hurdles on Depot Street.
City officials also believe the name "Ann Arbor Station" will help put the project on the map for future federal funding, since "Fuller Road" probably doesn't mean much to people in Washington, D.C.
Even though what city officials have in mind isn't technically a sale of land and they argue no green space is being lost, park advocates argue it would be a permanent repurposing of parkland if the train station is built on Fuller Road. Hieftje and his allies are still lobbying for building on the Fuller Road site, and he points out federal rules would require mitigation for the loss of parkland.
"So they may say that's fine that a train station go here, but we'll have to mitigate and create a new park somewhere else," he said in a recent interview, pointing out the city hopes to create parks at 721 N. Main, 415 W. Washington and along the Huron River on the old MichCon site.
The resolution on Monday's agenda calls for a thorough public participation process to be conducted as part of the planning phase for Ann Arbor Station.
Previous coverage: Mayor John Hieftje details his vision for funding proposed new train station in Ann Arbor
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.
I can't wait to vote "NO" on both these boondoggles - "Art" & Choo-Choo place. Remember to vote early, and often against the silly Hieftjeites! Socialism died with the 20th century, Comrade Hieftje. Even if we needed a new station, the only sensible place for it would be on the old Mich Con site, where it's on the same side of the tracks as all the parking - plenty of space there. But who needs it, in the first place?!?
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.
On reading the resolution, it appears that the city could be asked to come up with an additional $150,000 down the road. Key paragraph: "HSIPR funding provides for 80% of the participating project costs (up to $2,806,400.00). A local match of 20% of the funding (up to $701,600.00) is required. This request is for up to $550,000 of local matching resources based on Staff's most recent conceptual cost estimate." That means that if the study costs the full amount ($3.5 million total), the grant can still be tapped for the full $2.8 million and the city will have to find the full $701,600. That "conceptual cost estimate" sounds pretty squishy to me. I'm sure that SmithGroupJJR has a workplan that can use up the full grant. Of course we don't know, since that work plan has not been made public.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.
Let the voters decide. Where is the long term parking going to be located for using the new station at this location? the current parking lot is not in a good location, too far from the station and not guarded.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.
They'll have to build a parking structure, of course. That means the end of free parking at the Amtrak station.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.
Mr. Stanton presents the argument that has been used by our Mayor and Council to continue spending on pet projects while cutting basic services. I think a very simple analogy can illustrate how illogical this practice is. Consider the hypothetical case that you have been saving for a new car. You have enough in reserves to buy the car when unfortunately you lose your job. You could use your reserves to buy food for the family or you can buy the new car, but not both. If you follow the logic of our city planners you buy the car because food is a recurring expense. The kids will just eat it and want more. Most organizations consider reserves as "rainy day funds" to be used in difficult times. In Ann Arbor it seems reserves can only be used for pet projects.
Stephen Lange Ranzini
Tue, Oct 16, 2012 : 11:07 a.m.
@glenn thompson: excellent & brilliant analogy, thanks!
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.
In Ann Arbor it seems like reserves are unnecessary, because any time they want more money they can just put the word "public" or "school" in a millage request, and it'll pass.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.
as i think about it more, the photo IS misleading. it looks out onto the parking lot, but the $2 million sewer system is located under the park, further to the east of that photo. an appropriate photo of the location, would be taken from the other angle.... showing the park and not the parking lot. if that's the photo that city hall gave for the project, then it is a form of misleading marketing and demonstrates some lack of integrity. the photo should read: "A look at the park on Fuller Road" and it should show a picture of the park. if i have time today, i'll run over and take a photo myself. note -- does anyone else find it disturbing that the city spent $2 million on the sewer system, but they never bothered repaving the bike/walk path? i don't want to hear about how great this will be for bikers/walkers... when they can't bother to fix the pathway that they destroyed when they spent $2 million.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.
Kai, my wife and I were commenting on this ourselves; that whole spot is dead and gravely. My guess would be they're leaving it like that for more of their assumed "we're gonna go ahead and DO this thing" approach. The way I see it, Council needs to start figuring out how to pay us BACK that money they already spent. There's a lot more money besides just this sewer move, too. Like a LOT more. And it was all spent before U of M even backed out of the whole deal (where they would pay 70% of the parking structure, but that was because they'd have 70% exclusive use of it, but the disingenuous mayor and cronies kept touting that as if it was U of M paying for 70% of it, so why wouldn't we do it).
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.
Ms. Armentrout has a good point about this whitepaper. However, this whole project is a criminal waste of money to begin with, and we don't even need to get into how it's destroying a park. It's a ridiculous, negligent, wasteful project WAY before you get into stuff about parks. At the very beginning of this process, the Fuller Road Station pep crew (mayor, Eli, councilmembers other than Anglin) could show absolutely no justification for this. The fact that the biggest cheerleaders of this project had so little to try to sell it with is proof that it should have been dropped long ago, before ANY money was spent. In the public meeting with Q and A from 2010, when they were trying to sell it as a parking and commuter cure for all our ills: http://a2govtv.pegcentral.com/player.php?video=d8702a5185a6d048ec57970dcfcce765 at 49 minutes 24 seconds, in response to a query about any data indicating the need for this, Eli says a 10-year old study showed "interest" in rail from Lansing to Detroit; not only is it ten years old, but it shows "interest", not that something was actually built and wound up working or generating revenue, etc. 52:45: Eli says Amtrak has 75 spots at the existing station, and MIGHT need to double it within the next TWENTY years. So $40 million (and that was JUST the parking portion of this project, not even the station part) for 75 spots over TWO DECADES. 56:25: admits that funding was denied because ridership showed the project was not feasible (no justification). So they decided to do it anyway, to prove that they needed to do it. Thus, the "demonstration" project. This station was (and is still, as far as I can tell) a DEMONSTRATION project. As in "we can't prove the need for it, so we're going to do it to prove we needed it." I'm not joking, that's all in there. Watch the video, the Q and A starts about halfway in, but the lame sell job in the beginning is priceless as well. Millions have already been spent,
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.
Thanks for trying Ryan, and I hope you keep at it. What is the most telling, I believe, is that the promoters of this have no real observable need that they would serve. It is a "demonstration project," it is the epitome of "build it and they will come."
Ryan J. Stanton
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.
I asked Amtrak back in August if it had any official or unofficial ridership projections for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years for the Detroit-to-Chicago corridor, including the number of people getting on and off in Ann Arbor if possible. I was referred to MDOT, which pointed me to a 2004 report found here: http://www.michigan.gov/mdot/0,4616,7-151-11056-166461--,00.html "At this point, this is the information we have available," the MDOT representative said. I said the information seemed dated considering a lot has changed in the last eight years and asked again if there were more current projections or if Amtrak had any of its own data, but I came up empty handed.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.
Actually, the white paper has a lot of information about the commuter rail project and how it has fizzled. It covers the "need" angle rather thoroughly.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.
Oh yeah, I lost the time in the video where this is, but when asked how this project coulc pay for any part of itself, or have any kind of return on investment, Eli mentioned that PERHAPS, MAYBE, it might be legal to require Amtrak to pay for the spaces they use in the big parking structure. That was it. His number one suggestion for "how can we get anything back from spending $40 million on JUST the parking structure part?" was that MAYBE we could make Amtrak pay for their 150 spaces. And the mayor sent a letter to residents (not sure how that mailing list was generated; I did not get one) in which he proclaims that Amtrak was in favor of the new station. Which is quite a shot in the arm for the whole project, right, since Amtrak wouldn't pay a red cent for it. So wonder of wonders, they're in favor of this dumb city building them a new station for free. Yay. Great stuff.
Ryan J. Stanton
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.
Just a quick update regarding the $300,000 the sponsors of the resolution hope to get from other partners: AATA CEO Michael Ford tells me his agency is not in a financial position to contribute to the Ann Arbor Station project, and U-M spokesman Jim Kosteva said he wasn't aware of any conversations between the university and the city. DDA Director Susan Pollay said to her knowledge no one at the DDA has been contacted, either. And in response to those suggesting the city should spend the $550,000 from its reserves on police and fire staffing, I can say that I've observed it's been the city's general preference not to use its reserve fund to pay for recurring expense items like hiring new employees, because that's not a long-term fiscally sustainable budget approach, but a match for a $2.8M federal grant would be a one-time expense, which is what city officials prefer to use the reserves for. (Don't confuse that as an argument for the expenditure — I'm just trying to explain how the city operates its budget, and hopefully that's helpful to know.)
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.
Thank you for your timely reporting on this, Ryan.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 10:59 a.m.
I urge readers to take a look at that white paper that is linked to this story. It explains at length the drawbacks of a train station at the Fuller Road site, the economics of new train service, describes some of the unique qualities of Fuller Park, and points out that there has been no demonstration that the current station is actually inadequate. It is full of information. The white paper was prepared by a citizens' group that includes many Sierra Club members, but is not a part of the Sierra Club. (I myself did not have a part in preparing the paper.)
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 8:35 a.m.
I can see it now! Unless someone fires up the AA voters to turn out and vote, apathy will take over and only a few will vote to spend money.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 4:11 a.m.
the photo is a bit misleading. it's a photo courtesy of the city, but it's a carefully designed photo. it uses a wide angle lens to fill in the frame as much as possible to show a full parking lot. however.... someone should go to the other side of where this will be located and photograph the grass and the gravel walkway? oh, here's a photo of the location. it's a photo taken from the CS Mott children's hospital during the open house, looking out on the site. photo taken from inside the ronald mcdonald rooms. http://tinyurl.com/97cs59f the kids will love the noise and the choo choo trains.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 3:44 a.m.
i am for it if we can have bike paths and crosswalks without lights.. maybe throw up some art work.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.
Yeah, a gold statue of a golfer. :)
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 2:25 a.m.
"That's because the city's preferred site for Ann Arbor Station is the footprint of a surface parking lot that's technically a piece of city-owned parkland in front of the University of Michigan Hospital on Fuller Road, and the city's charter requires a public vote for any sale of parkland." It's not "technically" a piece of city-owned parkland, it IS a piece of city-owned parkland--Fuller Park-- and has been for decades. The temporary lease to UM for a parking lot was an unfortunate agreement reached to save some trees when Fuller Road was realigned east of the VA hospital (on UM land) many years ago. The lease was extended, but should not be extended again, and most of the parking lot should be removed and replaced with a soccer field, or perhaps even the skatepark, which might be better sited in a more central location like this. What is especially important about this parkland designation is that federal regulations call any locally designated park a "protected property." Before the Fed can put money into a project on protected property, it must be proven that there is "NO REASONABLE ALTERNATIVE" to that site. This is why you see Fuller Park train station proponents downplaying the fact that it is a park. They want to lower the bar. Luckily there are local citizens paying attention and staying in touch with federal officials to counter the disinformation being submitted. It is shameful that City Council approved an unnecessary sewer relocation project for this site--one that was only meant to prepare the site for Fuller Road Station. That was over $1 million in sewer funds that could have gone towards the new treatment plant, or towards more urgent sewer issues. Only Mike Anglin voted against it.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 5:11 a.m.
More than shameful; it was downright dishonest. The mayor and council need to be figuring out how to pay us BACK for the money that's been spent on this already. AND, when Anglin voted against it, citing his reason for changing his vote as it being too clearly an attempt to get the station project going under the guise of sanitation work, the mayor and his crony council friends tried to belittle him and claim that he didn't know about the projects he was voting on. His snidely honour and friends have attempted to do the same to Lumm on several occasions, trying to smear her common sense and rational thinking (and desire to act on the RESIDENTS' behalf) into something it's not.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 2:12 a.m.
The federal gov't pays for AMTRAK stations. not the cities. Ann Arbor needs to invest in teachers and students in the public schools.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 1:25 a.m.
How come the general fund has a cash reserve from which $550,000 can be used to finance the "next phase" of constructing a railway station but the same cash reserve could not be used to pay for police and firemen (even if for only a short period of time)?
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 12:47 a.m.
I think a commuter rail line between Detroit and Chicago will come to pass (one of these days). The question is, does Ann Arbor want to be a stop along the way? Let the people decide.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.
GM and Ford: Not so happy about this.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.
Gee.... let little johnny play with his train set or spend 500k towards getting some more cops and firefighters...in the real world that's a no brainer...but alas this is OZ home of the big talking heads...DUH...
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 12:25 a.m.
Perhaps the 'new library' proponents could propose a combined library/train station...
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 11:39 p.m.
1. What is wrong with the Depot station? Except that it does not have a convention center, bar, hotel, kayak rental, and the road is too narrow to connect a countywide transportation hub, (and that it is managed by the feds), nothing. What exactly did people think they were buying - a nice new train station? 2. ----> There will be NO high-speed rail there. High-speed rail beds are normally layed from scratch because they are so "logistically" different including the need for being straight for some odd reason. 3. While the park may not be for sale the un-park like commercialization attempt is quite clear. While some lame duck politicians might know what is allowed for parks - they are lame ducks and should know that the next council and the council thereafter will know even better.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.
Nothing, except the mayor doesn't like it. It has ample parking next door, if council leadership were to add it to the station.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.
This is not a vote about letting the voters decide, it is a vote about spending $500,000 from the general fund. Let us remember, we have been told that insufficient money in this fund is the reason police and fire services have been drastically cut. Voting for this resolution may effectively be a vote to close our fire stations. In the primary election those candidates advocating greater safety services easily won. It should be clear that the public values the public services and this is opposition to those desires. It is irresponsible to suddenly propose and vote on this when there will be a new Council in a few weeks.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.
Of course it will not be on the 2012 November election. You miss the point, Sally Petersen and Sumi Kailasapathy won in the primary election against candidates supported by the Mayor. One of their campaign issues was that the city needed to stop cutting basic services to spend on studies and art. It is very unlikely Sally or Sumi would vote for this resolution if it were presented to in November. Passing this resolution now is clearly an attempt to continue policies that the voters have rejected.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 1:20 a.m.
Even if it is put up for a vote, it wont be this Fall's General Election. Filing deadlines have passed. Many people already have their absentee ballots in hand/ or have already voted....
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 12:23 a.m.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 10:56 p.m.
Why is this a city project and not a county project? Why would we want "high speed rail" in our small town? Why not move it into the county, where there is more room, and the other users can more directly share in the cost?
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.
I vote for Ypsi.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 10:45 p.m.
They've already destroyed the park. So no going back now.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 10:24 p.m.
Will this be like his "letting the voters decide" on the public art monies? In that one he is "letting us decide" between having money added to our property taxes versus skimming money from capital projects. What a great choice we have! What will this one be? Voting between having a train station in Fuller Park versus having it somewhere else? Or maybe voting on what color we paint our new train station? Democracy at its finest.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 1:17 a.m.
Brad - I agree that voters should be able to decide if any tax money, either through a dedicated millage or that dedicated to capital projects, or no tax money. The latter will eliminate any tax dollar expenditures for public art, irregardless of the source. Similarly, if tax payers are allowed to vote on building a new railroad station the choices should include the option of not building a new railway station rather than just picking between sites.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.
I don't like the idea of a train station in that spot. It seems like an excuse... 'hey, we built a $2 million sewage system there, now lets put something on it'. The environmental report is incomplete. It lists leaks from spills in the area, but it is neglecting one big unsolved spill that occurred in 2010. Put that spill in that environmental report and then I'll reconsider my stance on this issue. If you can't give a complete environmental report, then it's a solid 'no' from me for this issue. I also have respect for how the public chooses to vote -- but if it becomes a Moroun type issue, then I want some money too. With the reported talks that he's in with the UAW for their support -- it reinforces the idea that votes are bought.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 10 p.m.
What about Urban sprawl? Destroying trees, wetlands and animals! Say NO to ruining nature, after all this is Ann Arbor. City of the Tree! Where is the Sierre Club? and other "Green" groups opposing this Growth?
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.
Veracity How come the Sierra Club and other major environmental groups don't oppose real environmental issues like GMOs, nuclear, big oil, BP Gulf spill, etc.? They only pursue issues that deal with CO2. This is at the national and international levels. The local SCs do pursue real environmental issues. SC and other large environmental groups are controlled opposition.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 1:09 a.m.
XMO - You mean "Sierra Club", I presume. Your sarcasm is baseless in this case. To what growth are you referring? Certainly you can not expect population or railway passenger usage growth. G. Orwell - As much baseless cynicism as XMO's baseless sarcasm.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 10:16 p.m.
The Sierra Club and all other large environmental groups are shills for special interests. They only pursue agendas that benefit the super rich and interest groups. For example, global warming to get carbon tax and carbon trading implemented on behalf of Goldman Sachs and Al Gore.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.
Hopefully this goes to a vote and hopefully those of us with common sense can get ourselves, our family, friends, and coworkers out there to vote it down. The mayor has lots of friends. Hundreds. So do councilmembers. With the pathetic voter turnout in this town, they can get anything passed that they want. We need to start getting out there and putting a stop to it; they have already gotten away with way, way, WAY too much. You DO know they already spent more than 2 million on this, right? And 1.2 of it was preparing that Fuller site. To everyone that says they're for it because we could use better transporation in this town; there is a train station like a hundred yards from this site. Been there a long time. Yes, it gets pretty busy on some weekends. It's also butted up against a huge unused lot. Building a new train station does NOTHING to make transporation better. It just spends millions and millions and millions of dollars.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.
At this point my wife and I WISH we were outsiders, Tom. I'd love to not continuously be beaten down with new unnecessary taxes for unjustified massive projects. What do you expect is the plan if this train thing winds up having like 20% ridership? It'll probably be the same plan as if the new AATA countywide expansion has the same kind of ROI; they'll ask for an increase to the millage to continue operations because of the lack of sufficient revenue from ridership. Don't bother putting your checkbook away, Tom.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.
This will pass in a landslide. Good thing outsiders like you don't have a vote in our city.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.
I'd bet that most people use the station to go westward to Chicago, not to commute. To test commuting, allow the train to stop near the hospital and see if a lot take advantage of it. If hundreds start to get on and off, then talk about a station should begin. If not, then it should stop.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 9:18 p.m.
Sounds like another Morooney project.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.
Yes I agree with Christopher Taylor that the voters of Ann Arbor should decide the fate of the Amtrak through the ballot box. This vote should be held in November at a regularly scheduled election time and not through some special election in May or August as too many of these things are in Ann Arbor. We need an in-depth public debate and discussion of this issue and I think when you blow away all the 'wouldn't it be nice in a perfect world' emotional arguments in favor of the project, reason will suggest that the overwhelming number, amount and substance of the arguments are against it.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 8:51 p.m.
rather have this than raze and rebuild an entire library...
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 1 a.m.
They are not mutually exclusive but the case for a new railroad station is based on future prediction of usage without any certainty and the library wishes to transform itself into a major Community Center sponsoring all sorts of meetings. Neither represent a necessity nor are likely to involve prudent expenditures of our tax dollars.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 8:40 p.m.
Boy,oh boy, do I wish we had better train transit. Ever since my father commuted 40 miles to work every day when I was 11 until he retired. And the best picture of me and my high school friends was taken in a city park. Decades since, that town still doesn't have good intercity train service--and it's such a straight shot, a segment of a line that would connect Dallas and Oklahoma City. But the same city does still have good parks (like the one in that picture) AND a greenway system that follows active tracks through downtown. There are no separations and few guard gates in a university town slightly larger than Ann Arbor. Without condescension, I believe Ann Arbor is capable of both a revitalized train system and a more connected park and open space system. We have great assets with associated responsibilities. We can't afford to squander the irreplaceable. We can have a public process that reveals plans that engender public support. We just have to decide that the public is the source of great success.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.
As a federal entity, Amtrak builds its own stations with federal funds. Their point of view on this issue is that if Ann Arbor is stupid enough to spend their gushingly rich city funds on a federally funded project, then go right ahead. The feds welcome the Hieftje-et-al gift with open arms, wide grins, and slaps on knees and backs. Yee ha!
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.
"evaluation will prove the Fuller Road site is preferred, and they continue to argue there are too many logistical hurdles on Depot Street." What are the logistic hurdles? Does anyone know? It would seem to make sense to update and expand the existing train station and build a parking structure on the DTE lot. Along with a park. If there are no major issues, this would satisfy everyone. Excluding some members of the city council and mayor.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.
Not a structure, that costs much too much and is not needed presently. A structure can always be built years later if it is ever needed. Just allow parking on this BIG surface lot, and build a simple crossing over the tracks instead of making people go up and over the bridge. An eight year old can safely cross the tracks, especially with a crossing light.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.
Why? Ann Arbor - much like the country of "America" surrounding it - is a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. I'm fine having elected leaders do this deciding. I have enough on my plate already - must I be tasked with doing the job I elected my representatives to do? Do the research on the trains. Make your case to the public. If your constituents support it, then go right ahead and do what you need to do. That's how things work, for the most part, in a representative democracy.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.
You contradict yourself, GoNavy. Early in your comment you suggest that you do not want to consider the merits or drawbacks of a Fuller Road train station but rather let your ward council person do that for you and depend on that person's preference. However, in your last paragraph you want constituents to become familiar with the issue so that they can determine whether they want their representative to support or not to support the plan. You can not have it both ways. Do you want your ward Councilperson to make decisions without your knowledgeable input or only after you express your opinion to the representative?
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.
Representative democracy has failed so we turn to popularity contests for interested voters.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.
The resolution seems to approach this project backwards. First it transfers $550,000 from the General Fund fund balance to the Major Grant fund to spend on the project and then at a later undetermined point in time, the City will ask the voters if they want to go forward with the project. Please ask the voters before spending any more general fund revenues on this project. That is $550,000 that could be spent on staffing fire stations or addressing neighborhood flooding.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 2:50 a.m.
I was thinking the same thing. This back hand resolution to give people a vote is nothing more than a device to appropriate more funding. It's very devious.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 12:45 a.m.
I agree, Jack.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 10:09 p.m.
why general fund when art commission has mil plus. borrow it from them.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.
I'm all for a better train station. I may even be for it at Fuller Road. But I have to agree that I believe giving away parkland, trading it, or repurposing it permanently to non-"park" uses goes against the intent of the vote passed several years ago. I hope someone can come up with better wording and re-present the question to voters regarding parkland.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.
It's already a non-park, it is a gravel parking lot used by hospital employees. If this is a proper use for the non-park land, a train station is even better!
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.
This seems to have become the "Matty Maroun against the bridge" issue of Ann Arbor. "Let the people decide" is as false with this long-planned facility by decades of City Councils as is the issue facing state voters about the bridge this November. Just build it: the site is suitable, it will connect us with the rest of the region; it will become active, instead of being just a swath of parking. Please, Council, vote against the resolution. Let's move on to other issues facing us as a city, rather than rehashing a decision that's been reaffirmed over and over.
Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.
Yes just let liberal, economic special interests have their way. Left-wing crony capitalism is the ticket. Left-wing elitists know what is best for you--no need to consult with Public to get their approval.