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Posted on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

Ann Arbor opposes legislation that includes Washtenaw County in regional transit authority

By Ryan J. Stanton

Update at 12:53 p.m.: The RTA legislation again failed to garner the needed 56 votes on Thursday afternoon, causing the House GOP to table it again. House Democrats reportedly clapped and cheered after its defeat. Many Democrats support the bill but are refusing to vote for the RTA, which the Republicans want to see passed, while right-to-work legislation remains in play.

As legislation to create a Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority heads back to the floor of the state House for a vote, concerns abound it might not be good for Ann Arbor.

"It's a bad piece of legislation," said Mayor John Hieftje, who fears it poses a threat to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, the city's long-time transit service provider.

Ann Arbor officials said they met with representatives of Gov. Rick Snyder's office months ago and were assured Washtenaw County would be taken out of the RTA legislation.

Hieftje and Eli Cooper, the city's transportation program manager, both said they were disappointed to see the legislation fast-tracked out of the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday without any changes. It still includes four counties: Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw.


Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said he doesn't support the currently proposed legislation including Washtenaw County in a new Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"It's been no secret that in Ann Arbor we're opposed to a regional transit authority if Washtenaw County is included," Hieftje said. "I wish the other counties the best of luck, and I think it's a good idea for the Metro Detroit area, but I don't see what it offers Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor."

While the RTA would not replace the city's transit agency, the AATA would come under the umbrella of the four-county regional authority in some respects. Both city and AATA officials fear the AATA could see some of its funding jeopardized in that process.

"I can see some downsides to it for Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor, but I haven't been able to discover the upside yet," Hieftje said.

Senate Bill 909, co-sponsored by Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, is the legislation that authorizes creation of the RTA. After several months of idling, that bill and three companion bills finally moved out of the Senate last week with the Legislature now in its lame duck session.

Snyder has made the RTA legislation a top priority, but heightened political tensions appear to have compromised plans for taking Washtenaw County out of the mix.

After the legislation passed through committee on Wednesday, it went to the House floor for a vote. But when it became apparent SB 909 was just shy of the 56 votes needed to pass, the Republican House leadership pulled the legislation off the table for the day.

Those tracking the bill, including state Rep. Rick Olson, R-York Township, are expecting it to come back on Thursday. And if not then, at least by next week.

"We'll come back tomorrow morning and probably pass it," Olson said Wednesday night. "If the Democrats stop playing games, we could do lots of things, but with Republican votes only, about the only thing we can do is pass it as the Senate sent it to us."

Olson and Mark Ouimet, Washtenaw County's two outgoing Republican delegates in the House, both serve on the Transportation Committee that approved the legislation on Wednesday. Olson acknowledged the plan was to remove Washtenaw County, but that changed overnight when Democrats decided they weren't going to vote for the legislation.

Democrats support the concept of an RTA, but they refused to vote for the bill while the question of right-to-work legislation remains on the Legislature's agenda.

Olson said amending the RTA legislation in any way now would require sending it back to the Senate, where it likely wouldn't have enough votes without Democratic support. Rather than risk losing the whole bill, he said, the Republicans are pushing ahead with the current draft.

If approved, the RTA would be in charge of coordinating public transit within a four-county region stretching from Ann Arbor to Detroit and north to Oakland and Macomb. The legislation allows a county not included to petition the authority to become a part of it, and that was a future option Ann Arbor officials counted on even while asking Washtenaw County to be excluded.

"We're not supportive because our community's interests are not well represented in this bill," Cooper said, calling the legislation offensive to Ann Arbor and the AATA.

Cooper, who serves on the AATA board, said he was surprised to see Olson and Ouimet pass the legislation out of committee without addressing the concerns of local officials.

"It was abundantly clear there was something at a higher level that was driving the decisions being made," he said. "There's a stronger hand being played."

The RTA would be responsible for adopting a public transit plan for the entire four-county region and updating the plan annually. The legislation makes it clear a major focus would be implementing a rolling rapid transit system — or bus rapid transit — within the region.


Washtenaw County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing earlier this year. Smith believes Washtenaw County should be at the table and partner with three other counties on an RTA.

Ryan J. Stanton |

SB 909 specifically enables the RTA to implement a bus rapid transit system on four corridors, including a 47-mile route between downtown Detroit and the Blake Transit Center in Ann Arbor, with stations in at least three other locations: Ypsilanti, Detroit Metro Airport and Dearborn.

The 10 members of the RTA board would include two representatives from each of the four counties plus one appointed by Detroit's mayor and one appointed by the governor.

Unanimous approval of all voting members would be required to acquire, construct, operate or maintain any form of passenger rail service. Ann Arbor officials argue that clause in the legislation essentially gives veto power over regional rail to any member of the board.

For Ann Arbor's purposes, Hieftje said, that means the RTA might be little more than an express bus service to Detroit, and he doesn't think that's a hot demand or an efficient mode of travel.

"I don't know why anybody would want to take an hour-and-45-minute bus ride to get from Ann Arbor to Detroit when they could do it on a rail line the state is soon to own," Hieftje said.

Hieftje said he also is concerned federal discretionary funds the AATA has been successful at receiving — such as the millions being used to rebuild the Blake Transit Center — would have to go through the RTA board, which could decide to give higher priority to projects closer to Detroit.

AATA board member Jesse Bernstein, former CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce, said whatever happens with the RTA legislation, the AATA is ready.

"Whatever happens in Lansing and whatever the local politicians decide, I personally am very proud that AATA over the last two and a half years has developed a communitywide vision for the next 30 years that engaged thousands of county residents," he said. "And we have a five-year strategic plan that also engaged some key county constituents. So whether we go on our own as a county or we go with an RTA, we know where we're going. We've already done that legwork."


Jesse Bernstein

Bernstein said it's his understanding the RTA would have an oversight role regarding the AATA's state and federal allocations, and he's still not sure how that's going to play out.

The legislation provides that the RTA would be the region's designated recipient for the purposes of applying for grants. Before assuming responsibility for distributing state and federal funds, the RTA would have to enter into agreements with transit providers like the AATA.

The AATA and other public transit providers in the region would be required to submit to the RTA an annual report regarding the coordination of service. The legislation allows the RTA to issue directives regarding public transit services and to withhold a portion of state assistance from entities if they fail to comply with directives.

The enabling legislation comes with a $250,000 state appropriation get the RTA started.

Among its options for raising additional revenues, the authority would be allowed to levy a special assessment and collect a new motor vehicle registration fee if approved by voters. The authority also would be allowed to issue self-liquidating revenue bonds.

Washtenaw County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, has been aggressively lobbying for passage of the RTA legislation with Washtenaw County included.

"I want to make it clear, I don't speak for the county board on this," he said. "It's just something I'm personally passionate about and I think would be good for Michigan and Washtenaw County."

The AATA recently tried to form a countywide transit authority called the Washtenaw Ride but most of the municipalities in the county indicated they weren't interested.

Hieftje said he finds it disturbing that Smith is lobbying so hard for the county's inclusion in the RTA when Ann Arbor and AATA officials are opposed to it, and when local communities already decided they don't even want to be part of a countywide authority.

Smith argued it's important for Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor to be connected to the rest of the region because there are bigger issues at stake.

"The issues that arise around the operations of our local transit system are appropriate, but let's not lose the forest for the trees," he said. "There's great benefit for us being part of a regional transit authority — everything from new funding streams to increased connectivity for communities."

Smith's nonprofit group, the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, released a report earlier this year explaining how the funding would work with an RTA. He believes the AATA's funding streams are protected.

"None of the funding can be siphoned off from AATA," Smith said. "We're actually going to get more money. So what Ann Arbor loses is the complete independence and autonomy it has now. But it's got to learn to play in the sandbox with others, whether it likes it or not."

Olson said he thinks the AATA has a good reputation of being a well-managed transit agency, and if it continues that way, it'll get a fair shake.

He said the idea of forming an RTA for Southeast Michigan has been discussed for many years and it's always failed, so he's glad to see something moving forward.

"Perfect is sometimes the enemy of good," he said. "Is this perfect? Probably not, but I am willing to go with what came out of the Senate so we can get something going."

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said he can't support the legislation until better protections are provided for the AATA. He's also concerned it leaves rail out of the picture.

"I'm hoping to see a regional transit authority in the future that has the ability to get some good things done, and in a way that doesn't diminish the quality of service in our own community," he said.

Hieftje said he's anxious to see what happens.

"We're sort of on pins and needles," he said. "I just wish there was somebody at the state that respected what we here in Ann Arbor want."

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.


Casey P

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : midnight

Conan Smith: "But it's got to learn to play in the sandbox with others, whether it likes it or not." Why? The people of Ann Arbor are satisfied with the service provided by the AATA. Why does Conan Smith feel the need to force his personal agenda on citizens who are satisfied with the current service?


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

Now that SB909 has passed, and most assuredly its twin bill in the House will pass also if not already, I expect Governor Snyder to the final bill into law quickly. I anticipate that Rebekah Warren's husband, Conan Smith, will either become CEO or a well-paid staff member of the RTA. If the RTA proves harmful to the AATA operations I will work tirelessly to unseat Ms. Warren and oppose any other political position for which she campaigns.

lou glorie

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

Whenever I encounter Conan Smith my mind naturally seeks clarity in the cartoons of Tom Tomorrow. Now I get it. Let's imagine Tomorrow's character Chuckles the Woodchuck--a rolly-polly fellow wearing the same smile whether he's overseeing a stripper at Bogarts or witnessing a blind man run down by a bus. I think Chuckles is a pretty good stand-in for Smith. Now imagine the bespeckled pipe-smoking Liberal Guy--that's Ann Arbor. Chuckles has got him by his turtle-neck, pinned down in the sandbox with his cuddly knee on Liberal Guy's solar plexus. He's explaining that Liberal Guy has " got to learn to play in the sandbox with others, whether [he] likes it or not". And the smile never leaves his face as he looks expectantly up to Mr. Big and Tall Man for a little pat of approval.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 9:33 p.m.

Update 4:30 p.m. SB 909 and SB 445 passed. The other three bills in the package, SB911, SB 912, SB 967 did not get enough votes to pass. The leadership suspended the vote and presumably they will be taken up later. The interesting thing is that the 909/445 will allow an RTA to operate, but without the other bills it will be difficult to institute the Bus Rapid Transit long-distance commuter lines that the Governor wants.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

SB 911 did pass later in the day. That allows for the use of a vehicle license fee for funding. I'll be updating my post as more news comes in.

Fritz McDonald

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

I commute from Ann Arbor (where my wife works) to Rochester, MI (where I work). This is a 110 mile commute (55 miles each way). I would benefit greatly from bus or rail transit between Ann Arbor and Oakland County. The current AATA is of no use to me in this commute. Successful metropolitan regions offer mass transit options to commuters like myself. The whole point of a RTA is to coordinate options for transit across the Detroit Metro region that will help commuters travel within and throughout the region. I have met both John Hieftje and Jeff Irwin at public meetings on transit, and both have given me assurances that they are in favor of public transit in Michigan. Opposing the RTA is not helpful to efforts to increase transit options in Ann Arbor and throughout Metro Detroit. I am deeply disappointed in my mayor and my representative. I hope the RTA passes despite this shortsighted opposition.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

"Smith's nonprofit group, the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, released a report earlier this year explaining how the funding would work with an RTA. He believes the AATA's funding streams are protected. "None of the funding can be siphoned off from AATA," Smith said. "We're actually going to get more money. So what Ann Arbor loses is the complete independence and autonomy it has now. But it's got to learn to play in the sandbox with others, whether it likes it or not."" Smith arrogance and contempt for the voters of his district continues. Why doesn't he move to Wayne County and find a nice little political hack job with his mentor Bob Ficano?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

This fact sheet: which was authored by Conan Smith's Michigan Suburbs Alliance and vetted by the Michigan Department of Transportation for accuracy, is quite interesting and provides some important information on this topic not touched upon by this article.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

Yes, I was able to find the 85% figure in the section about the vehicle license fee in SB 909 but not a figure associated with Federal funds. However, since the RTA will be the recipient of Federal funds for the region and will then dispense them, there is a possibility of funds that did go to AATA being disbursed elsewhere.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

I also haven't seen anything that says the RTA could take 15% of the AATA's state and federal funding. Is this perhaps being confused with the clause that guarantees Washtenaw County at least 85% of the new revenue generated from vehicle registration fees (meaning 15% of that NEW revenue could go to the RTA theoretically)?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

@Vivienne Armentrout: Can you please provide a link to the info about the new RTA skimming 15% off the top of all federal and state funds that AATA wil receive going forward? I haven't found any information on that yet. Thanks!

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

Yes, this is an excellent summary (also a link is provided in the story above). The basic point is that all AATA Federal and State funding would have to be filtered through the RTA, which would also extract 15% of the money for its own use. Under this, the AATA would become a contractor for the RTA. This is not about building connections, it is about centralizing power over transit. Washtenaw County never belonged in this mix and was added only as an afterthought, probably to forward Conan Smith's ambitions.

Dog Guy

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

As expected, Hizzoner opposes an RTA which would eliminate him as the public transportation supreme head boss in charge (through his Oompa-Loompas on the AATA board). By the way, has everyone enjoyed the recent moralizing songs from Hizzoner's DDA Oompa-Loompas on transforming parking lots into chateaux en Espagne, his Public Art Commission Oompa-Loompas on how hiding art serves to raise awareness of multi-modal transportation methods, encourage their safe use and further connections between neighborhoods, and his council Oompa-Loompas on removing unsightly cars and demonstrators from Ann Arbor? Somehow, all their songs sound the same.

Stephen Landes

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

I voted undecided on this one. I find it fascinating that Ann Arbor and the AATA are opposed to the RTA, but can't understand why so many local Washtenaw communities opted out of the expanded, "it's so wonderful for our county", bus system. I guess it's OK to have broad participation as long as A2 and AATA are in control, but it isn't OK when they are just another part of a larger system.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

That's not it. If we could be confident that the systems we were merging with were well-run, we'd want to join it. Instead, we can be confident that the systems we're being forced to join with are not particularly well-run. And I doubt that anyone "can't understand why so many local Washtenaw communities opted out". On the contrary, I think everyone understands why they opted out. Some people don't think it was the best decision, but that doesn't mean the don't understand the reasoning. In this case, Washtenaw isn't being given the option of opting out. Do you see the difference?

Jennifer Santi Hall

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

Thank you Conan for your support of the RTA and inclusion of Washtenaw County. I'm sure it's not easy to be in the minority with your opinion, but I totally agree with you that including Washtenaw County in the RTA is an important step for connecting the region. Thank you for standing up for this point of view!


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 12:45 a.m.

And exactly what Ann Arbor benefits do Jennifer and Myles refer to in SB909?

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

Murph, I am probably confused on the 85% issue (conflating it with the vehicle registration fee) but the effect of routing Federal funds through the RTA still seems to me to present a likelihood of redirection of some of those funds.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

I agree with Jennifer and Conan.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

Vivienne, your "give up 15% of state and federal funding" is completely false. AATA's Federal and State funding are calculated seprately from DDOT/SMART's, and I have verified with both MDOT and FTA officials that the regional transit authority could *not* redirect formula funds from AATA to the tri-county providers. The legislation does say that if the RTA itself raises any new from the region, then at least 85% of it must be spent in the county in which is was raised. You did a fine job calculating taxable values and yields for the county-wide effort: I'd suggest you take a stab at the revenue potential for the RTA (based on vehicle registration).

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 4:01 p.m.

This sounds lovely but the only "connection" with the Detroit Metro region will be a couple of BRT routes, which Washtenaw County's inclusion will not affect. The main effect is that our city taxpayer-supported AATA would become a contractor with the RTA and could have grants and even routing decisions overruled by the RTA. Also, we would give up 15% of our state and federal funding to the RTA.

Ron Granger

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

Seattle spent billions on high speed rail. The bus to the airport was still faster (and cheaper) than the train (they have HOV lanes), and the bus schedule was more flexible. Then they discontinued the bus because it raised too many awkward questions.

Jacob Faust

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 2:53 a.m.

Ron, I am unable to find any study supporting your claim to the bus was "faster" and "cheaper" than the train to the airport in Seattle. Could you help me?

Ron Granger

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

We do not want to be connected to Detroit in any way. Detroit government is a disaster by any measure. I don't see where Detroit politicians can agree among themselves - let alone give any consideration to the needs of other counties. Conan Smith's on-going fixation on Detroit and Wayne county is bizarre. He should just move there and run for mayor.

Basic Bob

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

Ann Arbor has now officially joined West Michigan. Except all the law and order conservatives still have the (D) by their names and are proud they have unusual friends.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

I am torn about this legislation; however there is one aspect I DO NOT like. That is the idea of bus rapid transit. Light rail is faster as BRT requires lanes that will reduce car lanes and create only more traffic jams. Gov. Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing have been pushing BRT for the Metro Detroit region and I for one want no part of that. Take that BRT and shove it.


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 12:41 a.m.

And how much will installing light rail cost, not only in money but in disturbed traffic flow during construction and then continued traffic obstruction as these 30-mph rail cars crawl along the roadway?

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

I have been reporting on this for some time in my blog. The most comprehensive discussion is , where you will find a link to discussion of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners resolution on November 7 that indicates Washtenaw County should not be a member. I also have a post with links to the legislation (a package of 5 bills, each with zingers). I have been providing updates on legislative action on that post. This is a complex issue, not just about whether we like transit or whether we are part of the metro region. AATA would simply become a contractor under a new authority board and would lose part of its funding to the regional authority. It would definitely impact us without improving either the metro service or giving us better access to Detroit. We simply don't belong there. Thanks to Representative Jeff Irwin for fighting on our behalf on this issue. And thanks to Ryan Stanton for the reporting.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

And people want to know why Washtenaw doesn't get the same benefits as Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne. I am soo tired of the selfishness and isolation of a2. Hieftje says "what we here in Ann Arbor want" but he should just say "what I want". I would love to see Washtenaw be included in this. It would benefit us if we had a light rail to downtown, especially for me since I go downtown 3 times a week.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

Don't come at you twisted??? Hmm, didn't know I was coming at someone twisted. What does that mean, walking toward someone with my shoulders turned sideways? Actually I grew up in "metro Detroit", and was very happy to move out of it, to a real city with a real downtown. In fairness, Detroit *is* a real city, and *has* a real downtown. "Metro" Detroit is some odd Frankenstein's monster - a bunch of suburbs that simultaneously want nothing to do with Detroit and want to keep the name and pretend they're part of it somehow. Actually, since they've been actively trying kill Detroit for sixty years or so, that's probably too generous a description. OTOH, I sure hope Ann Arbor never has many of the things that Detroit, or "Metro Detroit" for that matter, have to "offer".


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

@KJM you got that right. Yes I do go to a city that is 35 MILES AWAY, that city is my hometown and I am PROUD OF IT. Ann Arbor is not a hub and its downtown is whack and it offers nothing to me. The last time I've been to "downtown" Ann Arbor is when we moved here back in May to be closer to my grandmother. BTW Detroit has so much to offer that Ann Arbor will never have. If you don't want to be in the metro Detroit area then move out of SE Michigan. Don't come at me twisted.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

That's funny, most of AATA's buses go "downtown". Oh, you mean to another city 40 miles away. Can't think of any of those "benefits" you're alluding to, either.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

@Vivienne Sorry I meant the rapid bus transit.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

There is no light rail in the plan. It would be at best Bus Rapid Transit. Governor Snyder proposed that over a year ago.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

dconkey: "I sort of agree with the Mayor when he says, "Why would anyone want to take an hour and forty-five minute bus ride(?)" Are you referring to the amount of time it takes to go from one side of Ann Arbor to the other, after all the hub transfers are made on AATA? Otherwise, regional mass transit always includes many stops. It takes more time than portal-to-portal transit.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

Imagine only the 1% will be able afford to own and fuel personal "region-capablel" transportation in 20 years. Obama failed to initiate the electric grid works program and the Chinese moved into a new Cold resource "struggle" with the United States eliminating acces to cheap green technology (solarcells, batteries, wind and water turbines, rare earth components). People would be stuck in their geographic location - angry and desparate for work, lights, and food. Successful communities would require cheap labour to be sustained under their corporate model but would never want to pay for them. The state would shred apart into smaller competitive "zones" and GOP/DEM gobalcorp command and control and profit would be lost back to the locals. Why else would Michigan fastrack the need for an RTA?


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

Hahaha. Actually it was maize and blue and flies out at least once a day now to US-23 because of all those rushed commuters within the RTA zone.. If fuel is still affordable in 20 years then RTA isn't going to solve that congestion problem. So, eother energy way, the question posed still remains - Why any need for an RTA? Payola buddies are easier to work with in the transportation arena? The bigger the bus the better? Hmmm. Never mind I think I may have just answered my own question.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

That was exactly my thought when I saw the black helicopter go by.

Jeffersonian Liberal

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

It's funny how the statists in Ann Arbor are all about getting the townships to fund their failed transit system, but when they're asked to kick in they're not interested.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

I sort of agree with the Mayor when he says "Why would anyone want to take an hour and forty-five minute bus ride." Especially when me and my friends can make the drive in forty minutes door to door and go to where we want to go, when we want to go, not where and when the bus wants us to go.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

"Washtenaw County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, has been aggressively lobbying for passage of the RTA legislation with Washtenaw County included. "I want to make it clear, I don't speak for the county board on this," he said. "It's just something I'm personally passionate about and I think would be good for Michigan and Washtenaw County."" Then you have to ask why Conan Smith and his wife Sen. Rebekah Warren are in lock step with Governor Rick Snyder on this and apparently in opposition to nearly everyone else in local government. Smith's under the table support of the Snyder Agenda and his clear conflict of interest with this 'day job, as well as his buddy buddy association with political crook Bob Ficano makes you wonder when he has the interest or time to actually represent his Ann Arbor district.


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 12:29 a.m.

Do not be surprised if Conan becomes an employee of the RTA.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

"But it's got to learn to play in the sandbox with others, whether it likes it or not." Except that the "others" in this case are a bunch of cats, about as easy to round up and get to work together as a bunch of cats. And you know what cats do in that sandbox? Conan knows that the best chance to save the hollowing out metro area is to tie it to the vibrant jobs creator to the west. The best option for Washtenaw County is to either stay out until the Metro area gets its act together or just let it collapse of its own weight. You don't want to be chained to the oak tree when its rotten core finally gives way. Of course, in this case, the suburbs increased the rot, and they deserve to go down together.

Joe Semifero

Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 11:23 a.m.

"It's been no secret that in Ann Arbor we're opposed to a regional transit authority if Washtenaw County is included," Hieftje said. "I wish the other counties the best of luck, iand I think it's a good idea for the Metro Detroit area, but I don't see what it offers Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor." How ironic to hear Hieftje say the exact same thing about regional transportation as most of the townships said about AATA's recent countywide plan.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

The difference? The county plan is dead, at least for now. The townships were *able* to opt out. If the Legislature goes through with it? No opt-out. All the townships are back in the regional plan whether they like it or not. And there's a taxation provision - if the majority of voters in the four-county area approve a millage or per vehicle fee, the township residents get to pay for it, no opt-out possible. As in, if Detroit, the inner suburbs, Ypsi, and Ann Arbor want a region-wide millage or per-vehicle fee (based on value!), the townships and outer suburbs have to pay for it, even if they get no service. Looking forward to voting for that...


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

You beat me to it. I wish I could vote you up twice, but since this is and not a Chicago election, I can't.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

Hieftje said, "I wish the other counties the best of luck, and I think it's a good idea for the metro Detroit area, but I don't see what it offers Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor." JFK would surely frown. Then, he would likely advise: "Ask not what your region can do for you. Ask what you can do for your region." Last time I looked, Washtenaw County was part of the SE MI region, and not its own region. I hope the regional transportation bill includes Washtenaw County. It will benefit the region and us. It also relieves Ann Arbor City taxpayers the burden of paying for the giant Hieftje AATA regional folly. Let's hope that federal and state dollars leave Ann Arbor to fund true regional transportation. Let's forget about Wally folly. Let Amtrak build their own train stations Then, maybe we could focus on a good and competent citywide bus system, in the place of the current crashed extravaganza.


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 12:27 a.m.

Nothing in SB909 will prevent the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) from removing funds (including millage) used for AATA services and applying them elsewhere with the result of loss of AATA services. The RTA will determine Ann Arbor's transportation system and Ann Arbor citizens will have no influence on the outcome.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

"The scale of the Detroit to Chicago connection allows an Ann Arbor stop in its route. By itself, Ann Arbor does not have this scale regardless of our ego size." We appear to be living on two separate planets. Last I checked, Ann Arbor's station was the most heavily used in the state of Michigan. It would be more correct to say that the scale of the Ann Arbor to Chicago usage allows for the continuation to Dearborn and Detroit. Please check Amtrak's own statistics: Ann Arbor is double the usage of Detroit, and by 30,000 boardings/alightings the highest usage station in the state. And your analysis utterly lacks historical perspective. Ann Arbor and Washtenaw have *always* been separate from the Detroit Metro area. The only thing we share is Metro Airport, which is shared by the rest of the south-eastern quarter of the lower peninsula (along with northern Ohio). There's no particular reason to believe that UM is tied to the Detroit Metro area - it's tied to the economic development of the state in general. If Grand Rapids had been the economic hub instead of Detroit, UM would be just the same as it is today. Although I do agree with you that it would be helpful to be included in an ***effective*** regional transportation system. This just wouldn't be that system. And you can probably make your arguments without saying your opponents have a "tiny, selfish, egotistical vision".


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

Effective mass transit connects regions, with movement of mass population. So, small towns like Jackson and Ann Arbor are on the Amtrak route, connecting Detroit with Chicago. The scale of the Detroit to Chicago connection allows an Ann Arbor stop in its route. By itself, Ann Arbor does not have this scale regardless of our ego size. Your map boundary review includes an assumption that requires agreement to be valid. One of the elements at the heart of the assumption is that we are not connected to SE Michigan, or its surroundings, and we uniquely form our own vision and plan. Being separate, we form plans and vision, assuming central importance, believing that we are worthy and deserving of subsidized federal mass transit funding. However, we are not an island separate from Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. I believe we are vitally connected to these areas, and always have been. For example, Ann Arbor is viewed as an area economic engine that is vital to our region's well being. Thank you, UM. UM's growth is directly related to industry in SE Michigan, and the direct link is historically established. For this reason, Ann Arbor, as home to UM, needs to be included in an effective regional mass transit plan. We need regional collaboration to compete and survive. We are not the center. We are an important connecting spoke. Due to our connection, we need to be included in a true regional discussion and plan. This assumes that we are truly interested in regional transportation, and not some tiny, selfish, egotistical vision.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

Geez, looking at a map, Livingston, Monroe, Lenawee, Genesee, Jackson, Lapeer, St. Clair, and even Ingham counties are all in the SE MI region. Heck if we're playing that map game Saginaw and Bay City are in SE MI too. Are you saying they should all be lumped into the Detroit region? Last time I checked, the SE Michigan region was defined by Detroit and the counties in the 75, 275, 96, 94, 696 transportation sheds. If it weren't for all of the lakes and pools of money in wealthy West Bloomfield, they would have finished that beltway by now. So the Detroit Metro area stops at Canton , the last place that touches 275. You'll notice we're not part of that ring. It was the expressway transportation experiment that killed Detroit, and this topic is transportation. We've never been a part of their failed experiment, and there's no good reason to start now.