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Posted on Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 9:29 a.m.

Passage of regional transit authority legislation puts AATA at risk in the future

By Letters to the Editor

The article on Dec. 6 on the regional transit authority written by Ryan Stanton stated "Washtenaw County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, had been aggressively lobbying for passage of the RTA legislation with Washtenaw,” and with that support, the legislation passed on this same day to create a Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority including Washtenaw County.


Albert M. Berriz, the CEO of McKinley, Inc.

Courtesy photo

To use popular slang, Smith "sold us out"! I have had the good fortune to spend several years in a finance leadership role with the AATA that gave me unique insight into the finances of the organization. Simply stated, the economic model that works so well today is highly reliant on federal funds.

The legislation passed today now squarely puts that funding at risk. It also takes a very functional and efficient local transportation authority and attempts to merge it with other dysfunctional organizations, all with the desire to create some regional fantasy that makes no sense.

Those other organizations not only have a well-established track record of dysfunctional operations and finances, they would love to have the funding base that the AATA has today...and guess what? With today's vote they got their hands on our money and we risk losing local control of what we have come to know as the AATA. Thank you Mr. Smith, we will look back on this day and pinpoint who exactly was the architect of putting "our" AATA at risk, your fiduciary to the community clearly took a back seat to your other objectives.

Albert M. Berriz




Richard Wickboldt

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

Mr. Conan Smith apparently didn't get the message from the voters this past November. Nor did he understand most of the county councils have voted this down. To me it would seem that either Mr. Conan Smith has a cognitive dysfunction or taking these actions under the advice of others for his own personal financial gain. Both are usually found with republican politicians. I guess the virus has spread across party lines. We the citizen's better work quickly on finding a permanent cure for this disease before our city along with the whole country is destroyed by ignorant and corrupt politicians.


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 9:16 p.m.

It seems to me the risk confronting AATA is well deserved. The state's and Connan Smith's supported high handed approach is in the same vein as the AATA aroggant approach to the county wide transportation plan which went down to resounding defeat. Perhaps if AATA had minded their legislative p's and q's they would not have ended in political,operational and fiscal cage. Long live ATAA's self agrandisement.


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

Ann Arbor leaders are getting a taste of "for your own good" medicine they've been dishing out by shoving millage after millage, cross walks, new bus stations, library buildings, parking lots, fee increases, property tax increases, and the DDA down our throats for years. Our city leaders know how we all feel about the "crosswalk debacle" but consider it "for our own good". Well now you know how it feels. I'm sure AATA will come to understand that this change is for "its own good".


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

The comment by USRepublic is blatant racism and should be condemned by all readers of conscience. We need a debate over public transit policy that is not poisoned by words like yours.

local guy

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 7:08 p.m.

Well said Mr. Berriz. We have an outstanding public transit system which, due to the likes of Ms. Lesko, will not be able to expand and further enhance the economic, social and envioronmental health of our community (by tarpooning county-wide). We really should have been given the opportunity to vote on that issue which, despite what Lesko says, was always a concept support by those surveys -- the question was, though, let us see what it could look like and and what it will cost. AATA did precisely what it should have done under those circumstances, and hopefully some of their efforts can still be deployed for the betterment of all. Our system is one the top 15 om the entire nation based utilization per service hour. In any event, Mr. Smith's effort were short-sighted and will only serve to dilute AATA's ability to continue to provide high quality service to us. We will, thanks to Mr. Smith, have little say on where federal dollars and vehicle tax revenues will be spent, all which could otherwise stay in our community. Please stop whining about empty busses and buildings. The system is a good one and works, and we need transfer centers and busses to provide decent service. Every dollar spend on public transit results in less need to widen highways and build parking structures (which are empty for more hours than full), whcih are much more expensive and less environmental friendly than mass tranist.

Patricia Lesko

Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Yeah, I was gonna say that if I were this powerful and influential, it's a shame I didn't buy a Powerball ticket because I surely would have won. In fact, didn't speak about the AATA transit plan in public, or write about it for A2Politico (save for a piece when the entire county withdrew from the AATA's grand transit boondoggle in the space of 20 days). After that happened, I wrote about it for Dome (a state-wide mag on politics), the Huffington Post and The Atlantic. As I wrote, our family actually uses AATA for daily transit, and "improvements" on our route (1) included doubling the time between buses (from 15 mins. to 30 mins.).

Jack Eaton

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

local guy, I think you are giving Ms. Lesko too much credit. She did not kill the countywide transit plan. The lack of interest on the part of those communities into which AATA planned to expand was what killed the plan. While it might have seemed reasonable to Ms. Lesko or me that the AATA should have found out whether those communities were interested in having and paying for expanded transit service, the AATA planners simply forgot to ask. Millions of dollars were wasted planning transit service for communities who did not want it or did not want to pay for it. If Ms. Lesko were responsible, I would want her held accountable. She was not responsible. Apparently, those who were responsible for that huge failure will not be held accountable.

Alan Goldsmith

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 6:06 p.m.

Yousef Rabhi, who is assumed will become the Washtenaw County Commission Board Chairperson in 2013, would appoint the two Washtneaw County representatives to the this newly formed RTA Board. These two reps would have the option of opting out for the County. Why won't Rabhi comment on what his plans are with the RTA? Has he spoken with the Governor on this, and if so, what transpired during those conversions? What were his discussions on this with Conan Smith? Had Smith been lobbying for a position within the new RTA? Has Rabhi? Maybe the dot com can ask these 'politicians' to comment.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 4:12 a.m.

Saline Teacher is correct. The only way to stop the RTA is if all involved counties vote down the proposed additional vehicular license registration fee. And that is where everybody's efforts should be aimed.


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

Where is the "opt-out" provision in this legislation? I don't think there is one...

Jack Eaton

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

The new RTA will oversee three local transit authorities - AATA, DDOT and SMART. AATA has an operating budget of about $33 million; SMART has an operating budget of about $114 million and DDOT's ever declining budget is similar to SMART's. Who can possibly believe that AATA will have parity in any discussions with these other huge entities? It is as comical as pretending that Conan Smith can hold his own in a meeting with millionaire businessman, Mayor David Bing, Republican machine politician Brooks Paterson and Democratic machine politician Robert Ficano. Only a small town rube could believe that Ann Arbor or Washtenaw County would benefit from this relationship.


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

AATA sweating losing their unlimited pot of cash? That's what happens when you waste money on big fancy buildings to the detriment of your customer needs. Sorry, the future of SE Michigan may not end up including AATA or it might get consolidated but your unlimited pot of cash may soon be gone.


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

@ Stephen, Then lots stop repairing certain roads too. The AATA is doing something to help their CUSTOMERS., Those that ride the bus appreciate the new center, There are many other advantages as well. THe federal tax dollars are going to Washington EITHER WAY. You either try to get i back in Michigan for projects that provide jobs and access to transportation or somebody else gets the money.

Stephen Landes

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 7:51 p.m.

"Federal tax dollars" just happen to be from people like us -- it's all local money regardless of the delivery pipeline. Waste is waste, and AATA is doing its share of wasting money.

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

Folks should know that the new Blake Transit Center is mostly paid for from Federal grant dollars. I believe that it will be a better transit center for customers as well as operators.


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

Thank You Mr. Berriz!


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

We the people have been getting sold out by the likes of Mr. Smith for quite some time now, and despite my respect for you as a businessman and community leader, Mr. Berriz, I had always assumed that you were part of the same group. What a relief to see someone of your stature telling it like it is, and calling out those who would bankrupt our community. Now, would you like to share with us your opinion of the mayor?


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.

Not to mention he appeared on Chuck Stoke's show sunday morning in jeans and a worn out blazer, while all the other guests were dressed in their Sunday best.

David Cahill

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.

Well said, Mr. Berriz!

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

How about an economic model where we skip Washington? Instead of sending a dollar of bus money to Washington so they can skim 20 cents off and send us back 80 cents how about we just keep the dollar?

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 3:54 p.m.

"Simply stated, the economic model that works so well today is highly reliant on federal funds." and that is why this country has been in debt for 223 years minus a few brief months in 1835.

Patricia Lesko

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

Al, sorry, but you, the AATA Board members appointed by John Hieftje, and John Hieftje himself have just gotten a taste of your own medicine. While I'd like to say watching the looks on your faces is amusing, I am too thoroughly disgusted to enjoy it. Our family actually uses the bus for local transportation. Your "leadership" has left our city's bus riders wanting, literally. AATA went forward with a county-wide transit plan when both AATA's 2006 and 2009 surveys indicated county residents were not in support of expanding AATA BEFORE local transit was made much better, and certainly not in support of any additional millage to support expanded transit county-wide. You blew how many millions of tax dollars and staff time crafting a $500M dollar county-wide transit plan? Now Michael Ford is desperately trying to hide that information from taxpayers ( Ann Arbor's Mayor got to humiliate himself by withdrawing from the 4-Party agreement he has been pushing you and everyone else on the AATA Board to implement. He threw you under the wheels of the bus. No one who knows him is surprised. No one who knows Conan is surprised he threw Ann Arbor and AATA under the wheels of the bus, either.

Alan Goldsmith

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

Don't forget Rebekah Warren and her 'bipartisan' sponsoring of this bill initially. Time for a recall or primary challenges next go around to both Warren and Smith.


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

I would put a more positive spin on this..... Slum lords will have a larger geography to to build their rentals.... Why shouldn't Detroit's finest have access to Ann Arbor?

Alan Goldsmith

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

"Thank you Mr. Smith, we will look back on this day and pinpoint who exactly was the architect of putting "our" AATA at risk, your fiduciary to the community clearly took a back seat to your other objectives." Wow, well said!


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

So long as we stop public funding of huge and usually empty buses, I am all for it. Downsize the AATA and don't build a new building for it.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 3:26 a.m.

Okay, well, as somebody who actually rides the AATA I can hosenstly tell you I have NEVER gotten on an empty bus in Ann Arbor. NEVER. And the busses transporting between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor get so packed that, if time allows, many try to wait for the next bus on that route to secure a little extra comfort on "packed bus days" and ANY WEEKDAY around 3 pm the bus system gets so packed it's a nightmare. Fact Check Comment #1


Sat, Dec 8, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

Of course everything you said is factually incorrect. But let's pretend you are right. How about we shut down roads that go unused for HUGE portions of the day. I think we can stop plowing, repairing or even looking at any road that doesn't meet the 50% of capacity at ALL times rule. Your car does not take priority of those that take the buses REGARDLESS of what your selfish interest.