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Posted on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

Ypsilanti City Council delays vote on AATA countywide transit agreement

By Tom Perkins

For a third time, the Ypsilanti City Council delayed voting on a four-party agreement that would lay the framework for a countywide transportation authority.

The decision comes a day after the Ann Arbor City Council delayed a vote on the same issue.

Council previously delayed the vote because there was no draft agreement and because the City of Ann Arbor and the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners hadn’t yet approved the agreement with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.


Paul Schreiber

Council Member Pete Murdock said he thought Ann Arbor City Council’s concerns over the absence of a financial plan were legitimate, suggesting that Ypsilanti also should delay action as Ann Arbor did the previous night. Council unanimously agreed on the motion without any discussion.

Mayor Paul Schreiber said after the meeting that Ypsilanti should wait to see what the Ann Arbor City Council does because Ann Arbor holds the largest stake in the AATA.

"It makes sense for them to come to an agreement amongst themselves first," he said.

AATA leaders are asking the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, as well as Washtenaw County, to enter into a four-party agreement that's seen as the first step toward creation of a new countywide transit authority to replace the AATA.

Like Schreiber, Council Member Mike Bodary said he thought Ann Arbor should approve the plan first because it is the largest player. He also said he isn't comfortable moving forward when so many specifics remain unknown.

"We've got a lot of details to work out that we haven't been able to work out, so it's just too early to get anything going," he said.

The AATA is planning a nearly $600 million expansion over 30 years. Officials say the plan will provide significant service improvements and help spur economic growth throughout the county.

The AATA released a 61-page report in August detailing possible funding strategies, and a special financing task force is at work determining how to best fund the project.

So far, the most discussed option is a new 1-mill countywide transit levy on top of the .987 mills Ypsilanti residents currently pay. Ann Arbor property owners would pay would an additional 1-mill on top of the current 2-mills they pay for AATA service.

Under the terms of the four-party agreement, the current millages would be transferred to the new authority.

One of the AATA’s first steps in its plan was creating an unincorporated countywide board. Officials representing districts throughout the county sit on the unincorporated board, which has met several times.

That body is expected to publish a five-year service plan and ask the county to file articles of incorporation. The plan is a short-term program that will help the countywide authority quickly expand service in the region while the 30-year plan is revised.

Ann Arbor City Council Member Stephen Kunselman attended Ypsilanti's meeting. He highlighted an amendment approved by the Ann Arbor City Council on Monday night. If Ann Arbor voters fail to approve funding for a new countywide authority — even if a majority of county voters favor it — then the city maintains the right to withdraw from the agreement without penalty, veto any attempt at termination of the current transit operation agreement with the AATA and refuse to transfer the city's millage to the new authority.

He said he plans to offer an amendment at the Ann Arbor City Council's January 23 meeting that will give Ann Arbor a majority on the new authority's board. Ann Arbor has seven members on the 15-member board.

"There's a huge concern that our transit dollars could start being used outside the city of Ann Arbor to fund things that I think maybe are a little beyond reality," Kunselman said, listing commuter rail to Brighton and Dearborn or van service to Manchester as examples.

The Ann Arbor City Council will hold a public hearing on the issue at its meeting on Jan. 23. No timetable for approving the four-party agreement is in place in Ypsilanti or Ann Arbor.


Vivienne Armentrout

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

Tom Whitaker makes a very salient point. Much of the planning that was done around Ann Arbor's downtown in the last decade, starting with the Calthorpe exercise, was justified on the basis of this view of &quot;sustainability&quot;: we should discourage sprawl, keep new development within the city, make downtown super dense in order to save the wide open spaces of the countryside. Now the TMP (the website with links to the 4 volumes of the Transit Master Plan is <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> explicitly states that one of the benefits of the plan is &quot;transit-oriented development&quot;, i.e. making transportation corridors that then can attract development in nodes along the corridors. Quoting: &quot;Compact neighborhoods are built around transit hubs or stations to maximize access to opportunities and services for all.&quot; It is all about an expansion of development opportunities outside the city. This is now being called &quot;sustainability&quot;. But it turns the previous argument on its head, which is remarkable because some of the same people were making the prior argument. The issue of how to balance benefits and costs between the region and one's own locality is not an easy one. As I discuss in a blog post, <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> regionalism is now being used as a model for many programs but the benefits are not always distributed evenly.

Tom Whitaker

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

Ann Arbor's transit millage was approved by Ann Arbor voters in the 1970's with the explicit language that the funds be used for public transportation &quot;FOR THE CITY.&quot; The AATA should not be spending our money on plans to make life easier for township commuters (and beyond) into the city. Township residents already pay lower taxes and the City and County are spending millions to preserve their viewscape with the Greenbelt and other land preservation programs. Instead of further subsidizing the rural commuter lifestyle with county-wide transit, and encouraging rural transit-oriented-developments (aka: urban sprawl), AATA and our local officials should instead be working to make city living more attractive to newcomers by improving intra-city transit, our roads, our services, and our parks. Zoning reform should be a high priority in order to strengthen and beautify our neighborhoods. Police and fire departments ought to be properly funded and staffed so that people feel safe living within the city limits. The true sustainable path forward is not to make it more convenient for people to live farther and farther out, bulldozing more and more farms and forests for houses in the process, but to instead encourage people to live closer to their workplaces, shopping and entertainment centers, and medical centers. Scarce resources are better spent on improvement and enhancement of the existing urban environment, not expansion into rural areas. If Washtenaw County wants to pursue county-wide transit anyway, then it ought to come from the County government, and not be initiated by AATA, which was created to serve the city of Ann Arbor.

Tom Whitaker

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 9:58 p.m.

Last I checked, no one is pushing to spend our city streets millage on county and township roads the way AATA is pushing to spend our public transportation millage on township commuters. What is more sustainable? TOD developments in rural areas or attractive infill developments inside the city limits? If you run buses out to these rural &quot;bus stop&quot; developments, will you follow up with water and sewers? And where are all the people supposed to come from to justify all this development? This isn't 1955 and Michigan is losing population to other states while the overall population rate is decreasing. Town Centers--hah! Gag me with a 10-year-old urban planning textbook!


Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.

Roads make it cheap to live far away from the city in spread out development. Unless we make drivers pay the actual cost of driving, the incentive to live in suburbs will not go away. Expanded transportation, on the other hand, will link the cities with concentrated rural developments, like town centers. People will be more inclined to live near a bus stop, meaning that less farmland and wild areas will be bulldozed for more houses. Public transportation is a friend, not an enemy, of sustainable development.

Peter Eckstein

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 3:54 p.m.

Interesting how obvious it was to ALL of the Ypsilanti Council members that they should not commit to a new structure until the plans for services and funding are available. In Ann Arbor only three Council members out of 9 present supported Jane Lumm's motion to postpone consideration of the agreement until a time when those plans are likely to be available.

hut hut

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

I'm all for expanded and improved publicly owned mass transit, but only when the other communities involved make a commitment to ante up just like Ann Arbor has since 1969.


Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

The Tri County area did pull together when they realized they needed mass transit to get people from one area to the next. It works when all are involved. Right now Washtenaw county is not towing the line and it looks like it never will. When I drive to Westland I see a bus stop near Newburg and turn around. That is as far as buses go in Wayne county. It would be nice to see them meet somewhere in the middle. Ypsi? Time to start pulling the line.


Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

City vs city, burb vs city township vs city. A house divided......

G. Orwell

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

@Cash Bad idea. Administrators are not elected and they will and can be used to subvert the will of the people. Just as Feaiser did for the city of Ann Arbor. There is a good reason why AATA and Michael Ford is getting resistance for the massive expansion. It is not needed and it will be costly. AATA should look at growing organically by improving service and efficiency. If people like the service, more people will ride the bus. Then, as demand increases, use the money to expand. Just as an independent business would do. What is wrong with this method compared to sucking more tax money from cash strapped residents.


Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

A county administrator certainly can be elected...I.e. Mark Hackel.

Carole Clare

Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

Do we really need another Administrator?


Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

What administrator leads this county and pulls it together? Alone no one city or township will be as successful as the entire county pulling together as one. Instead all we see is city vs city, township vs city etc.


Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

Okay once again, my same issue........Washtenaw County needs a County Executive position, like Oakland and Macomb have. Our county never pulls's every burg for itself. Meanwhile Oakland and now Macomb stay in sync and continue to move forward. We don't need unelected boards who represent special interests. We do need an elected representative for the people, working to pull this county together.