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Transit

Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, AATA and Washtenaw County are working on a plan to convert our current PA 55 transit authority to a multi-community PA 196 transit authority. That new authority would the attempt to implement the county-wide transit plan developed by AATA.

Former County Board of Commissioners member Vivienne Armentrout participated in a panel discussion of the county wide transit plan at a joint meeting of city and county Democratic Parties on Saturday March 17. The following is Ms. Armentrout's opening remarks at that discussion:

I’m in favor of a countywide transit system.  I would like to see our county be fully accessible by bus from every corner so that we could visit other communities, and people who work in other communities or need service could have access without a car. I’m even reconciled to the idea that some of us might have to pay more in order to extend service to everyone.  But this current plan will not deliver that promise.  Instead, it will divert our local transit dollars into regional commuter service. I see a possibility that the successful bus system we already have could be endangered.

The course we have been set has many potential risks, and in my opinion we have been rushing headlong toward an outcome that could have damaging consequences.

One problem is the changing picture of transportation funding at the state and Federal levels.  We simply cannot assume that things will go on as they always have.  Even the Financial Task Force acknowledged that their recommendations were merely tentative, depending on changes in state law.  Planning requires that you must be able to predict at least some things with some certainty, especially funding.  We should not put a completely new mechanism in place without that moderate level of certainty. We depend on that Federal and State support for our basic service.

Another problem is the idea of creating an entirely new authority that will have independent powers of its own.  This will not be an expanded AATA.  This will be a new, independent authority with the power to tax, to borrow money, and to use its revenues for any purpose within a broad definition of public transit.  It is also explicitly designed to be a regional transit agency beyond the borders of Washtenaw County. 

I fear that the ultimate purpose for this reorganization is support for a commuter rail system that has little potential for Federal funding and that the State of Michigan is unable to support.  Ultimately, this reorganization could drain our local transit dollars to use for the commuter rail and for an expensive connector system to serve the University of Michigan.

I’m all for the lovely vision of a commuter rail system. But there is absolutely no money for one.  MDOT has paid for some track improvements and for refurbishing some cars, but our proposed systems do not qualify for Federal intercity rail funding.  Yesterday I attended a tour of the Amtrak station in which city staff said over and over again that the city needs to build a new rail station at Fuller Road solely because it will be needed for the commuter rail service. I was shocked at how much city staff and some council members have accepted an altered view of reality.

Vision and goals are fine.  But we need to keep an eye on the money. We want to keep local connections strong and fares affordable.  If we divert most of our attention to regional commuters, none of our local communities will be well served.

A2NA suggests these additional discussions:
More about the transit Financial Task Force.
More about the Four Party Agreement.
More about commuter rail service.


Vivienne Armentrout also has posted extensive discussion of the plans to convert our PA 55 transit system (single city transit authority) to a PA 196 transit system (multi-community transit system) on her always enlightening news blog - Local in Ann Arbor. Click here for the transportation page. We couldn't provide any better information than she has presented in the many postings at that site.

The documents attached below are the three volumes (and one appendix) of the transit plan.
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Ann Arbor Neighborhoods,
Aug 25, 2011, 9:49 AM
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Ann Arbor Neighborhoods,
Aug 25, 2011, 9:49 AM
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Ann Arbor Neighborhoods,
Aug 25, 2011, 9:52 AM
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Ann Arbor Neighborhoods,
Aug 25, 2011, 9:54 AM
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