Ann Arbor on $60K for Transit Study: No

Continued study of a transportation corridor from the northeast of Ann Arbor to the city’s southern edge failed to receive a requested $60,000 appropriation from the city of Ann Arbor’s general fund at the city council’s Sept. 4, 2012 meeting.

Voting against the allocation were: Mike Anglin (Ward 5), Sandi Smith (Ward 1), Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), and Margie Teall (Ward 4). With the absences of Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) and Marcia Higgins (Ward 4), the measure got only four votes.  Voting for the resolution were: Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) and mayor John Hieftje.

The measure needed eight votes to pass on the 11-member council (not a simple majority of six), because it was a change to the budget. Some no votes might have been cast strategically, once it was recognized that the measure was going to fail. No votes from councilmembers who might otherwise have been expected to vote yes – like Smith and Teall – could be explained by a desire to exercise the option to reconsider the resolution at the council’s next meeting, when it might have enough votes to succeed. Only a councilmember who is on the prevailing side – in this case, those who voted no – can bring a question back to be reconsidered.

The contribution from the city of Ann Arbor would have helped the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to move ahead with an alternatives analysis. The corridor runs from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street and farther south to I-94. This alternatives analysis phase of the study would have resulted in a preferred choice of technology (e.g., bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) and identification of stations and stops.

The city’s $60,000 would have been a portion of $300,000 in local funding that had been identified to provide the required match for a $1.2 million federal grant awarded last year to the AATA for the alternatives analysis phase. The breakdown of local support was intended to be: $60,000 from the city of Ann Arbor; $150,000 from the University of Michigan; and $90,000 from the AATA.

In November 2011, Michael Ford – CEO of the AATA – had updated the AATA board on the possible timeline for the alternatives analysis. He said that phase, in which a preferred technology and route with stop locations would be identified, would take around 16 months.

The AATA board information packet for its June 21, 2012 meeting described the hoped-for $60,000 contribution from the city of Ann Arbor.

The city council’s failed resolution highlighted the fact that the AATA had recently purchased from the city a six-foot-wide strip of land on the former Y Lot, immediately to the south of the location for the planned new Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor – which was priced at $90,000, based on an independent appraisal. The AATA board approved its side of that deal this spring at its April 26, 2012 meeting. The city council approved the land sale almost a year ago, at its Sept. 19, 2011 meeting. The total parcel area was 792 square feet. A more general discussion of the city’s policy on the proceeds of city-owned land sales will unfold over the next few weeks.

A feasibility study for the corridor costing $640,000 has already been completed. That initial study concluded that some type of improved high-capacity transit system would be feasible – which could take the form of bus rapid transit, light rail transit or elevated automated guideway transit. That study had been funded through a partnership with the city of Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, University of Michigan and the AATA. Chronicle coverage of that feasibility study includes: “Transit Connector Study: Initial Analysis“; “AATA: Transit Study, Planning Updates“; and “Washtenaw Transit Talks in Flux.”

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]

Section: Civic News Ticker

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