County Board Ends “Washtenaw Ride”

The Washtenaw County board of commissioners voted officially to dissolve a countywide public transit authority known as the Washtenaw Ride. The 7-1 vote took place at the board’s April 17, 2013 meeting, without discussion, and followed initial approval given on April 3. Voting against the resolution was Conan Smith (D-District 9), but he did not comment on his decision during the meeting. Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) was absent.

The Act 196 authority, created in mid-2012 and spearheaded by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, was for all practical purposes ended late last year when the Ann Arbor city council voted to opt out of the transit authority at its Nov. 8, 2012 meeting. Of the 28 municipalities in Washtenaw County, the city of Ypsilanti is the only one that hasn’t opted out.

The county board’s April 17 resolution rescinds a board resolutions that created the transit authority, and requests that the state legislature also take action to dissolve the Washtenaw Ride, in accordance with Attorney General Opinion #7003. That AG opinion stated that “the dissolution of a transportation authority organized under the Public Transportation Authority Act requires an act of the Legislature and may not be accomplished by the unilateral action of the city in which it was established.” [.pdf of AG opinion 7003]

The county’s role in creating the transit entity had been laid out in a four-party agreement with Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and the AATA, which commissioners approved on Aug. 1, 2012 in a 6-4 vote. Subsequent revisions involving the other entities resulted in the need for a re-vote by the county board, which occurred on Sept. 5, 2012.

There are two other transit efforts now under way. Washtenaw County is part of a southeast Michigan regional transit authority (RTA) created by the state legislature late last year. The RTA was formed to coordinate regional transit in the city of Detroit and counties of Wayne, Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw. Conan Smith has been a strong advocate for the RTA, and made Washtenaw County’s two appointments to the RTA board before his term as county board chair ended on Dec. 31, 2012.

Separate from the RTA effort, the AATA has been meeting with representatives of the county’s “urban core” communities to discuss possible expanded public transit within a limited area around Ann Arbor. It would be a smaller effort than the previous attempt at countywide service. The AATA hosted a meeting on March 28 to go over details about where improvements or expansion might occur, and how much it might cost. [See Chronicle coverage: "Costs, Services Floated for Urban Core Transit."]

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]