Comments on: AATA Adds Ypsilanti, Expands Potential it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Sun, 23 Jun 2013 21:18:21 +0000 The table to which Dave refers has a lot of interesting data in it. However, it is confusing to compare systems without choosing the correct units. So we are talking costs per passenger mile? (Vs. simply costs/mile, presumably for all miles traveled, or costs/passenger.) That measure does not appear to be available from that sheet, though one might be able to calculate it from some of the other data provided.

Two measures that seem useful are costs/passenger and passengers/mile. AATA seems to be at least in the same range with CATA and RAPID on c/p, at $3.64 vs. $3.17 and $3.06 respectively. It is similar to CATA and RAPID in passengers/mile at 1.88, 1.96, and 1.68. But note that for the “non-urban” service, AATA carries only 0.15 passengers/vehicle mile, at a cost of $17.69 per passenger. That is presumably the express services. AATA is spending a lot of resources to serve very few passengers in those services.

By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Sun, 23 Jun 2013 20:26:08 +0000 Re (3) Dave, what caught my eye in the linked article is the following statement:

“MTA also reported spending just 43 cents per mile to move each of its passengers – far below every other big system in Michigan. “The Rapid” was second best, at 76 cents per mile, followed by CATA (83 cents), SMART ($1.03), DDOT ($1.04) and Ann Arbor Transit Authority ($1.10.)”

While that comparison is based in 2011 data, during my meeting with AATA staff, they indicated that comparison pretty closely reflects current passenger mile comparisons, too.

The Rapid in Grand Rapids and CATA in Lansing are pretty good systems with which to compare costs. They are medium sized midwestern towns with conditions not too dissimilar to Ann Arbor. Their passenger mile costs of $0.76 and $0.83 seem to indicate significant differences from the $1.10 AATA cost.

By: Dave Askins Dave Askins Sun, 23 Jun 2013 18:06:47 +0000 Re: [2]

Jack, first here’s a hat-tip for providing some insight into the contents of some of those conversations.

But I don’t think the essay to which you’ve linked provides support for your conclusions about the AATA’s performance as compared to other transit agencies.

That essay seems to start from an assumption that it’s poor public policy to subsidize public transportation on the backs of motor vehicle drivers, and that the best way to measure transit system performance is to test what percentage of a ride is paid for by riders themselves.

And it’s not clear to me why that essay was written when it was (May 8, 2013). The freshest data available from the National Transit Database cited by the essayist looks to be from 2011. Maybe the 2011 data was just recently finalized or maybe the essayist has access to more recent NTD than that, or it’s possible that I don’t understand what he means by the NTB. In any case, I don’t see that the essay addresses administrative costs compared to workforce.

But scanning quickly through this table of 2012 summary stats from MDOT, I don’t immediately notice any glaring deficiencies for AATA on these metrics. [performance metrics for Michigan transit agencies 2012] But .pdf is sort of a cruddy format, because to assess everything comprehensively you have to use your eyeballs (instead of, say, just sorting a spreadsheet by individual metrics and seeing how close to the top/bottom AATA is). Anyway, on what, if any, metrics in that table do you think AATA is performing poorly?

By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Sun, 23 Jun 2013 17:07:07 +0000 The article notes: “On a possible millage question, AATA staff and board members are currently having “feeler” discussions with some members of the community who have strong interests in transportation.”

One of my campaign committee members and I had the pleasure of sitting down with Michael Ford and a couple of other AATA administrators on Saturday June 22. I tried to convey my opinion of what the AATA would need to do to avoid the kind of defeat that the arts millage and library bond faced on the November 2012 ballot.

I told AATA staff that I believed the arts millage and library bond failed for two reasons – trust and purpose. The tiny arts millage failed because the percent for arts program had undermined public trust in arts funding. The library millage failed because the catering kitchen and 400 seat auditorium were seen as being outside the purpose of a library.

I told the AATA staff that I believe they have problems with both public trust and focus on their purpose. I suggested that they (1) acknowledge recent problems and make firm commitments to abandon those problem areas, and (2) clearly state what service improvements the new 0.7 mill tax will be be spent on.

I identified these areas of concern:

(1) high administrative staff to workforce ratio which contributes to high price of AATA services, See [link] (AATA has high per passenger mile cost compared to other michigan systems)
(2) planning services for areas outside the AATA millage area where the other community does not fully fund the local share for the service,
(3) trains or any regional service rather than focusing on local service,
(4) expensive marketing,
(5) poor service for neighborhood to neighborhood destinations (downtown centric service),
(6) capricious scheduling (routes and frequency that change during the day, requiring specific knowledge of routes and schedules just to catch the bus).
(7) inconsistent millage in different communities (2.0 mills in Ann Arbor – 0.9 mills in Ypsi).

I explained that like the library’s attempt to spend large sums on matters beyond their core purpose, AATA’s county-wide plan, WALLY planning and Canton & Chelsea commuter bus service, were matters for the new regional transit authority not the locally funded AATA (or AAATA). I noted that while the Mayor is telling residents that the WALLY is 20 years from implementation, AATA is spending money to acquire rail stations and planning the rail service. Such inconsistency in message creates trust problems for an entity seeking a tax increase.

While AATA staff argued with the details of the points I tried to make, I insisted that these are the perceptions they need to address before seeking additional funding. I applaud their efforts to hear from members of the community who are critical of their recent performance. I encourage them to work to restore public trust and develop a sense of focus on transit services within the area that funds their operation.

If we develop an excellent local transit system, that will demonstrate to nearby communities the value of transit better than expensive failed efforts like the county-wide plan.

By: Phil Dokas Phil Dokas Sun, 23 Jun 2013 02:06:07 +0000 Courtesy my girlfriend upon telling her about “AAATA”, she said the name should be “A2ATA”, rolls off the tongue!