Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (Aug. 15, 2013): The board’s two main voting items at Thursday’s regular monthly meeting were in some sense ceremonial – but still reflected substantial policy decisions.
The board gave public notice through a formal resolution that the organization would start using the new name specified in its newly-amended articles of incorporation: “Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.”
Eli Cooper, who also serves as the city of Ann Arbor’s transportation program manager, was among the board members at the meeting who noted the substance underlying the addition of the word “area” to the organization’s name.
That substance is a recently approved revision to the articles of incorporation of the AATA, which added the city of Ypsilanti as a member to the authority. The AATA board had given final approval for that change at its June 20, 2013 meeting, after the city councils of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti had already approved the change. The revision to the articles to include Ypsilanti as a member is intended to provide a way to generate additional funding for transportation. The AAATA could, with voter approval, levy a uniform property tax on the entire geographic area of its membership – something the AATA did not do.
The cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti now levy their own millages, which are transmitted to the AAATA. However, Ypsilanti is currently at its 20-mill state constitutional limit. A millage levied by the AAATA would not count against that 20-mill cap. While there had been an outside chance that a millage request could be placed on the ballot as soon as November 2013, it now appears likely for May 2014.
Board discussion reflected the fact that the new acronym for the organization is a challenge to pronounce letter-by-letter. Suggestions had been made to adopt a convention of calling the AAATA “A3TA” or “Triple-A-TA” – but the board’s resolution indicated only that “TheRide” will continue as the organization’s mark.
Gillian Ream is the city of Ypsilanti’s new appointee to the expanded board of the AAATA. The Aug. 15 meeting was the second one she’d attended – but her first as a voting member.
The draft FY 2014 budget, for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, already reflects the membership of the city of Ypsilanti – as the proceeds from Ypsilanti’s transit millage are recognized under “local property tax revenue” instead of “purchase of service agreements.” That draft currently shows about $33.3 million in both revenues and expenditures.
The FY 2014 work plan – which that budget is supposed to support – was the second ceremonial but still substantive item on the board’s agenda. In addition to maintaining a range of basic transportation services, the work plan includes a number of other initiatives. Among them are projects that have been widely discussed for a longer time – like increased services in the “urban core,” the east-west commuter rail, north-south commuter rail (WALLY) and a high-capacity connector between northeast Ann Arbor through the University of Michigan campus and farther south to the Briarwood Mall area. Projects included in the work plan that have not received as much publicity include traffic signal prioritization (in favor of public transit vehicles) and a unified fare media (payment) strategy.
Sue Gott noted during the meeting that the work plan had been under development for five months. The plan was met with general enthusiasm by board members, with Susan Baskett reflecting the board’s sentiment: “I just love this document!” It was adopted on a unanimous vote.
The other voting item on the agenda was authorization to use three different printers for small-scale print jobs over the next five years. The only wrinkle to approval of that item came in connection to adjusting the sequence of resolutions, so that the resolution formally adopting the AAATA’s new name preceded the printing contracts.
Also during the meeting, the board heard a range of public commentary. Among the points made by the public was the fact that despite discussions about possible changes to Route #11 in Ypsilanti, Route #11 will remain unchanged this fall. Also during public commentary, the passing of longtime disability activist Lena Ricks was noted. Ricks had served on the AAATA’s local advisory council.
Notification of Name Change
The board considered a resolution giving formal notification of a name change from the “Ann Arbor Transportation Authority” to the “Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.”
Notification of Name Change: Background
The resolution indicated that as of Aug. 15, 2013, the transportation authority will begin using the new name on all official communications and transactions. That’s the date when the filings with the state became official.
The board’s Aug. 15 resolution indicated that the organization will continue to use “TheRide” in its marketing and branding. That’s partly a response to the increased challenge of pronouncing the acronym of the new organization letter-by-letter. Suggestions had been made to adopt a convention of calling the AAATA “A3TA” or “Triple-A-TA” – but the board’s resolution indicated only that “TheRide” will continue as the organization’s brand.
The name change reflects a more substantive revision to the articles of incorporation of the AATA, which added the city of Ypsilanti as a member to the authority. The AATA board gave final approval for that change at its June 20, 2013 meeting. By that time, the city councils of the two cities had already approved the change. The Ann Arbor city council voted on June 3, 2013 to approve the change in governance, while the Ypsilanti city council took its vote on June 18. Both councils voted unanimously to support the move. [.pdf of new AAATA articles of incorporation] [.pdf of old AATA articles of incorporation]
The change to the articles to include Ypsilanti as a member is intended to provide a way to generate additional funding for transportation. The AAATA could, with voter approval, levy a uniform property tax on the entire geographic area of its membership – something the AATA did not do. The cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti now levy their own millages, which are transmitted to the AAATA. However, Ypsilanti is currently at its 20-mill state constitutional limit. A millage levied by the AAATA would not count against that 20-mill cap.
While there had been an outside chance that a millage request could be placed on the ballot as soon as November 2013, it now appears likely for May 2014.
The change to the articles of incorporation also gave Ypsilanti the right to appoint a member of the board – which expanded from seven to nine members. Gillian Ream was appointed to the board by the city of Ypsilanti, and cast her first votes as a board member on Aug. 15.
The other additional board seat is to be appointed by the city of Ann Arbor. At the Ann Arbor city council’s Aug. 8, 2013 meeting, Jack Bernard was nominated to fill that spot. The council will vote on that appointment at its Aug. 19 meeting.
The articles of incorporation might need to be revised again soon, to accommodate the possible addition of Ypsilanti Township as a member of the AAATA. At the Aug. 14, 2013 meeting of AAATA’s planning & development committee, it was discussed that the township had indicated some preliminary interest in joining the authority.
The interest of Ypsilanti Township in joining the AAAATA comes in context of the more limited “urban core” initiative, which came after a demised attempt to form a functioning countywide authority in 2012. During his report to the board on Aug. 15, AAATA CEO Michael Ford indicated that since the last meeting of the urban core partners on June 27, meetings have continued internally and also with representatives of partner municipalities. Those include the city of Ypsilanti, the townships of Ypsilanti and Pittsfield and the city of Saline.
Eventually the board would be presented with a recommendation, Ford said. Work continues on the details of the service plan, he said, to answer questions of local jurisdictions about the service they would be provided.
Notification of Name Change: Public Commentary
During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Carolyn Grawi of the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living addressed the board on the topic of the organization’s name.
She recalled that about two years ago at a planning retreat, the question had come up about the name of a possible new transportation authority. At that time, the comment she made was that the transportation authority should stick with TheRide.
It doesn’t matter what entities are added – it’s open to everyone, she said. TheRide logo already appears on the organization’s buses and in e-mails that are sent. She felt that continuing to use TheRide would be important to maintain consistency.
People do get tripped up on the extra As, she allowed.
Grawi’s consistent view on the name of the organization actually dates back even longer than she indicated during public commentary. From The Chronicle’s Oct. 16, 2008 board meeting report:
In addition to Jim Mogensen and Clark Charnetski, whose comments are noted above, Carolyn Grawi spoke. She said she thought that “TheRide” and the existing AATA logo was a very strongly identified brand and that it should be used as the AATA looked to expanding its service.
Notification of Name Change: Staff Comment
During his report to the board, CEO Michael Ford stated, “Today it’s official!” Ford explained that Aug. 15, 2013, was the official transition date from the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. “It’s a great day. Gillian, we’re happy to have you aboard as a voting member now!” Ford told Gillian Ream, who is the city of Ypsilanti’s appointee to the expanded board.
In more detail, Ford described how the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) had indicated there would be no hold up of grant funds to the transportation authority due to the name change. The amended articles of incorporation had been sent to the Ann Arbor city clerk’s office, who in turn forwarded them to the Office of the Great Seal in Lansing. That had taken place on Tuesday, Ford reported. As part of the process, Ford continued, legal counsel had been consulted to determine the timing of the official change. In order to help make notice of the change more efficient, Ford explained that a resolution had been added to the meeting agenda. That would provide a one-page declaration of the name change – instead of providing the full articles of incorporation, which include the new name.
Plans for transitioning to the new name include changing the name on buses, where it’s needed. Ford noted that 52 out of the fleet of 80 buses have lettering indicating only TheRide. The word “area” will be added to the other 28 vehicles over the next few months, Ford said. There’s also a matrix for making other updates, such as letterhead, payroll, checks, and fare media. Vendors of the authority will also be notified, Ford said.
Ford restated his appreciation for everyone’s hard work who had contributed to the achievement of the milestone. He called it a great accomplishment. Ford announced that some kind of celebration was planned for September and details of that would be shared as they become firmer.
Notification of Name Change: Board Deliberations
Commenting on the resolution about the name change, Eli Cooper said he been struggling over the past several months with the “proper articulation” of the name of the organization, trying out variants – Triple-A-TA, A3TA, AAATA. However you express the name of the organization, Cooper ventured that it’s important to acknowledge and respect that the Ann Arbor area now has a transportation authority. It’s no longer just the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, he continued. The move is much more significant than just a name change, he said.
Sue Gott noted that similar feedback to Cooper’s had come during public commentary at the previous day’s planning and development committee meeting. She agreed with Cooper that some time should be spent in thinking about what name the organization eventually “lands on,” and it should be intentional about what usage is adopted. Board chair Charles Griffith noted that that the resolution itself included the idea of promoting TheRide as the organization’s brand. It could also be the shorthand for the way the agency is described.
Eric Mahler allowed that he was not an intellectual property lawyer, but suggested that it might be appropriate to think about possible copyright issues. If the organization lands on something that it wants to use, it would be important to make sure that someone else’s copyright is not being infringed.
Griffith noted light-heartedly that he learned from Gillian Ream that there could be some competition for the name AAATA from a species of insect. Ream quipped that it might become a mascot. On a serious note, Ream felt that because the staff had suggested continuing to promote TheRide as a shorthand, she also felt that made a lot of sense.
Outcome: the board unanimously approved the resolution formally notifying the public of the name change of the organization to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.
FY 2014 Preparations
Preparations for the start of the 2014 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, were reflected in an agenda item on the work plan. The board was asked to vote on the work plan, but the budget will not be presented until next month’s regular meeting, on Sept. 26.
FY 2014: Budget
The budget picture for the coming year will be eased somewhat compared to last year, when the AAATA had to scramble to reduce its planned budget based on roughly $800,000 less in state operating assistance (local bus operating funds) than had been planned for. Over the last year, the state legislature approved supplemental funding for transit agencies statewide that more than erased the original shortfall. The AAATA’s share of the statewide allocation was $985,000.
Instead of a planned use of fund balance this year, AAATA controller Phil Webb is now projecting that the organization will end the year with a $400,000 surplus. Of that amount, $300,000 would be used to restore the AAATA’s operating reserves to the 3-month minimum required by board policy. That will leave the AAATA with a $100,000 net surplus this year for a budget that called for $32.7 million in expenditures.
Next year’s FY 2014 budget is forecast to be balanced, with a $22,000 surplus. It relies on state operating assistance levels that would remain consistent with what the AAATA received this past year, after the supplemental funding was approved. That’s an assumption that the Michigan Dept. of Transportation has indicated is reasonable, according to AAATA officials.
FY 2014: Budget – Staff, Board Comment
During his report to the board, CEO Michael Ford noted that the AAATA had received its portion of the additional appropriation made by the state legislature, which would increase the percentage of operating expenses subsidized by the state during the current fiscal year from 27.11% to 30.65%. That resulted in a surplus for the first 10 months of the fiscal year. The unrestricted net asset level – the fund balance reserves – was also now over the three-month minimum level for the first time this fiscal year, Ford said.
Susan Baskett, in reporting out from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, noted that the advertising revenue was over budget by $185,000, which had far exceeded expectations. Baskett gave the report from that committee, in the absence of the other two committee members – Roger Kerson and Anya Dale.
FY 2014: Work Plan
The board was asked to approve a work plan for the coming fiscal year. It’s organized under five broad categories: (1) transportation services; (2) research and development initiatives; (3) programs, partnerships, and external relations; (4) capital projects; and (5) management responsibilities and initiatives. [.pdf of AAATA work plan]
In addition to maintaining a range of basic transportation services, the work plan includes a number of other initiatives. Among them are projects that have been widely discussed for a longer time – like increased services in the “urban core,” the east-west commuter rail, north-south commuter rail (WALLY) and a high-capacity connector between northeast Ann Arbor, through the University of Michigan campus and farther south to the Briarwood Mall area.
Projects included in the work plan that have not received as much publicity include traffic signal prioritization (in favor of public transit vehicles) and a unified fare media (payment) strategy.
FY 2014: Work Plan – Staff, Board Comment
Michael Ford told board members that he appreciated the hard work of the staff and input from the board on the work plan. He called it a new, detailed and transparent work process.
Sue Gott described the work plan as quite a comprehensive summary of all the business and services conducted by the AAATA. She told other board members that even though the date on the document has been updated, it’s essentially the same document that the board had reviewed at its July meeting. No further substantial edits had been undertaken. She described the document as having been under consideration by the planning and development committee for the last five months. It’s an outcome of the board’s retreat, she said, and reflects a large amount of input from the staff and board members.
Board chair Charles Griffith said he was glad to see plans for a number of performance measures that would relate to the elements of the work plan. Susan Baskett said the document makes very clear what areas the staff is working on and makes it possible for anyone to come forward and ask: Who is doing what, and what are your priorities? “I just love this document,” she said. And she thanked the staff for putting it together.
Eli Cooper supported the resolution and felt it was important to highlight the items that were described as basic services. The organization’s goal is to move people around the community and that’s what the work plan focuses on, he said. But the work plan also includes a look ahead at the deployment of advanced technology – whether it’s signal priority systems, or evaluating “big data,” he noted
The basic core service in and of itself should be celebrated, Cooper contended, but the work plan is also a forward-looking program of work that will be done in the coming year – to prepare for many years to come. There’s a lot in the work plan to continue the excellent service that’s already provided within the community, Cooper said. But it also looks forward in a way that will continue to allow the AAATA to position itself as the “leading public transportation authority in the state.”
Outcome: The board voted unanimously to adopt the fiscal year 2014 work plan.
Printing Services Contract Authorization
The board was asked to authorize the purchasing of printing services for small print jobs over the next five years from possibly three different printers: Dollar Bill, Green Light Graphics and Print-Tech Inc.
Even though the resolution giving the authorization mentioned smaller print jobs of $3,000 or less, board approval was needed because the total cost was expected to exceed $100,000 for the five-year period. The threshold for required board approval is $100,000.
The Ride Guide, which contains all the routes and schedules, is printed under a separate contract from those the board was asked to authorize under the Aug. 15, 2013 resolution.
Printing Services Contract Authorization: Board Deliberations
The item on print jobs was listed first among the voting items on the agenda. When board chair Charles Griffith invited discussion on the item, Sue Gott wondered if the resolution wording should reflect the new name of the organization. In the board packet the resolution referred to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, without the word “Area.”
Griffith observed that the board had not yet adopted the resolution formally notifying everyone of the name change. The situation elicited some laughs around the board table. Gott assured everyone she was simply seeking clarification. Griffith then ventured that a motion to table might be the correct parliamentary procedure. Eric Mahler noted that it was important procedurally to switch up the order. And he felt that the board had some flexibility to switch the order of the items. So the board first dispatched the item on the official name change of the organization.
When the board returned to the print job resolution, Griffith noted that the only reason it was coming to the board at all was that the cumulative total amount over five years was expected to exceed the $100,000 threshold triggering the requirement for board approval.
Susan Baskett asked for clarification about the protocol for passing resolutions, venturing that it might be appropriate to read the text of the resolution into the record. Even if it’s not protocol to read the entire resolution, she indicated it would be helpful to the public and the community at large to summarize the content of the resolution. Griffith invited Baskett to do that. So Baskett then reviewed the key points of the resolution. During this summary, she noted that the three companies were non-union, but they were local.
Outcome: The board voted unanimously to approve the resolution on print job contracts.
University of Michigan
The meeting included a number of threads tied either directly or indirectly to the University of Michigan.
UM: Board Appointment
Pending confirmation by the Ann Arbor city council to the expanded board of the AAATA is Jack Bernard, who’s a lecturer in the University of Michigan law school and an attorney with UM’s office of the vice president and general counsel. He is also currently chair of the university’s council for disability concerns.
Given the nature of wrangling over Eric Mahler’s recent appointment to the AAATA board, Bernard’s chairship of that group could be a key qualification. Some councilmembers objected to Mahler’s appointment, arguing that someone who could represent the disability community should be appointed instead.
If Bernard is confirmed by the city council at its Aug. 19 meeting, that would bring the total of UM employees on the board to three, or one-third of the nine members. The other two UM employees on the AAATA board are Sue Gott (the university’s head planner) and Anya Dale (a representative in the office of sustainability).
UM: Public Commentary
During public commentary at the start of the meeting, Jim Mogensen offered a comment on page 13 of the board’s information packet – a point made in CEO Michael Ford’s written report to the board. There is a paragraph, Mogensen said, about the ExpressRide service. [That service operates between Ann Arbor and Chelsea, and Ann Arbor and Canton. The University of Michigan had recent stepped forward to make up an operating deficit on the service to ensure its continuation for the next year. The majority of riders who use the service are UM employees, and their fares are subsidized by UM. The AAATA has adopted a policy of not using the local transit millage to support this service].
In describing refinements to the delivery model, Ford’s report stated: “… we are working to ensure that the role and funding level is fair and appropriate for the University of Michigan.” Mogensen told the board that he felt this is a public policy issue going beyond staff-to-staff type conversations, or even board conversations. Instead, Mogensen felt this issue needed to be thought through at the public level.
A while back, Mogensen told the board, he was trying to find out what the parking and transportation budget was for the University of Michigan. He’d gone through all the various public documents and a librarian had finally said that it’s not available in that much detail – and so he would have to go to the Fleming Administration building. So he did. They weren’t exactly sure what to do with him, Mogensen reported, but he told them what he was looking for. Finally he’d been told, “Sir, this information is available only on a need-to-know basis.” Quipped Mogensen, “And apparently I didn’t need to know!”
What he’d wanted to know was where the money comes from, what the various streams of funding are and how it’s allocated. By way of contrast to the University of Michigan, Mogensen said, if you go down to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, all that information is very much available. It’s important to have that kind of information, he said. He cautioned the board that this issue would come up again in a much more significant way, as discussions about the connector study move forward. The numbers connected to the connector study are likely to impact public policy issues and would change the system as a whole, he said.
UM: M-Ride Fares
At the planning and development committee meeting the previous day, Gillian Ream had pressed the question of why passenger fare revenues were down but ridership is going up. That question had arisen as the committee discussed the draft budget for FY 2014. AAATA controller Phil Webb responded to Ream’s question by attributing the phenomenon to the mix of passengers. About 50% of passengers are riders for whom someone other than the passenger pays the fare – such as the University of Michigan’s M-Ride or the getDowntown’s go!pass program. There are also other discount programs, Webb explained.
Webb described how the M-Ride agreement is structured, which pays for about 2.7 million rides per year. The arrangement between UM and the AAATA is structured to provide $1 per ride of revenue to the AAATA. Some of that $1 per ride is covered by state and federal matching money earned by the UM through its own transportation program, Webb said.
But there’s a two-year delay between the logging of the ridership in the national transit database and receipt of that money. For instance, Webb explained, in 2011 UM put the information in from the FY 2011 year, and in FY 2013, the university receives a certain amount of money because of that program, which is conveyed to the AAATA. And that reduces the amount of cash that the university pays to the AAATA. The AAATA still gets a dollar for each of the 2.7 million rides – it’s just that $1.2 million of it shows up as federal and state revenue. And the cash payment from UM to the AAATA is about $1.5 million. The cash amount – which the AAATA recognizes as passengers fares – went down this year because the federal portion went up.
UM: Connector Study
The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority is currently conducting an alternatives analysis study for possible high-capacity transit in the corridor running from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street, then further south to I-94. The alternatives analysis phase will result in a preferred choice of transit mode (e.g., bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) and identification of stations and stops.
A previous study established the feasibility of operating some kind of high-capacity transit in that corridor. That feasibility relied on the large number of university-affiliated ridership anticipated in the center of the corridor.
Even among advocates of the project, there’s a strong consensus that the university should bear a substantial portion of the cost, because the university will reap a substantial amount of benefit.
During his report to the board, Michael Ford described how the staff had been working internally on the connector study to develop a matrix to assign responsibilities that would advance the project. Three subcommittees of the management committee had been formed, he reported: a government and finance committee; alignment and station location committee; and transit operations and land use.
Communications, Committees, CEO, Commentary
At its Aug. 15 meeting, the AAATA board entertained various communications, including its usual reports from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, the planning and development committee, as well as from CEO Michael Ford. The board also heard commentary from the public. Here are some highlights.
Comm/Comm: Passing of Lena Ricks
During public commentary time at the start of the meeting, Carolyn Grawi, director of advocacy and education for the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, alerted the board to a loss in the community – Lena Ricks. Grawi described Ricks as a long-time local advisory council (LAC) member. [The LAC is a group that provides input and feedback to AAATA on disability and senior issues.]
The memorial for Rick’s was being held on Saturday, Aug. 17 at King of Kings Lutheran Church at 2 p.m. She hoped that the community would recognize Rick’s hard work and devotion to disability rights. Grawi described Ricks as the “matriarch of the disability movement,” beginning with work almost 40 years ago.
From a note forwarded to The Chronicle by Jennifer Chapin-Smith of Partners in Personal Assistance:
Lena Ricks, 76, a lifelong advocate for people with disabilities, died August 14. Until her death she served as the Executive Director of Partners in Personal Assistance (PPA), which she founded in 1999. The nonprofit ensures that people with disabilities live independent, self-governed lives by directing the personal assistance they receive.
Ricks moved from Tennessee to Ann Arbor, where she was one of the founders of the disability rights and service nonprofit organization Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living in 1976. She served as Washtenaw Community College’s Special Needs Office Associate Director in the 1980s. She worked as a counseling social worker for many years. She served on the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s LAC and the Washtenaw County National Alliance on Mental Illness Board of Directors.
Ricks earned her Masters of Social Work at Eastern Michigan University in 1994 and a bachelor’s of business administration at Cleary University in 1984.
Ricks is survived by daughter Tammy and son-in-law Tommy Henderson, son Geno and daughter-in-law Ann Ricks, son Darrell and daughter-in-law Rhonda Ricks, grandchildren April, Charlie, Chad, Brandi, Kayla, Cassidy, Ranay, Jami, Michael, Kyle, Rachel, Jasmyne, great-grandchildren Chase, Carter, Geno II, Jordan, Libby, Jaxson, Korbin, Colt, several nieces and nephews, and special family friends Jody Burton-Slowins, Dr. Jennifer Doble, Daphne O’Garro and Awa Abdul.
Her husband Virgil Ricks, mother Vadie Sturgill, and siblings Glen, Kelly, Frank, J.D and June Sturgill predeceased her.
Ricks’ memorial service will be held at King of Kings Lutheran Church, 2685 Packard Ann Arbor, Saturday, Aug. 17 at 2 p.m.
Comm/Comm: Regional Transit Authority (RTA)
Ford announced that the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority (RTA) board, at its Aug. 7 meeting, had approved a master agreement with local transit providers in the area of the authority. [The RTA was established by the state legislature in late 2012 as a transit authority encompassing a four-county region – Washtenaw, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, plus the city of Detroit. The RTA could generate revenue for itself through vehicle registration fees or a property tax levy, if voters were to approve either of those measures. For its initial administrative operations, however, the RTA faces a revenue challenge.]
The master agreement included an agreement to use a reduced portion of the state’s local bus operating (LBO) funds for initial operations of the RTA, Ford reported. The master agreement also ensures that any “coordination penalties” would be returned to the local agencies, Ford said. Ford offered his thanks to local leaders as well as the Washtenaw County board representatives to the RTA [Richard Murphy and Liz Gerber] for their diligence and protection of the AAATA.
Also during the Aug. 7 meeting, the RTA board had interviewed candidates for the chief executive officer position, Ford reported. They’d voted to hire John Hertel, who’s the current director of SMART. From Ford’s written report to the board:
The Board interviewed three candidates for CEO, Al Martin (former DDOT director), Larry Salci (former SEMPTA director), and John Hertel (current SMART director). At the end there were six recommendations for Hertel (Wayne (2), Oakland (2), and Macomb (2) and 3 for Salci (Washtenaw (2), and Detroit (1).
Ford told the board that he and board chair Charles Griffith were scheduled to meet with Hertel later in the month. Ford said he also had meetings scheduled with the executive directors of the People Mover and Detroit Dept. of Transportation.
Ford noted that the RTA would be convening an October board meeting in Ann Arbor – on Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown location.
During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Carolyn Grawi – Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living director of advocacy and education – suggested that the AAATA step up its communication about the RTA with the Ann Arbor community. She wanted the AAATA website to include descriptions of activity at the RTA. She felt that local residents might not necessarily look outside of the AAATA to find out what’s going on with the RTA, but they would visit the AAATA website.
Comm/Comm: Blake Transit Center Construction
Ford gave the board an update on progress toward completing the new Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor.
Ford described the project as within budget. However, the target date for completion will need to be extended past the target of the end of October. He described the delay as resulting from difficulty in coordinating workers from different trades in a very small space, and a project that requires steps to be completed in sequence.
At the planning and development committee meeting held the day before, Terry Black – AAATA’s manager of maintenance, who is overseeing the construction project at the staff level – had described the project as within budget. However, he said the project had needed to use some of the contingency funds. Black also noted that the project has two phases – the completion of the new Blake Transit Center building, followed by the demolition of the existing building and the completion of the driveway that will connect Fourth Avenue and Fifth Avenue.
Black estimated the time from the date of completion of the new transit center building to the opening of the new driveway at about one month. During that committee meeting – when asked by Eli Cooper to characterize the delay in terms of weeks or months – Black indicated that the delay could be measured in weeks.
Factoring in the one month it would take to finish the driveway phase of the project, Black allowed that it might be close to Christmas before all components of the project are done.
Comm/Comm: AirRide Service
The AirRide service to Detroit Metro Airport remains steady, Ford said during his report to the board, averaging more than 1,200 rides for each of the last three weeks.
Comm/Comm: New Website
The launch of a new website for the AAATA has been delayed for a few months now. Ford indicated that the launch of the new website had been delayed by another week, as developers continue to work on outstanding issues. [The issues relate to real-time information that will provided about the exact location of buses. The remaining challenge is to convey accurately that a vehicle that has arrived at the end point of its route is ready to head back in the reverse direction.] Ford hoped that the new website would be ready by the end of August.
During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Jim Mogensen suggested that the archive of meeting minutes and information packets be improved on the AAATA website.
Comm/Comm: Rail Demo at Heritage Festival
During his report to the board, Michael Ford noted that during the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival over the next few days, SEMCOG would be hosting a static display of rail cars in Depot Town next to the Ypsilanti Freighthouse – similar to the display that had been held in connection with the Mayor’s Green Fair in Ann Arbor in June.
Comm/Comm: Route Changes
During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Jim Mogensen reminded the board that on June 20, 2013, the board had approved the route and schedule changes. He hadn’t been able to attend that meeting. One of the proposed changes involved changes to Route #11, with plans to reconfigure it. As a result of public feedback, the decision was made not to make those changes.
As a resident of a facility that’s located on Route #11, he knew that there were a lot of people who ride that route who were interested in the issue. And now there’s a lot of confusion about what was going to happen. Mogensen noted that now there’s just a list of routes with the changes, and Route #11 is not included on the list. You really have to go into depth to figure out why and how that happened, he said. So he suggested that along Route #11, the AAATA could put up signs explaining what is happening.
After the meeting, AAATA manager of service development Chris White clarified for The Chronicle that the outcome of the process was that no changes were made to service on Route #11.
Comm/Comm: Briarwood Mall
During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Carolyn Grawi of the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living reported that she looked at the new bus stop area that’s being created near Briarwood Mall. She shared some concern about the configuration of sidewalks and ramps. The sidewalk that has been built is 10 feet wide, which meets the minimum requirements, she allowed. But once you add in garbage cans and shelters and people waiting in line, she felt that there would not be enough room.
Grawi also suggested installing an additional ramp to eliminate the need of some commuters to traverse multiple lanes of traffic within the Briarwood Mall area in order to get to the existing sidewalk ramp.
Comm/Comm: General Complaint
During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Thomas Partridge addressed the board as a write-in candidate for Ward 5 city council. He was there to advocate for all those who need transportation services and all those who could benefit from those services. He suggested that all of the board’s committee meetings should be held on the same day each month, one after the other, so that people could easily attend all of them. He called for the end of discrimination by the city and county government. He called for a nondiscriminatory countywide transportation system. He also accused the SelectRide company of egregious repeated acts by their employees that should be ended.
Present: Charles Griffith, Eric Mahler, Susan Baskett, Eli Cooper, Sue Gott, Gillian Ream.
Absent: Roger Kerson, Anya Dale.
Next regular meeting: Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor [Check Chronicle event listings to confirm date]
The Chronicle could not survive without regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already on board The Chronicle bus, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!