Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (Jan. 16, 2014): The board’s one substantive voting item on its agenda was the adoption of a five-year transit improvement plan. The unanimous vote came after a staff presentation and public commentary from three people, who all expressed support for the improvement program.
Generally, the improvements include increased frequency during peak hours, extended service in the evenings, and additional service on weekends. Some looped routes are being replaced with out-and-back type route configurations. The plan does not include operation of rail-based services. The AAATA has calculated that the improvements in service add up to 90,000 additional service hours per year, compared to the current service levels, which is a 44% increase.
The AAATA refers to the plan in its communications as the 5YTIP. A draft five-year plan was presented to the public in a series of 13 meetings in the fall of 2013. Changes to the five-year plan made in response to public feedback were included in the board’s information packet for the Jan. 16 meeting. [.pdf of memo and 5-year improvement plan] [.pdf of presentation made to the board on Jan. 16]
The plan indicates that $5,456,191 of additional local revenue would be required to fund the expanded services. Implementation of the program will include a request to voters sometime in 2014 for an additional transit millage, likely at the level of 0.7 mills.
The two city members of the AAATA – Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti – already levy a dedicated transit millage of their own, which would stay in place if voters in the AAATA’s three-jurisdiction area approved a 0.7 mill tax. For Ann Arbor, the rate for the existing millage is 2.056 mills, which is expected to generate a little over $10 million by 2019, the fifth year of the transportation improvement plan. For the city of Ypsilanti, the rate for the existing transit millage is 0.9789, which is expected to generate about $314,000 in 2019. For the owner of an Ann Arbor house with market value of $200,000 and taxable value of $100,000, a 0.7 mill tax translates into $70 annually, which would be paid in addition to the existing transit millage that translates to about $200 annually.
The transit improvement program also calls for an additional $1,087,344 to come from purchase of service agreements (POSAs), based on increased service hours in Pittsfield, Saline, and Superior townships.
At the Jan. 16 meeting, board chair Charles Griffith indicated that he felt the board would be taking the next step on implementing the program very soon. That indicates a probable vote on the millage question at the next board meeting, on Feb. 20. If the board voted then to put a millage question on the ballot, that would be in time to meet the Feb. 25 deadline for a millage request to be placed on the May 6, 2014 ballot.
A new millage would be decided by a majority vote of all three member jurisdictions of the AAATA. The two Ypsilanti jurisdictions were added as members of the AAATA just last year. The Ann Arbor city council voted to approve changes to the AAATA’s articles of incorporation – to admit the city and the township of Ypsilanti as members – at its June 3, 2013 and Nov. 18, 2013 meetings, respectively.
Even though the vote on the five-year transit improvement program seemed to be enthusiastically embraced by most everyone in the board room, that was not what prompted people to start clapping at the Jan. 16 meeting. The applause was reserved for the management and driver performance during the recent snowstorm. Board member Jack Bernard and likely future board appointee Larry Krieg both based their praise for drivers on their own trips using the bus. Praise for AAATA drivers during the inclement weather also came from bus rider Jim Mogensen during public commentary. And CEO Michael Ford highlighted the performance of AAATA’s manager of transportation Ron Copeland, as well as that of drivers and the rest of the AAATA staff.
The board also received routine updates on a range of issues. Those included ridership, which is now essentially flat on the fixed-route service compared to last year. The new Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor is expected to be open for use by the second week in February. Concepts for two finalists for the BTC public art project – which will be incorporated into the new building – will be on display at the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library from Jan. 20 through Feb. 3. The downtown library is located across the street from the BTC.
Winter Storm: Jan. 4, 2014
The recent winter storm that hit the region – dropping 10.4 inches of snow on Ann Arbor starting Jan. 4, 2014 and lowering temperatures to minus 14 F – was the subject of commentary from the staff, board, and the public.
During his report to the board, CEO Michael Ford described the weather as the biggest challenge the AAATA had faced in 39 years, according to AAATA manager of transportation Ron Copeland. Despite numerous sick calls on Monday, Jan. 6 – and getting drivers to work on time was a big struggle, Ford said – at the end of day, the AAATA had only three buses pull out late. The AAATA did not lose any service that day. “I think that’s tremendous, given everything that was going on,” Ford said.
On Tuesday, only one run was delayed, and even in icy conditions that afternoon, service was delayed only slightly. Ford commended Copeland and the entire operations team: “You guys did a fantastic job.” Ford’s remarks prompted a round of applause from the board and other staff members.
Board member Jack Bernard added that he used the buses all of the days Ford had described. “I have to agree completely – the service was fantastic.” Bernard pointed out that many drivers stayed on and worked lengthier shifts because of the difficulty some drivers encountered arriving at work. The service was amazing, he continued, saying that he’d expected to stand outside for a very long time and did not need to do that. As someone who uses the bus every day, Bernard said, the service was amazing.
Larry Krieg, who is likely to be appointed to the board soon, added that he’d attended the board’s planning and development committee meeting by bus. He’d expected to need to leave at least an hour early to make the meeting on time. But he arrived at the meeting a half hour early. He commended the driver because the conditions were very icy and she was very careful. She knew exactly when she could “make time.” For example, going over the overpass over I-94 on Ellsworth road, she just went up with no problem, but crept down with great care. She handled the bus in an excellent way, he concluded.
Ford also noted that the AAATA had opened up the headquarters building at 2700 S. Industrial Highway, to allow people to keep warm during extreme weather conditions.
Jim Mogensen addressed the board at the conclusion of the meeting, saying that he’d used the bus to get to St. Joe’s hospital on the day when it was so cold. He wanted to commend the driver on that day. “It was quite a day!” Mogensen said. The buses didn’t pull away when they saw people trying to catch the bus and everybody was very friendly. At St. Joe’s, the driver had helped him get over the snow drift, Mogensen said. It was the Route #3 bus from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti, Mogensen reported – bus number 480. He hoped to make it clear that he’s not always complaining. It was quite a good thing, he said, and he wanted to make sure that drivers got lots of good feedback on how helpful they’d been.
Five-Year Transit Plan
On Jan. 16, the board was asked to approve a five-year transit improvement program. [.pdf of memo and 5-year improvement plan]
Generally, the improvements include increased frequency during peak hours, extended service in the evenings and additional service on weekends. Some looped routes are being replaced with out-and-back type route configurations. The plan does not include operation of rail-based services. The AAATA has calculated that the improvements in service add up to 90,000 additional service hours per year, compared to the current service levels, which is a 44% increase. The AAATA refers to the plan in its communications as the 5YTIP.
To provide the additional service, the plan would include the purchase of 19 more fixed-route buses by the end of the full implementation – at the five-year mark. The AAATA’s fixed-route fleet currently includes 80 buses. The plan would also include the purchase of five additional vehicles for providing demand-response service, which is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
A draft five-year plan was presented to the public in a series of 13 public meetings in the fall of 2013. Changes to the five-year plan made in response to public feedback were included in the board’s information packet for the Jan. 16 meeting. [.pdf of presentation made to the board on Jan. 16]
The plan indicates that $5,456,191 of additional local revenue would be required to fund the expanded services. For the member jurisdictions of the AAATA, that translates to a tax of 0.7 mills. A millage rate of 0.7 translates to dollar amounts as follows: Ann Arbor ($3,387,910), city of Ypsilanti ($202,730), and Ypsilanti Township ($778,207). One mill is $1 for every $1,000 of a real property’s taxable value.
The improvement plan would also rely on existing local, state and federal funding staying in place. The two city members of the AAATA – Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti – already levy a dedicated transit millage of their own, which would continue to be levied if voters in the three-jurisdiction area of the AAATA approved a 0.7 mill tax. For Ann Arbor, the rate for the existing millage is 2.056 mills, which is expected to generate a little over $10 million by 2019, the fifth year of the transportation improvement plan. For the city of Ypsilanti, the rate for the existing transit millage is 0.9789, which is expected to generate about $314,000 in 2019. The improvement plan would also rely on $4.5 million in federal formula funds, $13 million in state funds, and almost $9 million in passenger fares.
The transit improvement program also calls for an additional $1,087,344 to come from purchase of service agreements (POSAs), based on increased service hours in Pittsfield, Saline, and Superior townships.
Partners for Transit – a coalition coordinated by the Ecology Center – issued a press release on the afternoon of the AAATA’s Jan. 16 board meeting, calling for the board to put a millage request on the ballot. But the AAATA staff memo accompanying the board’s resolution made clear that any funding proposal, like a millage, would come in a separate action.
In 2010, a ballot question committee was formed with the name Partners for Transit, but Carolyn Grawi indicated in a phone interview on Jan. 16 with The Chronicle that the current Partners for Transit coalition would be forming its own ballot committee. Grawi is the director for advocacy and education at the Center for Independent Living.
The AAATA board would be unlikely to vote to place a millage on the ballot before analyzing the results of a survey conducted in the fall of 2013, which included an attempt to measure voter attitudes toward a new transportation millage. Those results are expected to be released sometime in the next few weeks. If the board voted at its Feb. 20, 2014 meeting, that would be in time to meet the Feb. 25 deadline for a millage request to be placed on the May 6, 2014 ballot.
If the millage question is put before voters in May this year, instead of the fall, it could cost the AAATA $90,000 to $100,000 to cover the cost of conducting the election. That’s the figure AAATA manager of community relations Mary Stasiak has been given as a rough estimate by the Washtenaw County clerk’s office. In an email responding to a question from The Chronicle, Stasiak noted that if other proposals resulted in an independent reason for holding an election in May, that could defray the AAATA’s costs.
A new millage would be decided by a majority vote of all three member jurisdictions of the AAATA. The two Ypsilanti jurisdictions were added as members of the AAATA just last year. The Ann Arbor city council voted to approve changes to the AAATA’s articles of incorporation – to admit the city and township of Ypsilanti as members – at its June 3, 2013 and Nov. 18, 2013 meetings, respectively.
The current, more localized expansion of the AAATA contrasts with a now demised effort in 2012 to incorporate all of Washtenaw County into a single countywide transportation authority. Components of the countywide effort’s five-year plan and 30-year vision formed the basis of the current more geographically-confined effort to expand service.
When the Ann Arbor city council withdrew Ann Arbor’s participation in that effort, at its Nov. 8, 2012 meeting, it encouraged the AAATA “to continue to discuss regional transportation options among Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Ann Arbor Township, Pittsfield Township, and Scio Township, leading to a better understanding and process for improving local transit options…”
Over the course of 2013, the AAATA held a series of meetings with officials from those municipalities, a group that came to be called the “urban core” communities.
One outcome of those conversations was an interest in membership in the AAATA on the part of the two Ypsilanti jurisdictions. The city of Ann Arbor (pop. ~116,000), the city of Ypsilanti (pop. ~19,500) and Ypsilanti Township (pop. ~53,000) make up a bit more than half the population of Washtenaw County (pop. ~351,000).
Five-Year Transit Plan: Public Comment
Mark Coryell introduced himself as an Ann Arbor resident since 1997. He’s president of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 3907, which represents the employees of the Environmental Protection Agency. He works in Ann Arbor, he said. But he was addressing the board as a spokesperson for the Washtenaw Regional Organizing Coalition (WeROC) – a group of labor, faith and other community organizations. The group is very much interested in expansion of transit service in the community and supports the resolution on the agenda, he said. There are many reasons for doing that, he added, and he could talk for a long time about the environmental benefits of public transit. He works with a lot of metropolitan areas to help them plan to comply with Clean Air Act standards, and transit is a big part of that strategy to achieve clean air in cities, he said.
But Coryell told the board that he was there to talk mainly about fairness. He moved to Ann Arbor from the Washington D.C. area, so he was accustomed to a robust transit system, and came to depend on it. For many young people in metropolitan areas, he said, it’s their only way to get around. When he moved here, he noticed that Ann Arbor was a motor-vehicle-dependent area. A lot of free parking makes it easy to own a car and get around, he said. But he cautioned that might not always be the case. What he’s read in the scientific literature, he said, is that younger people aren’t buying cars. They’re relying on public transit, so we need to start planning for that as a city, he said. He continued by saying it’s also important to recognize that older citizens as well often don’t have cars. And they need to get to where they’re going. For all those reasons, WeROC supports expansion of transit in our community, Coryell concluded.
Jean Henry introduced herself as special agent for environmental stewardship at Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. She was there representing all 13 managing partners of the nine separate businesses and the co-founding partners Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw. She was there to express support for expanding AAATA into the Ypsilanti area, for the AAATA’s five-year plan, and for the idea of putting a millage proposal on the ballot. Zingerman’s has an environmental stewardship initiative, a component of which is encouraging alternative forms of transportation.
Henry described the Zingerman’s staff as “super enthusiastic” about it. Last year, the AAATA had helped Zingerman’s conduct a survey of all staff and had achieved a 58% participation rate. One thing identified in the survey was some insecurity about transportation between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and some difficulties with connectors – being able to get to work on time and get back home on time. It’s clear there are things that can be done to make that path more efficient. But more importantly, she said, more than 50% of Zingerman’s staff lives in Ypsilanti. It’s not just that Zingerman’s wants to get their employees to work. It’s that they want the flow back and forth between the two cities. “We really believe in Ypsi,” she said.
Zingerman’s is devoted to Washtenaw County, Henry said, and maybe Zingerman’s would eventually have a business in Ypsilanti. As it is, they see young entrepreneurs starting businesses in Ypsilanti, who previously would have started them in Ann Arbor. They’re doing things in Ypsilanti that are now unaffordable in Ann Arbor, she said. As an example, she cited Dear Golden vintage clothing, which will be setting up shop on Fourth Avenue in Ann Arbor, she said, after starting in Ypsilanti. She allowed that there are environmental reasons as well, but she thought that transportation makes “a commitment to a community that can feed us and that we can feed as well.”
Henry then read aloud a statement from Rick Strutz, a partner and co-owner at Zingerman’s Deli, which indicated support for the AAATA’s expansion to include Ypsilanti. Among the highlights was the fact that from 2012-2016, the deli expects to be adding 16 full-time jobs, many of which have already been filled.
The deli depends on residents of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti to give great service to millions of customers, the statement continued. Strutz’s statement also said that he wanted the diversity of the staff at Zingerman’s to mirror the diversity of the community. Reliable transportation is needed every day of the week in order to help make that happen.
Lloyd Shelton addressed the board representing the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (CIL) and Partners for Transit – to support expansion of service to the urban core area. He told the board he’s currently a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and he’s lived in the Ann Arbor area over 20 years. But he’s not originally from this area, telling the board that he’s from Pontiac. He keeps coming back to Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor because of the greater accessibility Ann Arbor offers through transportation. In terms of transportation, Ann Arbor is one of the best places around, he said. Research is shown that there’s more poverty among the disabled, he continued. People with a disability have a higher tendency to use public transportation, he said, adding that he lives off the Route #4 provided by the AAATA.
Five-Year Transit Plan: Staff Remarks, Presentation
During his remarks to the board in his standard report, AAATA CEO Michael Ford noted that the request from the board would be to ask for approval of the five-year transit improvement program. The AAATA is widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier public transit agencies, he said. The AAATA’s goal remains delivering on the authority’s mission – to provide useful, reliable, safe, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective transportation options, for the benefit of the greater Ann Arbor community.
Ford described the last 4.5 years as including a lot of collaborating and listening, which had led the AAATA to that evening’s vote. The AAATA had started by developing a transit master plan (TMP) that engaged citizens, business leaders and elected officials. The AAATA had heard over and over about the need for more service and greater frequency.
Ford continued by saying that the AAATA had responded to the Ann Arbor city council’s direction to narrow the geographic focus of the effort to expand transit services. The AAATA had adjusted, Ford said, to focus on what’s called the urban core. He was excited to have the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township joining together to finalize the details of the service improvements for each jurisdiction. Now a point had been reached where board approval was being sought of service improvements that would allow seniors and people with disabilities to go more places throughout the urban core – faster, more frequently, and later on weekdays and weekends.
The improvements would connect people to more job opportunities and contribute to economic vitality, Ford said. Better public transit also means better public safety, he noted. And each community will pay its own way. “We can’t afford not to improve transit,” Ford said. The transportation needs of seniors and people with disabilities continue to grow, he said.
Ford concluded by observing that one of the other outcomes of the urban core effort is the addition of the two Ypsilanti jurisdictions as members of the AAATA. He was pleased and proud to have them at the table. The AAATA was ready to move forward with next steps to make improved service a reality in each community, Ford said. He hoped the board would support moving the process forward that evening.
Ford also noted that the next meeting of the urban core work group is on Jan. 23 at 4 p.m. at the Pittsfield Township Hall.
In reporting out from the planning and development committee, board member Sue Gott described the committee’s interest in making the document that the board was being asked to approve a precise and tight document – which was what the board had in front of it that night, she said. There’s a lot of explanatory material in the packet, she said, but the actual program to be approved was a bit tighter. [It's condensed onto three pages and consists of lists of routes with the specific changes to each one, as well as a financial breakdown.]
AAATA strategic planner Michael Benham delivered a presentation to the board summarizing the improvement plan. [.pdf of presentation made to the board on Jan. 16]
Five-Year Transit Plan: Board Deliberations
Responding to the presentation, board member Jack Bernard noted that Route #11 is to be replaced by routes with letter designations of “L” “M” and “N”. He asked if it were possible to change those designations – because letters with big vertical elements are very hard to distinguish for those who don’t see so well, Bernard said. Michael Benham told Bernard that those are just temporary designations. Bernard stressed that the final route designations should use letters that are very visually distinct.
Gott responded to the presentation by Benham saying that she liked the series of destinations that he’d listed out – doctors, shopping, school, libraries. She ventured that this could be taken to imply that the five-year improvement plan would make those venues newly accessible when they were not accessible before. She wondered if, for some of the locations, the improvement plan would simply mean additional service to destinations that are already served. Benham allowed that for some of the destinations, the improvement plan meant additional service. He ventured that it might be possible to develop a before-and-after map to show that contrast.
On the millage question, Gott suggested that the information include how much would come out of someone’s wallet. She wanted Benham to translate the millage into what it means to a person. Benham replied that staff had talked about describing the additional millage cost as something like the cost of a tank of gas or the cost of a cup of coffee per week for a year. [For the owner of an Ann Arbor house with market value of $200,000 and taxable value of $100,000, a 0.7 mill tax translates into $70 annually, which would be paid in addition to the existing transit millage
. In total that translates to about $200 annually.]
Gott also asked if all the service could be initiated this year all at once. She didn’t think that was the case, so she felt that the AAATA needed to manage expectations about what can be implemented and when. She also stressed the importance of noting that it’s never possible to get everything exactly right the first time. Part of what the AAATA does is monitor all its routes and the demand on those routes. Transportation is an ongoing fluid planning process, she said.
Board chair Charles Griffith commended the staff, the board, and the community on all the work that had been done, saying: “We’ve been at it for years.” All through this last chunk of work and all the public meetings, everyone had invested their time, so he wanted to honor everybody who’d been involved in coming up with the best plan possible. He was glad to see that staff could accommodate some fine tuning of the plan. Some of the changes might seem minor, he allowed, but each change was significant to the person it might help – so they were meaningful adjustments, he said.
Griffith was struck by the great opportunity before the board. He’d spent a few years of his life on the board, he said, and every year, the board considered changes to the service. But up to now, it’s been a zero-sum game. Now was an opportunity to say: Here’s what we say are the most important services we could be providing, Griffith noted. He looked forward to voting on it that night.
When the board reached the voting item on the agenda, much of what board members had wanted to say had already been said. It was left to representatives of the two Ypsilanti jurisdictions to make remarks.
By way of background, Larry Krieg is expected to be the Ypsilanti Township appointment to the board, but has not yet been voted on by the township board. That process had actually been expected to be completed by the AAATA’s December 2013 board meeting. The next scheduled meeting of the township board is on Jan. 21.
Krieg led off deliberations by noting that he didn’t yet have the right to vote. He hoped that would be taken care of the following week. Even though he couldn’t vote, he could still use his voice, he said – to express his gratitude for all the work on the staff’s part. He’d attended a couple of the public meetings last fall. This is a very significant time for Ypsilanti Township, he said.
As a member of the Ypsilanti Township planning commission, Krieg wanted to stress the need to work transportation together with planning. It’s transportation that makes a community what it is, he said – the ability to get from one place to another. He called the transit improvement plan a great step forward. He would vote for the resolution if he could, he said.
Gillian Ream Gainsley appreciated Krieg’s comments and thanked the members of the public who spoke in support of the resolution. She said that taking such a big step forward for the region made her a little “verklempt.” She’d been attending meetings about the issue for a long time and was glad to see the resolution on the table.
She related a recent anecdote about how her car battery died during the cold weather, and she resorted to taking a cab, which had cost her $35. If the bus provided service, that trip alone would be worth the cost of a millage, she said. It’s a very big deal for Ypsilanti, she added.
She pointed out that three of Ypsilanti’s four largest employers are in Ann Arbor – the University of Michigan Health System, the Ann Arbor Public Schools and the University of Michigan. She invited Ann Arbor residents to think of all the parking spaces that those Ypsilanti residents won’t be taking up, if they can ride the bus. She was thrilled to be able to support the resolution.
Outcome: The board voted unanimously to approve the five-year transit improvement plan.
During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Lloyd Shelton said that often people want to give other people a hard time about something that’s been going wrong, so he wanted to thank the board for voting unanimously to support the resolution.
Communications, Committees, CEO, Commentary
At its Jan. 16 meeting, the 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.
Reporting out from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, Anya Dale noted that through the first quarter, for some services ridership was a little lower – but urban fixed-route service ridership was close to last year’s level, which was a record high, she said.
During his report to the board, CEO Michael Ford said that for the week of Dec. 15, the AirRide service – which runs between downtown Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport – had set a ridership record of 2,735 passengers in one week. That exceeded the previous record by 23%, Ford said. The AAATA continues to be pleased about the performance of the service. Ford said the AAATA is now gearing up for negotiations with Michigan Flyer to continue the service.
Comm/Comm: Follow-up on Public Commentary
During his report to the board, CEO Michael Ford said that staff had followed up on some comments made during public commentary at the board’s Dec. 19, 2013 meeting. The criteria for A-Ride qualification were clarified to the speaker’s satisfaction, Ford reported. And in the case of Thomas Partridge’s complaint, Ford said that the AAATA had communicated to SelectRide that the specific requirements in passenger profiles be adhered to.
Comm/Comm: Equity Policy
Reporting out from the planning and development committee, Sue Gott said that the committee conversation about the transit service and fare equity policy had been discussed. She described how staff had presented a terrific draft, saying it was a good “first cut.” It’s part of the AAATA’s effort to comply with federal regulations. Instead of trying to edit the draft as a group, committee members directed staff to take a little more time. The committee would see an updated policy at a future meeting. The policy would be helpful in looking at the five-year transit improvement plan and the equity issues associated with that, she said.
During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Jim Mogensen mentioned that he’d said he was going to provide comments on the draft equity policy, which he’d done. He’d sent his comments by email, but was also giving staff printed copies at the meeting, he said. Mogensen suggested setting up an email address just for providing feedback on that equity policy.
Reporting out from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, Anya Dale noted that ExpressRide had seen a reduction of expenses due to the elimination of one route to Chelsea.
During question time, board treasurer Eli Cooper asked AAATA controller Phil Webb about the fact that the amount in operating reserves is a “scooch below” the board policy’s of three months. [Financial records included in the board packet show that the current level of the reserves equates to 2.9 months – or $276,102 less than the amount corresponding to a 3-month reserve.] Cooper asked Webb to help the board understand where the 3-month policy came from and what some of the AAATA’s peer agencies might have in the way of operating reserve policies.
Webb said that historically it had been board policy to keep at least 2 months but not more than 5 months worth of operating reserve. The upper limit was then eliminated and the lower limit was moved to 3 months, he said. That was back in 2007 before the economy took a hit.
The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) sets policy for a lot of different areas, and one of those is a reserve policy, Webb explained. GFOA recommends anywhere from 15% to 20% of annual expenses as an operating reserve. The 20% level would be 2.4 months, Webb said. So the AAATA’s board policy of 3 months is a little more conservative than that. As the AAATA expands and offers more services, Webb continued, it means “chasing” that reserve requirement because it increases as total operational costs increase.
The reserves are there, Webb said, in part because state and federal funding haven’t always been timely. The state had cut back a little bit just a year ago, he noted, so the AAATA didn’t have to panic – because they had reserves to deal with the funding reduction. And when the federal government shut down for two weeks last year, the AAATA didn’t have to panic, he said.
Cooper thanked Webb for the background, saying it was an issue that the PMER committee should look at. Clearly the nation and this community have been through some difficult times, Cooper said, and the reserve policy has served the AAATA well. Webb had set the table well, Cooper said, so that the issue could be addressed in the months ahead.
Comm/Comm: Blake Transit Center: Basic Construction
In reporting out from the planning and development committee, Sue Gott noted the committee had received an update about the Blake Transit Center construction. From minutes of the Jan. 7, 2014 PDC committee meeting:
Terry Black reported that the interior of the new BTC building is progressing nicely.
The second floor of the BTC is nearing completion and contractors will be installing doors and carpeting next week. The canopy structure is up and glass will be installed soon. The concrete work, however, is not expected to be complete until spring due to the early onset of hard winter weather conditions. The building itself is slated for completion by the second week in February and will become available for public use while the concrete work on the drive is being completed. Terry reported that the project still remains within budget.
Comm/Comm: Blake Transit Center: Public Art
Sue Gott reported that the planning and development committee had received an update on the public art project that will be a part of the new Blake Transit Center building.
From minutes of the Jan. 7, 2014 PDC committee meeting:
Dawn Gabay reported that two finalists have been selected to develop draft concepts for the BTC Art Project. The concepts are to be submitted by January 17 and will be on public display at the Ann Arbor District Library from January 20 through February 3. Public comments will be accepted during this time. The winning artist will then be awarded a contract to create the actual art work for the building.
At the start of the Jan. 16 meeting, board chair Charles Griffith noted that one casualty of the bad weather that evening was the scheduled presentation from representatives of the Michigan Public Transit Association (MPTA) – Clark Harder, director of the MPTA, and Dusty Fancher, who’s the MPTA’s legislative consultant. [The MPTA is a nonprofit statewide association of public transit providers.]
The MPTA presentation has been rescheduled for March. Griffith quipped that maybe the MPTA representatives would have more to say by then.
Present: Charles Griffith, Eric Mahler, Eli Cooper, Sue Gott, Anya Dale, Gillian Ream Gainsley, Jack Bernard. Also: Larry Krieg.
Absent: Roger Kerson, Susan Baskett.
Next regular meeting: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor. [Check Chronicle event listings to confirm date.]
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