Comments on: County Board Briefed on Transit Tax it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: John Q. John Q. Tue, 25 Mar 2014 16:06:04 +0000 Congestion will always exist in any thriving urbanized area where cars are allowed to be the predominate mode of travel. If you don’t want congestion, live somewhere that is largely car free or move to Detroit or a similar struggling urban center where they are 7 lanes of pavement to move 2 lanes worth of traffic.

By: John Floyd John Floyd Sun, 23 Mar 2014 19:39:51 +0000 @19 and @23

The cities with the best mass transit America (e.g. NYC, Chicago, LA, SF, etc) are the ones with the most congestion. Why would Ann Arbor be the one place in America where mass transit reduces congestion?

By: David Cahill David Cahill Fri, 21 Mar 2014 23:27:44 +0000 I’d feel better about the millage proposal if it were not so transparently a taxpayer subsidy of growth.

Also, did the AAATA survey include a “screen” for likely voters in a special election?

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Fri, 21 Mar 2014 16:20:13 +0000 MDOT’s rail plan lists unfunded expenses for WALLY as $55.9 million. The plan indicates a total expense of $86.9 million, with the Federal Government and state picking up $19.5 million between them (mostly for fixing up and leasing the used rail cars). A local millage will not pay for this. Those who wish to have high-investment rail systems apparently expect someone else to pay for them, presumably the Federal Government.

This source (a pro-rail organization) [link] lays out some of the obstacles that new rail funding, or even continuation of current service, faces in the present political situation.

By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Fri, 21 Mar 2014 15:44:40 +0000 Re (19) “What is your plan – if you are successful in your endeavors of scuttling anything to do with rail transit – when Ann Arbor starts to experience ‘football Saturday’ type traffic and congestion more often?”

I am not opposed to rail transit. I am opposed to having Ann Arbor use its scarce local tax revenues to finance the planning and implementation of regional transit plans. The costs of planning and the capital costs of implementation should be shared by the communities that will be served by the regional transit services.

This was well demonstrated in the failed county-wide transit plan that the AATA spent more than a million dollars on. None of the other communities were asked to contribute to the costs of that plan and thus, none of those communities indicated their lack of interest until it came time to commit to financing the plan.

The WALLY would be a great commuter rail service for residents of Livingston County. I think it is fair to suggest that many residents in that county live there to avoid our taxes. Further, Livingston County has indicated that they have no interest in funding the WALLY, should it be built.

WALLY is a regional system that lacks support in the communities that would benefit most from its services. Should we continue to spend Ann Arbor City general funds and AAATA local funds to plan services for communities that do not want to contribute to the cost of running those services? I don’t think that asking that question makes me anti-train.

By: Donald Salberg Donald Salberg Fri, 21 Mar 2014 02:40:54 +0000 Re[16] I doubt that many Ann Arbor citizens will favor any of the three new transportation plans once they are familiar with the details.

For instance, the WALLY is most desired by the U of M which would not need to spend $40 million to build another parking structure for the cars of 1000 employees commuting from Livingston County. In fact the UofM is willing to subsidize the ticket costs for employees who will use the WALLY in order to encourage its construction. However, the UofM is unwilling to pay the $1.5 million or $2 million needed to pay the annual maintenance and operational costs of the WALLY for which no other funding exists. In fact, the WALLY can not be completed until such funding is obtained.

When considering THE CONNECTOR, any other transportation source other thanBus Rapid Transit (BRT) is impractical and prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, the path of THE CONNECTOR follows roadway with adjacent properties that are fully developed. It will travel through mature neighborhood on the north through the UofM and downtown Ann Arbor in the middle and State Street to I94. Since adequate transportation is already provided to these areas, additional transportation is unlikely to stimulate further economic development. And with SEMCOG only predicting an 8% population growth for Ann Arbor during the next thirty years, demand for increased transportation will be muted.

Lastly, those who believe that East-West commuter service between Detroit and Ann Arbor should be increased must realize that any future significant increase in demand would likely involve UofM employees which accounts for the interest in a Fuller Road railway station. Bur, as mentioned, SEMCOG predicts a modest increase in Ann Arbor’s population by 2040 and mostly declines in all counties East of Washtenaw. Furthermore, SEMCOG predicts a decline in population by 2040 for those 18 to 60 years old which includes most workers who will likely consider railroad commuting.Most of the population increase anticipated for Ann Arbor will involve senior citizens 60 years of age and older who will not want to commute. Committing local funds to support East-Weat commuter service is not justifiable.

Proponents of the WALLY, THE CONNECTOR, and East-West commuter rail service realize that sizable local financial support is required to complete these projects and that local voters will not likely approve millages for the projects. So thees proponents are hopeful that the AAATA expansion millage will be approved on May 6th and that the expected excess funds, which will be in the millions of dollars, will be applied to completing the various railway plans. And that will be possible because only a majority of the ten member AAATA board can direct AAATA funds to support the WALLY, THE CONNECTOR and East-West commuter rail service.

AAATA spokes persons have stated publicly that the AAATA has not included any of the rail projects in its “5 year capital plans.” HOWEVER, at the first meeting of the Citizen Working Group (CWG) for the Ann Arbor Station Environment Review which occurred at the downtown library last Tuesday evening, I asked Eli Cooper,the transportation program manager for the city of Ann Arbor and AAATA board member, whether any AAATA millage money could be used to pay for maintenance and operation expenses of the WALLY and he said, “Yes”.

So there you have it! The AAATA can likely pay for all of the Ann Arbor transit expansion plans with just a 0.25 mill and does not need the 0.7 mills being requested. Very likely Ypsi Township needs the full 0.7 mills from its tax payers to essentially double its transit services. And the articles of incorporation for the AAATA states that the same millage rate must be requested from all three component municipalities. This requirement means that Ann Arbor may have millions of dollars that will not be needed for the planned transit expansions. The total amount of “flexible funds” will be magnified by the additional federal and state contributions that is usually $2 to $3 per millage dollar collected (according to statement included in the above Mary MOrgan article)
Assuming that the millage passed, the AAATA will be asking for a new or renewal millage after 5 years at which time the 2014 millage will expire. Voter sill be hard pressed to defeat a new millage which will be deemed necessary to continue established service both bus and rail. A smaller millage,between 0,25 and 0.5 mills, may be offered to make the request more palatable and may be sufficient for its purpose.

Defeating the millage on May 6th could prevent completion of the WALLY, THE CONNECTOR and East-Weat rail commuter services are unnecessary, expensive and wasteful. Meanwhile, the AAATA will still provide the same transportation services in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township that garnered a 90% satisfaction response from users in a recent survey. If Ypsilanti Township wishes to greatly expand its bus services it can add POSA’s to those it has been using.

By: Eric Boyd Eric Boyd Thu, 20 Mar 2014 22:51:18 +0000 I agree with Fuzzbollah: There are a lot of folks who support things like the AA Connector, enhanced bus service, a new train station, and possibly WALLY.

While some complain about the potential for increased costs, others might see the potential for increased savings. For example, we have children who are starting to approach high school years, with all the mobility challenges that will likely ensue. In the past, many parents with the means simply bought their kids a 3rd car, with all the expense that entails. With enhanced transit, the need for an additional car starts to decrease. I work in town and I am willing to bike to work most of the year. However, I draw the line when there is ice and snow in the bike lane (personal preference). With enhanced transit to supplement my bike riding, perhaps we could drop from 2 cars to 1.

Likewise, there are plenty of studies showing that enhanced transit enhances property values. While my tax burden may be higher (both due to increased rates and increased property value), as an investment my house may increase in value enough to make it a net win, independent of convenience factors.

Obviously, none of the aforementioned examples are guarantees and I’ll have to do the math before determining whether I think this particular millage is a good deal. However, my chosen field of employment (networking) has well taught me the truth of Metcalf’s Law [link], which applies just as well to the pervasiveness of mass transit as it does to telecommunications networks. I strong believe that a solid increase in service plus the other proposed changes (e.g. AA connector) will more than pay off for Ann Arbor for that reason alone.

By: Donna Estabrook Donna Estabrook Thu, 20 Mar 2014 19:51:19 +0000 Mr Salberg@15
Yes, these are my personal transportation wishes. I would venture that they are in line with the personal transportation wishes of most people who use the AAATA buses on a regular basis. The reason for the existence of a bus system is to be a public service.

By: Fuzzbollah Fuzzbollah Thu, 20 Mar 2014 18:10:05 +0000 @18: Mr Eaton, we will all of us “pay for it” – transit – one way or another, through fares and taxation or aggravation. What is your plan – if you are successful in your endeavors of scuttling anything to do with rail transit – when Ann Arbor starts to experience ‘football Saturday’ type traffic and congestion more often?

As far as I can observe, your anti-Hieftje cabal seems not to offer any solutions. That’s called ‘government inaction’, and was cited as one of the numerous reasons for the demise of urban rail in the Wikipedia article you provided a link to. I think the UM pulled out of the Fuller Rd Station project because they saw ‘inaction’ on the part of Council. That was a golden opportunity to get the U to pay for some infrastructure that could benefit the City and the University.

Cincinnati Streetcar provides an overview of a project that is being built right now, that could be used as a model for revitalizing an urban core. Businesses are locating near the new line, and housing is being renovated as well. Economic activity is demonstrably on the upswing around this project, right now. Who is paying for it? We all are – [link] The project is not without it’s detractors, just like here. Yes, rail projects are expensive to build, implement, and maintain, but will the benefits outweigh the costs? I guess we will see in about 10-15 years, perhaps sooner.

As to who should pay here? YES, Ann Arbor, Brighton, Ypsi, public-private partnerships, UM, Washtenaw County, Livingston County, SEMCOG (when that line gets built to the airport), the Feds, and anyone else who stands to benefit from better public transit options.

By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Thu, 20 Mar 2014 16:44:06 +0000 Re(16) “And what about those of us who DO want a Connector, WALLY, and Fuller Road Amtrak/inter-modal Station?” I recommend that you get your wallet out. Each of those projects will require substantial local funding in addition to the state and federal money that may be granted. The proposed AAATA millage includes nothing for any of those projects.

The question of whether to have these services and facilities is less about whether we want them than it is about who should pay for them. For example, in planning, designing and implementing the WALLY commuter rail service for Brighton and other communities at the far reaches of urban sprawl, should Ann Arbor provide the funding or should the communities where the commuters actually live pay for the project?

As for looking to the past for examples of workable transit solutions, I would note that the interurban rail systems of the past failed in part due to the economics of providing such service. If you are willing to read through the conspiracy claims, wikipedia has an interesting article on the demise of urban rail systems. [].