Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (April 17, 2014): The board had two voting items on its agenda: a policy on determining disproportionate impacts of fare and service changes on disadvantaged populations; and a contract for small concrete work associated with pads for bus stops, approach walks and ramps. Both items were approved.
The issue of the May 6 millage vote came up during public commentary. In addition, CEO Michael Ford delivered some prepared remarks meant to dispel what he called myths about the AAATA that are being promoted by opponents of that millage. [.pdf of press release from opposition campaign]
One myth is that the AAATA is inefficient, Ford said, when in fact the AAATA has 17% lower cost per passenger and has 18% fewer employees per passenger than its peers. Another myth, Ford said, is that the AAATA has 52 managers. “It’s just simply not true,” he said. Ford explained that the AAATA has 52 employees who are non-union – 11 of whom are managers. That includes administrative assistants, IT staff, customer service, human resources, safety and security personnel, dispatchers and others, Ford said.
The assertion that the AAATA will use millage revenue to fund a train service is untrue as well, Ford continued. The AAATA had intentionally not put rail service in the ballot language. AAATA has been acknowledged in USA Today, by CNN, and by independent transportation associations as one of the nation’s best-in-class in terms of ridership, operational efficiency, fiscal stability, and technological innovation, Ford said. And that’s why he was hopeful that voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township would say yes when they go to the polls on May 6.
The concrete work contract was awarded to Saladino Construction, for a one-year period and the possibility of four one-year renewals. Board members subjected the item to a relatively lengthy discussion as far as AAATA board discussions go – as they had questions about the amount of future work there would be, how workmanship is verified, and how pedestrian flow at bus stops is maintained during the work period.
Also given a fair amount of discussion was the policy on service equity required under Title VI. Board members had several questions, including one about the action that is required if a disparate impact on low-income riders is found as a result of a fare increase. AAATA staff stressed that there is not currently a fare increase on the table.
Small Concrete Work Contract
The board considered a one-year contract with Saladino Construction for small concrete jobs. The contract, which has the option to be extended for four additional one-year periods, will cover work for access walks, shelter and bench pads, sidewalk extensions, curb extensions and bus pullouts.
The one-year contract is expected to be worth about $54,000 a year, which is under the $100,000 threshold requiring board approval. But because the board was approving potentially a five-year period, with the value of the work expected to exceed $100,000, the contract required board approval.
Saladino was selected from four bidders for the work. Even though 445 vendors were sent notice of the RFP, only four bids were received: Audia Concrete Construction of Milford; Hartwell Cement of Oak Park; Luigi Ferdinandi and Son Cement of Roseville; and Saladino Construction of Ann Arbor Township. The AAATA staff analysis indicated that small concrete jobs at multiple locations are not attractive to many contractors.
Small Concrete Work Contract: Board Discussion
Reporting out from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, Roger Kerson said the committee had discussed one agenda item – the contract for small concrete jobs. Saladino had been chosen, he noted. It was not the low bid, but had the best combination of cost and performance. Saladino has done work for the Washtenaw County Road Commission, the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti, he said. Kerson called the company very well-qualified with good references.
Kerson characterized the small concrete jobs as basically fixing the bus stops – the sidewalk approaches and the ramps around the stops. The estimate is for $54,000 per year, with a potential renewal up to five years, Kerson said. The committee had given that contract a thumbs up, Kerson concluded.
When the board reached that item on the agenda, Larry Krieg had a question about what the cost figure had been given as an “estimate.” Is that the amount that is budgeted or is that a cap on expenditures? If it turns out that all of the bus stops need to be redone, and it costs twice as much, what would happen?
Chris White, AAATA manager of service development, noted that the request for proposals included unit costs – for linear feet of concrete and for square feet of concrete. In order to compare proposals, AAATA had included an estimated amount of work that would need to be done based on past history. The amounts are not budgeted as part of the operating budget. That’s because grant funding pays for this type of project – as part of the capital and categorical grant program, White explained. AAATA knows roughly how much work there will be in a given year, but it can vary little bit. If a curb needs to be extended to make the bus stop accessible, then that may cost a little bit more, he explained. The estimate is based on previous experience, he reiterated.
Gillian Ream Gainsley noted that there was more damage to the roads because of the severe winter. Was there a similar impact on bus stops? Would the AAATA have a greater need for concrete repair at bus stops this year? White described the work covered by this contract as not really repair work. He described it as mostly new work: new shelter pads, and new access sidewalks.
Board chair Charles Griffith indicated that he hoped this cost figure would need to be reevaluated, if the transit millage passes. That’s because the AAATA will have more stops that need to be serviced.
White noted that the AAATA already has agreements for two new shelters on the proposed new Route M – a route that would start operation in August 2014 if the millage is approved. So the AAATA is already doing that kind of preparatory work, he said. The performance monitoring and external relations committee would be receiving the bus stop work plan at its next meeting, White said.
Sue Gott wanted to know what the typical warranty is for work performed under the contracts. She wanted to know who inspects the workmanship when it’s done: Is inspection done by staff within the AAATA’s organization? She was also curious to know how pedestrian circulation is ensured through areas where work on a sidewalk is being done.
On the question of workmanship, White explained that city inspectors are used for jobs that are done inside the city of Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti. Washtenaw County Road Commission inspectors are used for jobs in the townships. That kind of expertise doesn’t exist on staff at the AAATA, he said.
About work zones, White said that one of the reasons Saladino was chosen is that the company has done this kind of work in all the jurisdictions – so they know what is required as far as work zone safety. That includes directing people at the beginning of the block where they need to cross the street and that type of thing, White said. The bus stop coordinator, Jeff Murphy, oversees that element of the work, he said. CEO Michael Ford indicated that information about warranty of the work could be provided as a follow-up.
Eli Cooper stated that he would be supporting the resolution. Although it’s a small amount and the word “small” is in the resolution, he noted, this is a really large improvement for customers. It’s “moving that bus stop out of the proverbial mud puddle,” he explained. It appears to be “small concrete,” but as you consider access to the system, it’s important for people who have mobility challenges, as well as for able-bodied people. Even on a sunny day, if there is difficult terrain to overcome, that’s challenging, he said. Cooper asked staff to continue to review the amount of work – not just based on prior experience, but based on what true needs are, so that the AAATA is doing an appropriate amount of large improvements that need little amounts of resources.
Griffith asked how someone goes about asking for a bench to be installed on a bus stop near one’s own property: “How much money would it cost me if I wanted to take up a collection for it?” White indicated that it would probably cost nothing, pointing out that what the AAATA needs assistance with is maintenance.
If the AAATA can get an agreement from a property owner to do snow removal and maybe empty trash, the AAATA would work on installing a bench. Typically the AAATA prioritizes benches and access improvements at higher-volume bus stops. But the AAATA would bend that policy if there are willing policy partners to help, he said. Jeff Murphy has been active in soliciting adopt-a-stop agreements from adjacent property owners, White said. Many of those property owners are commercial property owners, but some homeowners are also interested enough that they’ve agreed to clear the snow if an access walk is put in.
Cooper noted that the installation of that kind of feature in the public right-of-way should follow city rules. There’s a right-of-way encroachment permit and sidewalk occupancy permits. There are review processes and fees associated with that, Cooper said. If a private property owner wants to install a feature on public property, that would then potentially be reviewed by the city’s planning department.
Cooper appreciated – from the standpoint of transit operations – that it would count as a benefit, but he wanted to make sure that any amenity was put in an appropriate place, in an appropriate manner, and that it be properly reviewed prior to its installation. White noted that the concrete contractor is responsible for obtaining the relevant city permits.
Outcome: The board unanimously approved the contract for small concrete jobs with Saladino.
Title VI Policy
On the board’s agenda was a policy on service equity analysis, which is required as part of the authority’s Title VI compliance. Title VI is the civil rights legislation that, in the context of public transportation, requires proof that a service change has no adverse effect on disadvantaged populations. [.pdf of Title VI policy included in April 17, 2014 AAATA board packet]
The policy on equity analysis comes in the context of a 5-year service improvement plan the AAATA hopes to implement if voters approve a millage request on May 6, 2014. The AAATA is required to have such a policy as one element in a Title VI program submitted to the Federal Transit Administration by October 2014.
The policy includes a method of analyzing disparate impacts on different populations for various changes in service, including: fare increases, decreases in frequency of service, decreases in span of service, and reduction in days of service.
Title VI Policy: Public Commentary
During public commentary at the start of the meeting, Jim Mogensen addressed the board on the topic of the Title VI policy. Mogensen noted that he had just had orthopedic surgery, so he had not been able to comment on the draft policy as early as he wanted to. There were some technical issues, which he had already talked to Chris White about, that he felt should eventually be considered. The first related to some technical issues associated with census data.
The second point related to the analysis of differential fares. He noted that low-income people who have applied to the AAATA are offered reduced fares – half the cash fare for the general population. That could impact how the analysis is done, Mogensen said. He described a scenario where the basic fare went up to $2 [from its current rate of $1.50], so a half fare would be one dollar. But the effect might not show up if the fare that the University of Michigan pays on behalf of its affiliates – which is $1 – did not go up.
Later in the meeting, AAATA manager of service development Chris White acknowledged Mogensen’s point, saying that fares for UM affiliates are paid by the university – so if UM fares do not go up in connection with a general fare increase, that would certainly make a difference in the impact of a fare increase on low-income people.
Mogensen also ventured that there could be differential impacts on neighborhoods, depending on the service level – which makes a difference when you have what are called “minority routes.” When a route is very long, like Route #6, it might not qualify as a minority route because it is so long, but there is a minority neighborhood on that route that would be impacted. So that kind of situation should also be incorporated into the policy, Mogensen suggested. He described the policy that was on the board’s agenda as “almost there, but not quite.”
Thomas Partridge addressed the board during both opportunities for public commentary. Aside from the Title VI policy, Partridge said, the AAATA needs to analyze the impact of changes that have yet to be made and yet to be proposed – that would ameliorate, if not wipe out discrimination in ride services for the most disadvantaged members of our community. Discrimination still persists, Partridge contended, in terms of ride scheduling and the type of vehicles and drivers who come to pick up people for the senior ride and paratransit program – the A-Ride program.
Partridge was concerned that with all the discussion about the technical aspects of Title VI policy guidelines, it did not touch on the substantial needs of senior citizens and disabled persons. He called for policies that would preclude discrimination in transportation for seniors and disabled persons in the current senior ride program. Current forms of discrimination exist that are particularly odious and particularly harmful to senior citizens and disabled persons, Partridge said, because of lack of adequate funding for vehicles on the road to service A-Ride. There are vehicles that should never be on the road and drivers who are ill-trained to serve handicapped people and senior citizens, he said. Partridge called for a review of the vehicles offered by the AAATA and the SelectRide company for A-Ride service.
Title VI Policy: Board Discussion
Sue Gott reported out from the planning and development committee that the group had spent quite a bit of time on the Title VI policy. The committee had spent a lot of time going back and forth with staff on the policy, she said. She thanked AAATA staff, and Chris White specifically, for the time and effort he had spent listening to a number of concerns and questions. White had also gone back and coordinated with the regional civil rights officer to identify opportunities for some improvements and on clarity in the language. White had also consulted with the AAATA’s legal counsel.
When the board reached the item on its agenda, Gillian Ream Gainsley also noted that the planning and development committee spent a lot of time going back and forth with staff on the policy. She really appreciated the time and effort that Chris White had put into it. She felt that White had been put in a challenging position and had really stepped up to the plate – because the federal requirements in Title VI don’t give you a lot of guidance about how to approach enforcement of the rule, she said.
So she felt that the AAATA was pioneering something in terms of determining exactly how they want to define disparate impact. She did not feel that the policy was going to be set in stone, saying that she felt the policy would a living document. The AAATA would continue to improve on the policy over time, she felt. But she called it an incredibly good start and appreciated that the AAATA was willing to go above and beyond what was required of it. She would be supporting the policy, she said.
Eric Mahler echoed Ream Gainsley’s remarks and appreciated the amount of work that Chris White, as well as the rest of the staff, had done. Mahler had a couple of questions about the policy and the methodology for measuring disproportionate burden in connection with fare increases.
For minority populations, the policy’s definition of disproportionate burden is: If a minority population bears a 5% greater burden from a fare increase than a non-minority population. The policy’s definition of disproportionate burden for the low-income population is: If low-income riders will bear a 10% greater burden from a fare increase. Mahler noted that the fare for low-income persons is half the full cash fare for the general population. And that is a justification for finding a disproportionate burden only if the low-income population would bear 10% more of the burden – as opposed to the 5% threshold used for minority ridership.
Back and forth between Mahler and White ensued on the topic of the interplay between the impact of a fare increase on low-income riders and the fact that the fares for low-income riders are by policy already supposed to be half the full cash fare.
White noted in the course of that back-and-forth that the AAATA has had a half fare for low-income riders for a long time, venturing that the AAATA was fairly unique in having such a program. White added that there’s a choice to make when the fare is an odd number. When the fare was $0.75, the AAATA had a choice to make – between a half fare of $0.35 or $0.40. The board chose at that time to make it $0.35. If the board had chosen to make the low-income fare $0.40, that might have made a difference in the calculation of disproportionate burden.
White stressed at several points that the AAATA is not contemplating a fare increase at this time. The Title VI policy is being put in place to deal with any future situation. For a fare increase, the analysis of disproportionate burden is a little more straightforward than with a service increase, White said – because an actual calculation can be done. The intention is that a chart would be prepared that shows all the fare categories. Because the AAATA collects information on the fare for every rider who boards, the AAATA can compare any proposal for a fare increase and see what additional burden would be carried by low-income persons.
If a disproportionate burden were found, White said, the AAATA would have to go back and revise the fare increase to get rid of that disproportionate burden, or would have to demonstrate that the purposes that the AAATA was trying to achieve were legitimate, and this was the only way to do it. That would be a tough case to make, White felt.
Mahler asked what would happen if the disproportionate burden for low-income riders was only 9% more than for other riders. White replied: “It would be up to the board of directors.” Once the board has the information that shows the effect of the impact, the board would need to make a decision. Board chair Charles Griffith noted that ultimately the board has the final say: If there is some disproportionate impact – even if that disproportionate impact does not exceed the threshold defined in the policy – the board could still decide that it’s more disproportionate impact than the board was comfortable with.
Mahler came back to the policy language that specifies what is to be done if a disparate impact is found. The first step is to “review the objectives of the proposed change to determine if the evidence supports the legitimacy of the objectives.” Mahler was not sure what that meant. What evidence are you looking for? If there’s some evidence out there that could actually trump the disproportionate burden or the disparate impact, are we going to use that? Mahler asked. White replied: “That’s an interesting question to answer.”
The regional civil rights officer had reviewed the AAATA’s draft policy and came back with couple of comments, basically saying that the policy looked pretty good to her, White reported. But she made a very specific comment about wanting that specific language, which Mahler had asked about, inserted in the policy. White allowed that it was not entirely clear to him exactly what the language means. A lot of times a service change is meant to achieve multiple objectives, where some people are impacted negatively a small amount – but other people are impacted positively a large amount, and you have to weigh that without a numerical basis.
Mahler said that the only thing he could think of was if there were some segment of the population that was not being served at all, and that for some reason the AAATA decided there’s some compelling, overwhelming interest in serving the neglected population now and service needed to be extended to that geographic area – that might trump the disproportionate burden threshold.
White noted that they’re dealing with civil rights legislation, so it’s about equal treatment, not about a right to service. White ventured that the federal guidelines themselves were misguided in the following sense: The AAATA does analysis of proposed service changes and fare changes before they are ever made as a proposal. This kind of analysis is part of what the AAATA does initially. So if there is a disproportionate or disparate impact, the AAATA would revise its approach – before ever putting a proposal forward. If the AAATA were ever to propose service changes that had disparate impact, the AAATA would likely already have its arguments in place to defend those changes. In most cases, White felt, the analysis done after the proposal was made would show that the change did not have a disparate impact.
Roger Kerson noted that although the AAATA is not contemplating fare increases at this time, it certainly is proposing service changes and has made service changes recently. The major service increases that have been done recently involved Route #4 and Route #5, he said. He did not know if the disproportionate impact analysis had been done for those changes, but ventured that for those routes you’d find the opposite of a disparate impact – in terms of low-income and minority populations.
White told Kerson that the AAATA has the analysis for both of those route service changes and it was provided to the board ahead of time. The difference in the new regulations is that the AAATA had to define a threshold for disparate impact and disproportionate burden. The actual analysis has been done for many years, he said.
White explained that there is a definition of “minority route” and a “low-income route.” When you make a service change on the whole route, that’s the level of analysis you use. But if you’re doing a change on less than a whole route, the fact that it’s a minority route or a non-minority route doesn’t enter into the analysis, White said. The analysis is done on the area that is being affected and the population of that area – not the route as a whole, White explained.
Larry Krieg reiterated the board’s thanks to Chris White for undertaking the analysis. He called it an immensely complex and puzzling thing to work on.
Charles Griffith also appreciated the work that had been done and thanked the committee. He echoed the sentiments of Ream Gainsley, saying that the policy is a step forward: “Let’s think of it as a living document,” he said.
Outcome: The board unanimously to approve the new Title VI policy.
Title VI Policy: More Public Commentary
During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Jim Mogensen said he would continue to work with Chris White on the Title VI policy. Some of the mysterious language is related to case law, he ventured. That’s why they are so specific about specific phrases. That’s sometimes the case with a 50-year-old law, he noted. Mogensen observed that there are people who think there should not be a Civil Rights Act and that people should be allowed to do what they want to do.
May 6 Millage Vote
The board had no formal business related to the upcoming May 6, 2014 vote on a proposed 0.7 mill tax – to be decided by voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. But the millage vote was touched on during the meeting. The board voted at its Feb. 20, 2014 meeting to place the millage on the ballot.
The proceeds of the millage are to pay for a set of service improvements over a period of five years. Those 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.
May 6 Millage Vote: Michael Ford’s Remarks
CEO Michael Ford eschewed his typical wide-ranging report of activities for the previous month in favor of some remarks focused on the upcoming May 6 millage vote. Ford reviewed how the AAATA was asking Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township voters to approve a millage of 0.7 mills for five years on Tuesday, May 6.
The AAATA’s five-year plan is based on overwhelming demand from local residents, businesses and elected officials, Ford said. The millage will help fund transit improvements that will better serve the community, provide 44% more service, and help spur economic activity in the greater Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area.
For the average household, Ford continued, this millage amounts to less than the cost of a cup of coffee per week: “We think that’s a good value considering the additional 90,000 hours of service it will provide annually.” The response from the community to the AAATA’s proposal has been overwhelmingly been positive, Ford said.
Civic leaders and organizations that often disagree have united to endorse the goals of the AAATA five-year public transportation improvement plan, Ford said. He then ticked through several organizations and individuals who have endorsed the millage. [.pdf of extracted pages from board packet with a list of endorsers]
Ford noted that endorsers included three of the four candidates for Ann Arbor mayor.
By way of background, the candidate who has not yet endorsed the millage is Sally Petersen. At a candidate forum held on April 16, 2014, she stated:
I am leaning towards supporting it right now, but I am a little bit still on the fence. The reason why I would support the millage for the expansion of the five-year plan is because I do believe in the first place that urban core and making the connection between [Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township] easier and expanding those routes so we have fewer cars on the streets is better for the road, better for the environment and it leaves more parking spaces for Ann Arbor downtown. I also think we need a robust transportation system, for those who can’t drive, those who are elderly or have disabilities and I think we need to expand services for that. But I live in a ward where there is quite a bit of opposition to the transit millage and on April 29th, councilmember [Jane] Lumm and I are hosting a Ward 2 meeting … I want to hear from opposition and how TheRide leadership is going to answer some questions before I endorse.
Ford continued by saying there’s a recognition that Washtenaw County urban core communities will benefit from more routes and longer hours of service. Echoing the pro-millage campaign slogan, Ford said “more buses, more places, more often” will help retain talent, jobs and businesses, helping to ensure that the local economy remains vibrant.
But Ford allowed there has been some criticism of the millage proposal. He called it unfortunate that some people have chosen to misinterpret data about public transportation or mislead people into thinking that the public does not want to invest in public transportation. Nothing could be further from the truth, Ford contended.
Ford then addressed some of the specific claims that opponents of the millage have made: “I would like to address some of the myths.” One myth is that the AAATA is inefficient, Ford said, when in fact the AAATA has 17% lower cost per passenger and has 18% fewer employees per passenger than its peers. Another myth, Ford said, is that the AAATA has 52 managers. “It’s just simply not true,” he said. Ford explained that the AAATA has 52 employees who are non-union – 11 of whom are managers, he said. That includes administrative assistants, IT staff, customer service, human resources, safety and security personnel, dispatchers and others, Ford said.
The assertion that the AAATA will use millage revenue to fund a train service is untrue as well, Ford continued. The AAATA had intentionally not put rail service in the ballot language.
AAATA has been acknowledged in USA Today, by CNN, and by independent transportation associations as one of the nation’s best-in-class in terms of ridership, operational efficiency, fiscal stability, and technological innovation, Ford said. And that’s why he was hopeful that voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township would say yes when they go to the polls on May 6.
May 6 Millage Vote: Public Commentary
During public commentary at the start of the meeting, Thomas Partridge introduced himself as a previous candidate for the Michigan state legislature. He called on everyone involved, including the public, to put forward all the positive reasons for voting on May 6 to support the transit millage. Passing the millage would be a positive step toward accomplishing what still needs to be done to develop true countywide transportation. That goal, Partridge said, requires the leadership of the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township. Passing the millage and the expanded service will reduce the amount of traffic on our roads and the amount of rush hour traffic, he contended. It would spur economic development, he continued, and would have a positive impact on the need for affordable transportation for disabled people and senior citizens.
Partridge also addressed the board at the conclusion of the meeting during public commentary. He noted that Easter weekend was coming up and this time of year was of significance to most of the major religions of the world. Partridge said we should ask what Christ would advise on the vote to take steps to encompass the city of Ann Arbor, city of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township into an area-wide transportation authority. Better transit would ameliorate the effects of climate change and air and water pollution, he said.
Lloyd Shelton spoke representing those with disabilities in Washtenaw County, saying that he’s also part of the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living. The Ann Arbor CIL and people with disabilities across Washtenaw County stand firmly in support of this millage, he said. Shelton encouraged everyone to move forward on May 6 and to pass the millage.
Calisa Reid told the board that she’s a person with a disability, and she also lives in a rural area. As she was listening to the discussion of service changes, she hoped for service to the rural parts of Washtenaw County. She lives in Augusta Township and she ventured it would be hard to get a millage passed there. She suggested that maybe two times a month a shuttle could pick up people in rural areas of Washtenaw County so they can pay their bills or go grocery shopping. That might be a stopgap measure that could be implemented before more substantial changes come, she suggested.
Communications, Committees, CEO, Commentary
At its April 17 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: Retreat, Work Plan
Reporting out from the planning and development committee, Sue Gott said the committee had spent a lot of time talking about the first draft of a work plan for 2015. She reminded board members that in order for the board to approve the budget for next year, the board first needs to review and approve a work plan – as a basis for putting the budget together.
In discussing the work plan, the committee had gone back and forth on a discussion about the retreat. Last year, she noted, the board had a quite extensive discussion about the work plan at its retreat. One of the questions on the table at the planning and development committee meeting was whether the board should spend as much time at this year’s retreat focusing on the work plan or perhaps keep the discussion of the work plan at a higher level – in order to allow other topics to receive greater time and priority at the retreat.
The outcome of that discussion was a bit of a hybrid, Gott said, in that the committee still wanted to have a review of the work plan at the committee and make it available at the retreat. But they wanted to use the time at the retreat to talk a little bit about the AAATA’s current and future roles and relationships, including what the AAATA’s place is within the region. To allow that topic to go wherever it needs to go during the retreat, the committee wanted flexibility in the retreat agenda, so that topic of future roles and relationships could be explored deeply.
Comm/Comm: Blake Transit Center
Reporting out from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, Roger Kerson noted that the committee had met in the meeting room at the newly constructed Blake Transit Center, which is now open. About the BTC, Kerson reported that people are liking it. The final outside work was described as needing another 6 to 8 weeks of work, after the frost laws are lifted.
Comm/Comm: Financial Update
Roger Kerson reported on a financial update that the performance monitoring and external relations committee had received. Revenue is 0.2% under budget, but expenses are 2% under budget. So the budget is in good shape, Kerson said. There’s a surplus of $258,000 so far this year. The fund reserve balance is still under the level it should be based on board policy [three month's worth of operating expenses], because of a van purchase that needed to be made, for which the AAATA could not use federal funds. AAATA controller Phil Webb is hoping that the reserve balance will get closer to the minimum level it’s supposed to be as the year goes forward. Part of that will depend on the outcome of the millage vote, Kerson said.
Kerson also noted that a correction in accounting needed to be made due to a software glitch. The software the AAATA was using did not understand how to depreciate land – which does not depreciate. Because the AAATA had bought a strip of land [from the city of Ann Arbor] in order to construct Blake Transit Center, that had “messed everything up,” Kerson said. The auditor had found that mistake – and that is why you do audits, Kerson said. It has now been corrected.
Reporting out from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, Roger Kerson reviewed some ridership data. Fixed route ridership was higher in March 2014 compared to March 2013, but it is still down for the year – because January was so severely impacted by the weather, he said.
Comm/Comm: AAATA Website
Kerson reported that the AAATA website still needs some improvements, and ongoing discussions are taking place with the vendor about that. The plan at this stage is to hire a developer in-house, Kerson reported, so that the AAATA has its own capability and is not dependent on the vendor for the ongoing management of the website. Kerson felt that was a very good strategy. He described it as a very key hire, saying it was important to get the right person with the right set of abilities.
Comm/Comm: Onboard Survey
Continuing his report from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, Kerson said the onboard survey of riders has now been completed and the results of that would be released soon. The survey showed overall that customers have a very high satisfaction with the AAATA service, he said.
Comm/Comm: Local Advisory Council
Cheryl Webber gave the report from the AAATA’s local advisory council – a body that advises the AAATA on issues related to the disability community as well as seniors.
She said there was a nice discussion at the LAC’s last meeting about the new Ride Guide and the changes that have been made to it. There was a good discussion also about how the paratransit A-Ride service works – and doesn’t work from time to time. Representatives of SelectRide, the vendor that provides the A-Ride service, were present and were able to respond to people’s concerns, Webber reported.
Two LAC members had expressed some interest in putting the LAC at the board’s disposal – saying that the person who represents the LAC at the board meetings is well-suited to bring back to the LAC any questions the board might have about anything pertaining to paratransit or the accessibility of buses. Members of the LAC have been consumers of the transportation service for a very long time. They’ve also provided input on how transportation service has been provided over a very long time. So LAC members have a unique perspective, Webber said.
Comm/Comm: Meeting Schedule Religious Holidays
During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Jim Mogensen also told the board that he had left a church event in order to attend the board’s meeting that evening. He asked the board to think about dates of religious holidays when they set the board’s meeting calendar at the beginning of the year. [The meeting fell during Passover and on the Thursday before Easter.] The Interfaith Roundtable of Washtenaw County might serve as a resource for information on that, Mogensen said. Not all religious holidays are the same, he continued, pointing out that some of the holidays are more important than others.
Present: Charles Griffith, Eric Mahler, Eli Cooper, Sue Gott, Roger Kerson, Gillian Ream Gainsley, Larry Krieg.
Absent: Susan Baskett, Anya Dale, Jack Bernard.
Next regular meeting: Thursday, May 22, 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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