Comments on: Millage at the Village: Ward 2 Transit Talk it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Steve Bean Steve Bean Mon, 05 May 2014 14:56:35 +0000 @4: You have quite the crystal ball to know what all those riders and non-riders are doing and thinking and why, Donald.

“Therefore, the AAATA can not justify planned increase in services based on any increased ridership either from present residents who are not yet using the bus service or from population increases in the future. With 91% satisfaction with present services, per the AAATA’s recent survey, few Ann Arbor citizens seem to believe that increased bus frequency and late night expanded services are important.”

This conclusion isn’t supported by the preceding portion of the comment, which isn’t surprising since it’s simply not logically supportable.

As for the satisfaction survey, that’s an interesting interpretation. If I were asked how satisfied I am with the current service, I wouldn’t necessarily read that as, “What improvements would you like to see in the service?”, depending in part on what other questions the survey presented.

Also, ridership didn’t flatten out after 2008, it dropped (but not until 2010, according to the graph in the article). And then it rose the next four years to new all-time high levels. Are you really that confused or are you hoping that we are?

As Dave wrote in his column on this millage vote, there are no doubt reasons to vote against it, but misinterpreting the data isn’t one of them.

By: jeff alson jeff alson Sun, 04 May 2014 17:00:09 +0000 It seems extremely logical to me that increasing the bus frequency on some busy routes, extending nighttime hours on many routes, and extending weekend hours on many routes, with a respected and efficient bus system, would increase ridership. Let’s say you ride the bus when it runs, but you want to take a trip when it does not run. If the millage passes, the bus now operates at that time. You can take the bus! This seems self-evident to me.

My daughter has taken the 2C bus from northeast Ann Arbor to downtown on Saturdays and wanted to take the bus back home, only to find that the last bus is at 6 pm. I have made a round trip with my car just to pick her up. That is a perfect example of a trip that will be possible if the millage passes.

The previous comment implicitly makes an assumption, also reflected in many comments at the recent Ward 2 forum, that “either you drive a car or ride a bus.” I am in my 50s, and this may in fact have been a reasonable assumption in the past for many people of my generation and older. But, I think younger generations are different–even if they own a car, they are making trip-specific decisions about which option is more convenient and environmentally preferable. I recently took the 2C bus to Central Campus and it was far cheaper and convenient than it would have been to drive my car. And there were over 50 people on that bus–think of the oil and carbon that we saved.

Finally, even those who do not ever take the bus benefit from a good bus system–more economic activity, less congestion, more parking spaces, less pollution. Not to mention living in an area where all of our citizens, including those not able to own or drive a car, can get around. Transit is a community good.

I am proud of our bus system, and want to make it better. I will be happy to pay a little more in taxes to support a better bus system.

By: Donald Salberg Donald Salberg Sun, 04 May 2014 05:15:03 +0000 For what it is worth, David Askin’s report is accurate about what transpired at the Ward 2 town hall meeting. However, many facts and considerations were not presented at the meeting.

For instance, the AAATA showed an increase of ridership from 4.2 million in 2004 to 6.3 million in 2013 and offered a graph with two vertical bars to display the change. The AAATA used this information to justify expectations for continued growth that will be covered by added services tied to the new millage. What was not explained was that in 2004 the UofM began its arrangement with the AAATA that allowed its faculty and students to ride without paying fares. Likewise in the same year the go!pass program began that allows employers downtown to subscribe to fee rides for their employees by paying an annual fee of $10 for each employee. Subsequent to the introduction of these two free-ride programs fare-paying ridership fell the next year and remained unchanged for the decade. Meanwhile, total ridership rose reflecting a annual progressive increase in free riders through 2008. Actually, total ridership reached about 6 million riders in 2008 and oscillated around this number since then, increasing by only 5% over the ensuing 5 years.

The reason that ridership flattened out after 2008 likely reflects that all UofM faculty and students and all employees wanting go!pass cards had been recruited to ride the bus. Few individuals who were not using the bus but had access to free rides offered by the UofM and by the go!pass program were left who could add to the ridership. In other words, the UofM free ridership program and the go!pass program were saturated.

Ridership statistics used in my analysis can be found in David Askin’s excellent comprehensive study of AAATA ridership published in his article, entitled “Column: Let Data Steer Local Transit Policy,” published in the and accessible at this URL: [link]

The fact that total ridership has flattened out over the past 5 years means that the AAATA should not plan future expansion to allow for significant further ridership from existing residents of Ann Arbor. Furthermore, SEMCOG predicts that Ann Arbor’s population will only grow by 9,852, or only 8,6% over the next 30 years. [link] See page 48.

Therefore, the AAATA can not justify planned increase in services based on any increased ridership either from present residents who are not yet using the bus service or from population increases in the future. With 91% satisfaction with present services, per the AAATA’s recent survey, few Ann Arbor citizens seem to believe that increased bus frequency and late night expanded services are important.

By: jeff alson jeff alson Sat, 03 May 2014 21:53:38 +0000 Dave, thanks for the great review of the Ward 2 Town Hall. I attended the meeting, and your summary is very accurate. Thank you for correcting the misinformation about the cost per ride for AAATA. It is refreshing to see the formal data, instead of the piecemeal information provided by the first comment. I have been struck by the millage opponents’ apparent strategy of “throwing every possible argument out there, whether supported by data or not, and seeing if they can scare enough citizens to vote against the millage.” The most blatant example is the “52 AAATA managers” which has been completely discredited. Why wouldn’t the opponents check the accuracy of such a simple claim before making it?

I was struck by the chorus of fellow Ward 2ers that, somehow, a bus service should pay for itself. Well, I cannot think of many city services that pay for themselves. Water doesn’t, police and fire do not, garbage does not. But the community is better off when we pay for those things together,and for bus service as well. And, as someone who has worked on transportation issues for 35 years, I can assure you that car drivers (like me) do not pay the full cost of our driving–construction and maintenance of our national road system cost trillons of dollars of public monies, oil and auto companies have been publicly subsidized, and we don’t pay the full health and environmental costs due to air pollution and carbon emissions.

My bottom line is that we have a great bus system already, but I am happy to pay a bit more to have an even better system that will allow more of my fellow citizens greater mobility and reduce congestion and open up parking spaces for the rest of us.

By: Dave Askins Dave Askins Sat, 03 May 2014 19:15:12 +0000 Jeff, I didn’t include your claims about the cost per trip made at the meeting, which you’ve repeated here, because I think your claims have the impact of sowing confusion, rather than giving a deeper understanding of AAATA’s efficiency. I did provide a chart showing the historical trend for that statistic for the AAATA based on the database variable, not a calculation I performed. You described at the meeting that you’d done a calculation based on data in the NTD to arrive at your $5.05 figure for cost per ride. It would be worth checking that calculation against the variable for that stat that’s available in the database.

Historically, here’s what the time series looks like for that stat:

1995	$2.84
1996	$3.01
1997	$3.38
1998	$2.92
1999	$3.29
2000	$3.48
2001	$3.83
2002	$3.91
2003	$4.23
2004	$4.05
2005	$3.80
2006	$3.47
2007	$3.53
2008	$3.18
2009	$3.03
2010	$3.39
2011	$3.44
2012	$3.52

That’s the series underlying the chart included in the article above. Those are just the figures for fixed route service cost per trip pulled from the database, not the result of a calculation.

The AAATA’s summary of operations for the five month period ending February 2014 shows a figure of $3.56: [link] That’s in line with the historical trend.

But you’ve calculated that the current figure is over $5. That suggests to me that you’ve miscalculated something.

By: Jeff Hayner Jeff Hayner Sat, 03 May 2014 18:37:24 +0000 Thanks for this report. Two things I wanted to point out – reduced fares are also given to M-Card holders, and downtown employees enrolled in the $10/year getDowntown program. The AAATA is reimbursed $0.90 for each ride by the DDA – so that is a free ride, paid fully by tax dollars – or parking revenue dollars diverted from the general fund. The MRide reimbursement come partly in cash from U of M, but mainly in the form of Federal dollars (tax dollars). A free ride.

My question about the National Transit Database figures did not make it in here – perhaps because it was at the end? The cost per ride, in inflation adjusted dollars has been climbing every year. In 1996 it was $3.48 per ride, and in 2013 it is $5.05. This pulled from the NTD. The AAATA says todays cost is $3.36, but that is not what their reporting to the NTD says. This rising cost for each ride means that the amount of rides given for each dollar spent is going down, even as ridership slowly increases. In 1996 a dollar bought us .29 rides, in 2013, .19 rides. The amount of Total Operational Funds Expended more than doubled in the 15 years from 1996 to 2011 – from $14,466,100 to $29,531,465, but the ridership only increased by 60%. Lastly, the projected amount of tax dollars collected IF this millage passes is based on a flat-rate of the first year – 2014′s take, as it were. It does not take into account the increase in a property’s taxable value – which is steady here in Ann Arbor. This will result in more funds being collected than are accounted for in this 5-year plan. What will become of this additional money? Train station studies? Marketing? No one knows, and it is millions.