Stories indexed with the term ‘Blake Transit Center’

2015 Work Plan OK’d by AAATA Board

The 2015 work plan has been approved by the board of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority at its Aug. 21, 2014 meeting. [2015 AAATA Work Plan]

Highlights of new items include measurements of service performance – an initiative that comes in the context of additional transportation services to be offered starting Aug. 24. Those services will be funded with proceeds from a new millage that voters approved on May 6, 2014.

Another highlight is the construction of a walkway across the block between Fourth Avenue and Fifth Avenue on the north side of the parcel where the new Blake Transit Center has been constructed. The re-orientation of the new transit center to the south side of the parcel makes it … [Full Story]

Transit Center Gets Budget Bump

As the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority’s new Blake Transit Center nears completion, the AAATA board has bumped the roughly $8.1 million construction budget upwards by $125,000 to cover costs associated with “extraordinary winter weather and unforeseen site conditions discovered during excavation,” which delayed completion of the project by six months. Of the additional amount, $55,000 is a contingency.

The money to cover the additional cost will be drawn from federal funds. According to the AAATA, the increase will not impact existing services.

The increase to the BTC construction budget was approved in AAATA board action taken at its May 15, 2014 meeting.

According to a staff memo in the board meeting information packet, the original project budget was $8,129,988, which included a contingency of 4.5% … [Full Story]

Tax Question Focus of Transit Board Meeting

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (Feb. 20, 2014): The audience for the board’s regular monthly meeting was the largest in at least five years, as 35-40 people attended to show support for the main item on the agenda.

CEO of the AAATA Michael Ford

Michael Ford, CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, just before the start of the Feb. 20, 2014 AAATA board meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

That main item was a board vote to place a millage request before voters on May 6, 2014. The request – on a 0.7 mill tax that would be levied to pay for additional services over the next five years – would need a majority of votes across the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township to be approved.

The millage is supposed 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.

The board’s vote to put the question on a May 6 ballot was unanimous, and came after more than a dozen people spoke during public commentary at the start of the meeting, urging the board to take the step of making a funding request of voters.

Elected officials as well as leaders of the faith, labor and disability communities all spoke in favor of making the request of voters to fund the service expansion, citing arguments based on economic and social justice. They pointed to the long period of planning that had begun about three years ago with a much more ambitious effort to expand service countywide. The current, more limited approach – focused just on the “urban core” area of the city of Ann Arbor and the two Ypsilanti jurisdictions – was a way to meet urgent transportation needs, they said.

After the board’s vote, during public commentary at the end of the meeting, one Ypsilanti resident recalled her own history marching with Rosa Parks down Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Although she’s been involved in activism for many years, she told the board, she could not think of anything that she was in the room to witness that was this important to her personally and to the city in which she lives.

Compared to typical AAATA board meetings, the atmosphere was relatively boisterous, as supporters at times chanted, “More buses, more places, more often!” But one speaker at the end of the meeting cautioned against the celebratory mood, saying there was now a lot of work to do. A counterpoint to the solid support the board heard from most of the speakers had been offered by the very first speaker of the evening. He asked the board to delay the election until November, arguing that it would save the roughly $80,000-$100,000 cost of holding the May election, and result in broader participation in the vote. Another point raised by that speaker was concern that everyone pay an equitable share for the additional transportation.

Although the main event was the resolution that placed the millage question on the ballot, the board’s agenda featured nine other items, many of which were at least tangentially related to the millage question.

For example, in other action the board approved a change to its budget to allow for up to $100,000 to be spent on the cost of holding the special election. The board also approved a funding agreement with Ypsilanti Township, to make explicit what will happen to the township’s existing purchase of service agreement (POSA) if the millage is approved. And as part of the board’s routine annual business, it approved a funding request to the state of Michigan – but did not factor in an increased level of service in the budget submitted to the state. That was done on the instruction of the Michigan Dept. of Transportation. That request can be amended if the millage succeeds.

Also at the Feb. 20 meeting, the board approved changes to its bylaws. Those changes were prompted by a change in governance to the AAATA last year – the addition of the two Ypsilanti jurisdictions. With the increase from seven to 10 members, the definition for the number of board members constituting a quorum or a majority needed to be modified. Out of that review of the bylaws came a decision to increase public speaking turns from a two-minute time limit to three minutes.

In other business, the board approved the hiring of a consultant to help the AAATA with a planned upgrade to its computer-aided dispatch and vehicle locating software. The board also approved the recently completed audit report for the 2013 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 2013.

Another item approved by the board was a new contract for unarmed security services. And finally, the board authorized a contract for an insurance broker.

Among the various operational updates received by the board was the announcement that the newly constructed Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor would be open by March 17, 2014. [Full Story]

Fifth & William

Transit sign going up!  [photo] [New Blake Transit Center nearing completion.]

AAATA Secures BTC, Applauds City Council

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (Nov. 21, 2013): The board’s meeting was highlighted by applause for an action taken by the Ann Arbor city council three days earlier – to give its approval to the addition of Ypsilanti Township as a member of the AAATA.

AAATA board chair Charles Griffith was interviewed after the meeting by Andrew Cluley of WEMU radio

AAATA board chair Charles Griffith was interviewed after the meeting by Andrew Cluley of WEMU radio. (Photos by the writer.)

The AAATA board had already given approval to say yes to the township’s request to be added as a member – on Sept. 26, 2013. And Ypsilanti’s city council – the other recently-added jurisdiction – had given approval of the move at its Oct. 15, 2013 meeting. The Ann Arbor city council had considered the question at its Oct. 21, 2013 meeting, but had postponed action until Nov. 18, 2013.

The addition of Ypsilanti Township as an AAATA member will increase the number of positions on the AAATA board from nine to 10, with the additional member appointed by the township. Board chair Charles Griffith indicated at the Nov. 21 meeting that the name of Larry Krieg would be put forward by township supervisor Brenda Stumbo for confirmation by the township board of trustees. It’s hoped, Griffith said, that Krieg would be able to attend the next meeting of the board, on Dec. 19, as a member. Krieg attended the Nov. 21 meeting as an audience member. During public commentary at the meeting, Krieg called Ypsilanti Township’s admission into the authority a “victory for regionalism and common sense.”

In its one piece of new business on Nov. 21, the board approved an increase to the AAATA’s contract with Advance Security, to allow for around-the-clock security service coverage at the Blake Transit Center construction site. According to the staff memo accompanying the board resolution, the additional security is required until the new building can be outfitted with doors, windows and locks. The last time the board approved the annual contract it was for $205,000. The increase brought the annual value of the contract to $242,000. The BTC is now expected to be completed by the end of January 2014.

Another highlight of the meeting was a presentation on a comparative analysis the AAATA is conducting of its performance, using statistics from the National Transit Database, and a set of 20 peer transit authorities. The peer set was determined by a tool that is available through the Florida Transit Information System (FTIS). Three key metrics were presented at the Nov. 21 meeting: operating cost per service hour, rider trips per service hour, and operating cost per rider trip. While the AAATA’s operating cost per service hour is greater than its peer group average, according to the AAATA that’s counterbalanced by the number of rider trips per service hour – which leads to a lower cost per rider trip than its peer group average. In this report, The Chronicle presents that data as well as examples of other kinds of data that can be compared across the peer group.

The AAATA board also gave some discussion to a recent presentation given to its planning and development committee from Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) staff on plans for US-23. MDOT intends to use an Active Traffic Management (ATM) system to direct traffic and decrease congestion in the US-23 corridor – because there’s no funding to add an additional lane. That’s hoped to be implemented by 2016. The ATM system would involve upgrading the median shoulder, installing intelligent transportation system (ITS) equipment, constructing crash investigation sites and periodically using shoulders as travel lanes. The plan will also include widening three bridges from North Territorial Road to Eight Mile Road. The AAATA has been asked by MDOT to consider providing park-and-ride service from those bridges.

During the meeting, the board also watched a video that has been produced to explain the connector study – an alternatives analysis for the corridor running from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street, then further south to I-94. The alternatives analysis phase will result in a preferred choice of transit mode (e.g., bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) and identification of stations and stops. The study has winnowed down options to six different route alignments.

At its Nov. 21 meeting, the board also heard its usual range of reports and communications. [Full Story]

AAATA to Appoint Subcommittee on Y Lot

The board of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority has voted to establish a subcommittee to meet with whatever party might make a successful purchase proposal for the city-owned parcel on William between Fourth and Fifth avenues in downtown Ann Arbor, known as the old Y lot. The action took place at the board’s Oct. 17, 2013 meeting.

The resolution to form a subcommittee – whose members aren’t yet identified – is an alternative to simply purchasing the property, which board member Roger Kerson described as not practical right now. Kerson chairs the AAATA’s performance monitoring and external relations committee.

The AAATA has historically been interested in the property, which is immediately south of the AAATA’s downtown Blake Transit Center. The city’s … [Full Story]

Snyder’s Transit Funding: AATA Nods Yes

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Feb. 21, 2013): The board’s meeting was relatively uneventful, but included a routine application for state funding – which this year contains a message of measured support for transit funding in Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget.

Before the Feb. 21, 2013 meeting of the AATA board, Terry Black (manager of maintenance) and Eli Cooper (AATA board member) inspect the construction site of the new Blake Transit Center on Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor.

From right: Before the Feb. 21, 2013 meeting of the AATA board, Terry Black (manager of maintenance) and Eli Cooper (AATA board member) inspect the construction site of the new Blake Transit Center on Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. It’s using an earth retention system similar to that used for the construction of the underground Library Lane parking garage located across the street – but on a much smaller scale. (Photos by the writer.)

The resolution approved by the board includes the AATA’s view that “an increased level of state transit funding such as has been proposed by Governor Snyder would assist AATA in maintaining existing service and operating expanded transit service to satisfy the expressed public demand …” To increase funding for transportation as a general category by $1.2 billion – including roads, bridges and public transportation – Snyder’s budget would rely on proposed increases to the state’s gasoline tax and to vehicle registration fees.

The Michigan state constitution requires that 90% of all fuel taxes be used to fund the maintenance of streets, roads and bridges designed for motor vehicles that use tires. Part of the remaining 10% can be used to fund public transportation operating expenses. Partly as a function of the overall increase, Snyder’s budget would increase the amount of local operating assistance for transit agencies statewide from around $166 million for each of the past two years to about $181 million.

The AATA’s estimated budget for the next fiscal year (2014) is being reported to the state of Michigan as totaling $33,653,000. Those total expenses would be covered by the following breakdown of revenue estimates: federal funds ($4,276,104); state funds ($9,939,035); local funds ($12,088,861); fare revenue ($7,258,000); and other funds ($91,000). The AATA’s current year’s budget – for FY 2013, which ends on Sept. 30 – calls for $32,700,181 in expenditures.

The AATA’s portion of the $166 million in state operating assistance last fall took an unexpected roughly $800,000 dip around the time the AATA set its budget for the current fiscal year. The reduction in funding relates to the way the state’s formula applies when spending is reduced by other transit agencies in the AATA’s category. AATA CEO Michael Ford told the board at its Feb. 21 meeting that he’d been to Lansing and had received assurance that an additional appropriations bill – which is currently the “placeholder” bill SB 126 – is likely to be passed, and would restore the $800,000.

Meanwhile, the most recent financial update through the first four months of the 2013 fiscal year – which started in October – shows the AATA with a slight positive variance. But the AATA is operating with a level of cash reserves that equates to about 2.88 months of operating expenses. Board policy is to keep a minimum of 3 months’ worth reserves on hand. Notes to the treasurer’s report indicate that for the year, the AATA now expects about $160,000 less in fare revenues that it had budgeted – based on fewer rides being taken by University of Michigan affiliates than the AATA had projected.

Besides authorizing the application to the state of Michigan for state operating assistance, the board authorized two contracts in connection with construction on the new downtown Ann Arbor Blake Transit Center – one for the elevator and the other for millwork. Both contracts were under the project’s budgeted amount for those items.

The board also approved a contract for the printing of its RideGuide, a printed version of its schedules. Also authorized was a contract to perform environmental cleanup from a gas line that had been seeping at the AATA’s facility on South Industrial Highway.

Updates at the meeting included notes on the board’s upcoming retreat, which is to include a discussion of AATA customer needs. That led to comments from the public asking the board to think about who the AATA’s customers actually are.

During the meeting, the board also held a closed session to conduct a performance review for CEO Michael Ford. [Full Story]

AATA OKs Labor, Agency Fee Accords

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Jan. 17, 2013): Despite the passage of a right-to-work law by the Michigan legislature in late 2012, a new agreement between the AATA and Transport Workers Union Local 171 (TWU) maintains the same kind of agency fees that the legislation eliminated.

Charles Griffith, chair of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board

At right: Charles Griffith, chair of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board. On the left is board member David Nacht. (Photo by the writer.)

The AATA board ratified the 10-year agreement on agency fees in an accord that is separate from a 4.5-year agreement covering wages and benefits. The board approved both agreements at its Jan. 17 meeting. The agreement on agency fees takes advantage of the fact that the right-to-work law does not take effect until late March, and thus does not apply to agreements that are in place before then. It appears to be a strategy that employers statewide might use as a response to right-to-work, to the extent that they are willing to continue current agency fee arrangements. Agency fees are paid by non-union members based on the idea that they benefit from the union’s representation of their interests during collective bargaining.

The board’s vote on the two labor agreements was not unanimous. Eli Cooper dissented, based at least in part on the fact that the text of the two agreements was not available to all board members before they were asked to vote. David Nacht expressed support for Cooper’s point, but joined other board members in voting for the agreements.

Another vote that did not achieve unanimous support came on a resolution that expressed an intent to work with the board of the newly created southeast Michigan regional transportation authority (RTA) – which includes the counties of Washtenaw, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland, as well as the city of Detroit. The AATA board ultimately voted to table the resolution, with Jesse Bernstein and Anya Dale dissenting. Board members who were in favor of tabling felt that such a resolution was somewhat premature, pending the possible amendment of the RTA legislation, which passed late last year during the lame duck session of the state legislature.

The amendment desired by the AATA – which is supported by the Ann Arbor city council, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, and the Michigan Public Transit Association – is for Washtenaw County to be excluded from the RTA at this time. AATA board discussion indicated that the window of opportunity for amending the legislation is likely to be the 90-day period for appointing RTA board members, which will close in mid-March.

In other business, the AATA board adopted a revised policy to be used in responding to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. The board also adopted its categorical and capital grant program through fiscal 2017.

The treasurer’s report indicated a disparity between increasing ridership numbers and the amount of passenger fare revenue – a difference that is significant enough to warrant further inquiry.

Public commentary at the meeting featured a voice that was new to AATA board meetings but familiar as the film critic of the now defunct Ann Arbor News – Christopher Potter. Potter praised the quality of AATA’s service, but asked for weekend buses to run later than they do. [Full Story]

Blake Transit Center

Yellow backhoe is starting demolition of transit center canopy in preparation for construction of new Blake Transit Center, which will front Fifth Avenue, not Fourth, like the current center. [Final approval of budget and design came Oct. 18, 2012] [photo]

Ann Arbor Affordable Housing Gets $90,000

The city of Ann Arbor’s affordable housing trust fund has been increased by $90,000, through a transfer from the general fund reserve. The action was taken at the Nov. 8, 2012 meeting of the Ann Arbor city council on a unanimous vote.

The amount of the transfer was keyed to the cost of a piece of city-owned property that the city sold recently to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. And the justification for the transfer was based on the council’s recent enactment of a formal policy on the use of the proceeds of city-owned land sales.

The $90,000 piece of land is a six-foot-wide strip on the former Y lot at Fifth and William, immediately to the south of the location for the … [Full Story]

AATA Ridership Up, Fiscal Reserves Down

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Oct. 18, 2012): The recent AATA board meeting had a good-news, bad-news flavor.

Optimism was based on ridership data for the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30 – which includes a record-setting 6,325,785 rides on the regular bus service, up 6.6% over the previous year, and 3.4% more than the previous record year of 2009.

AATA board member David Nacht expressed concern about the idea of adding back in project elements to the new Blake Transit Center, grounding his concern in part in the fact that he was wearing his "treasurer's hat."

AATA board member David Nacht expressed concern about the idea of adding back in project elements to the new Blake Transit Center, grounding his concern in part in the fact that he was wearing his “treasurer’s hat.” (Photos by the writer.)

Damping enthusiasm were the year-end budget numbers, which showed the AATA posting a deficit around $260,000 greater than the one it had budgeted for, leaving an excess of expenditures over revenues of $1,255,312. [.pdf of unaudited FY 2012 financials] That comes in the context of an approved budget for the just-begun current fiscal year, which includes an anticipated deficit of about $300,000. The board’s Oct. 18 deliberations revealed the fact that only by recalculating the amount in the AATA’s cash reserves did the organization currently have the required three-month operating reserve on hand.

In that financial context, board members were not inclined to add back in some elements that had recently been cut out of the new Blake Transit Center project, which would have brought the project budget to nearly $8.5 million. The construction contracts approved by the board at its meeting totaled a bit over $8 million, which was still dramatically larger than the smaller $3.5 million project the AATA had started with over three years ago. Instead of taking the less ambitious strategy, the AATA opted to locate the new, larger center on the opposite side of the same parcel where it currently stands. Construction on the two-story Fifth Avenue-facing center is now expected to start in late November or early December.

The board’s deliberations on the new transit center focused on whether to add back into the project some items that had been removed to bring the cost down from $8.5 to $8 million. Of the three items on the table – automatic ticketing kiosks, real-time bus arrival information displays, and LEED certification of the building – only the LEED certification was added back in, at a cost of $80,000.

At the Oct. 18 meeting, the board also got an update on the situation surrounding the incorporation of the new Act 196 board for The Washtenaw Ride. Michael Ford, AATA’s CEO, indicated that the AATA would be reimbursing Washtenaw County for the cost of renotifying jurisdictions in the county regarding their option not to participate in the new authority. He confirmed that AATA board members would not serve simultaneously on the current board and the board of the new authority, as previously expected. Ford indicated that AATA legal counsel believes that what the AATA has done to date already complies with the law, but the AATA is exercising extreme caution.

Several members of the future Act 196 board attended the meeting and had a voice at the table, but not a vote.

The board’s meeting concluded with a closed session lasting nearly two hours on pending litigation. [Full Story]

$8M OK’d for New Downtown Transit Center

A new downtown Ann Arbor transit center, which began with a budget of $3.5 million, has now received approval for construction contracts totaling $8,129,988. The approval came from the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority in a vote at its Oct. 18, 2012 meeting. Construction is expected to begin in late November or early December, according to Terry Black, AATA director of maintenance, who has been managing the project.

The new Blake Transit Center will be located on the same parcel where it’s currently located, between Fourth and Fifth avenues, but on the opposite side of the block from its current location. Bus traffic to the new Fifth Avenue-facing center will enter from Fourth Avenue and exit onto Fifth, … [Full Story]

Review of New Blake Transit Center Continues

Ann Arbor planning commission meeting (July 17, 2012): Two projects – one public, one private – dominated discussion at the most recent planning commission meeting.

Kirk Westphal

Kirk Westphal oversees a vote at the July 17, 2012 Ann Arbor planning commission meeting. He was elected chair at the start of the meeting. In the foreground is commissioner Eleanore Adenekan. (Photos by the writer.)

Commissioners reviewed a site plan for the new Blake Transit Center (BTC), the main downtown hub for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. A new two-story transit center will be constructed on the same parcel as the existing center, midblock between Fourth and Fifth avenues, north of William and south of the federal building. But the new building will be located on the east side of that site – near Fifth Avenue, opposite its current location – and the direction of the current bus lane will be reversed. Buses will enter Fourth Avenue into an eastbound lane that exits onto Fifth.

Commissioners voiced a variety of concerns and feedback, centered on improving the pedestrian experience and the appearance of the building and landscaping. They elicited the fact that although zoning would allow for a structure up to 180 feet tall – about 16 stories – the foundation for the new BTC is planned to accommodate only four stories, with a two-story structure to be built initially.

Kirk Westphal said he’d been a bit surprised by news that the AATA is interested in buying the adjacent Fifth & William lot from the city. That possibility was mentioned as part of a design review committee report. He urged AATA’s CEO, Michael Ford, to talk with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority about the AATA’s plans for Fifth & William, and to see if the DDA might be interested in collaborating to increase the footings and allow for a taller structure in the future. He noted that the DDA’s Connecting William Street effort, focused on plans to possibly develop certain city-owned sites, includes the Fifth & William lot.

As a public entity, the AATA does not have to follow the process for site plan approval that is required of private-sector property owners. The process is being conducted for review and input only. However, the planning commission did take a vote, unanimously affirming that the project does meet city requirements for private development, except for interior landscaping and driveway width. It will next be reviewed by the city council.

Another project that drew discussion is a private development proposed by Tom Fitzsimmons, for a three-story townhouse with five housing units at 922-926 Catherine St. During public commentary, several neighbors – including residents of the adjacent Catherine Commons condominiums – spoke in support of the project. However, some of them raised concerns about backups in the stormwater system, which is already a problem along Catherine Street. Staff indicated that those issues are likely tied to design flaws on the site of Catherine Commons. Members of the development team for the new project told commissioners that an underground stormwater detention system on their site could improve the situation along the street, and at the least would not make it worse.

Also at the July 17 meeting, three projects that had previously been considered by commissioners were back for various reasons. A site plan for a Speedway gas station at the northeast corner of North Maple and Miller had been postponed at the commission’s June 5 meeting, but was approved on July 17. Also approved by commissioners was a revised site plan for 2161 W. Stadium Blvd., where a Noodles & Co. restaurant is planned. Commissioners had signed off on the original project at their March 6, 2012 meeting – the revision involves shifting the building’s location 21 feet to the north. The former Sze-Chuan West restaurant there has already been demolished.

And parking for the Chalmers Place retail center on Washtenaw Avenue emerged again at the July 17 meeting. Commissioners approved a plan to increase the number of parking spaces on the center’s site from 88 to 112. A different parking plan had been rejected by the planning commission on May 1, after several neighbors spoke against it. There was no opposition to the new proposal. [Full Story]

AATA’s Transit Center Gets Planning Review

At its July 17, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor planning commission reviewed the plan for a new Blake Transit Center, the main downtown hub for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. Commissioners voted to affirm that the project meets city requirements for private development, with two exceptions involving landscaping and driveway width.

The new transit center will be constructed on the same site as the existing center, midblock between Fourth and Fifth avenues, north of William and south of the federal building. However, the new center will be built on the opposite side of that site.

Currently a one-story building, built in 1986, is located on the northwest corner of the site, near Fourth Avenue. Buses enter the facility from Fifth Avenue … [Full Story]

AATA Special Meeting: 5-Year Transit Plan

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (April 26, 2012): At a special meeting, the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority voted formally to release for public review a five-year service and funding draft plan as part of a possible transition to expanded governance and service throughout Washtenaw County. The draft plan incorporates the advice of a financial task force that signed off on recommendations at its Feb. 29 meeting. [.pdf of draft five-year plan]

AATA strategic planner Michael Benham sets a stack of draft reports on the table at the April 26 special board meeting.

AATA strategic planner Michael Benham sets a stack of draft reports on the table at the AATA’s April 26 special board meeting, held at its headquarters on South Industrial Highway. (Photos by the writer.)

The draft plan is to be reviewed by the public for a 30-day period. Eventually, a final plan will be adopted by the AATA after incorporating public feedback and consultation with an as-yet unincorporated board of a countywide authority.

Like the task force recommendations, the AATA’s April 26 draft service and funding plan stops short of recommending a new tax to fund additional services. However, the draft plan does identify 0.5 mills as the countywide tax rate that would be needed to cover the $32 million gap between revenues and costs for expanded service. One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value. The draft plan also provides a program of overall fare increases as well as differentiated ticketing for specific services – like service on express routes, or discounted fares for families.

The draft five-year service plan includes: (1) countywide demand-responsive services and feeder services; (2) express bus services and local transit hub services; (3) local community connectors and local community circulators; (4) park-and-ride intercept lots; and (5) urban bus network enhancements. For Ann Arbor, the program includes increased bus frequencies on key corridors, increased operating hours, and more services on weekends. The total hours of operation in the Ann Arbor district are expected to increase by 33% on weekdays and over 100% on Saturdays and Sundays.

Publication of a final funding and service plan is a required step in a framework that could lead to the formation of a new transit authority, tentatively being called the Washtenaw Area Transportation Authority. The new authority would have broader representation, funding and coverage area than the AATA. The “four-party agreement” framework under which the transition could take place has been ratified by only one of the four parties – Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor city council voted 7-4 at its March 5, 2012 meeting to ratify the agreement.

As a party to the agreement and the initiator of the process, the AATA board is expected to ratify it in the near future. The Ypsilanti city council is expected to take up the issue after the May 8 election, when Ypsilanti voters will make a decision on a city income tax and a bond issuance to cover debts associated with the Water Street property. Washtenaw County is the fourth party to the agreement.

In another action item on the short April 26 agenda, the board authorized the purchase of a six-foot strip of land from the city of Ann Arbor, adjacent to the Blake Transit Center. The acquisition of the land will allow the AATA to reconfigure the new Blake Transit Center (now expected to start construction in the fall of 2012) with a transit center on the southeastern corner of the parcel, on Fifth Avenue. The Ann Arbor city council had authorized the $90,000 sale last year at its Sept. 19, 2011 meeting.

In an item added late to the agenda, the board also authorized a change order to a painting contract for the expanded part of the AATA bus storage area that’s being constructed. To the original $66,187 contract, the board added another $68,000 to include the cost of painting the pre-existing portion of the structure, as well as the cleaning and surface preparation of the pre-existing area. [Full Story]

More Money for Blake in New AATA Capital Plan

At its Jan. 19, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board authorized its capital and categorical grant program for 2012-2016. [.pdf of capital and categorical grant program] To continue receiving federal and state funding, it’s required that the AATA develop such an annual plan for use of federal and state funds.

The board had authorized a revised version of its 2011-2015 plan last year on Aug. 24, 2011. That revision was made in order to accommodate three projects: (1) the Blake Transit Center (BTC) reconstruction in downtown Ann Arbor, (2) the bus storage facility expansion, and (3) the bus maintenance facility upgrade.

This year’s program also includes those projects. The resolution adopted by the board at its Jan. 19 meeting includes an additional use of grant funding of up to $1.5 million – $1.2 million in federal formula funds and $0.3 million in state funds – for the planned reconstruction of the downtown Ann Arbor BTC. That brings the total BTC project budget from the previously reported $5.5 million to as much as $7 million.

The AATA does not think that it will be possible to construct the center’s design for $5.5 million, but the board is not necessarily committed to spending the entire $7 million. Some of the additional cost involves technology for informational displays. The resolution approved by the board on Jan. 19 sets that additional funding as the final maximum amount for the planned BTC reconstruction.

According to the resolution, the final cost estimates for the planned BTC reconstruction are due by March 2012. For a more detailed description of the planned new center – which will be reconstructed on the opposite end of the same parcel where the current center sits – see “AATA Preps Stage for Future Transit Choice.”

Also at the Jan. 19 meeting, the board authorized its CEO, Michael Ford, to submit applications, certifications and assurances to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), when the AATA asks for funding from that agency. The FTA requires the AATA to have passed such a resolution. The board’s resolution also authorized the CEO to execute contracts with the FTA on behalf of the AATA.

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library at 343 S. Fifth, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

City of Ann Arbor Sells 6-Foot Strip to AATA

At its Sept. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council authorized the sale of a six-foot-wide strip of city-owned downtown land to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. The strip forms the southwestern border of one of the parcels where the AATA’s Blake Transit Center is located. The $90,000 sale price of the 792-square-feet of land was determined to be the fair market value by an independent appraisal.

The desire of the AATA to acquire the six-foot strip has been mentioned at several AATA board meetings during routine updates. It’s part of the AATA’s plan to reconstruct the BTC on the South Fifth Avenue side of the block; the BTC currently stands on the South Fourth Avenue side, with a canopy that stretches towards Fifth. The AATA hope to finalize the design of the new transit center by the end of December 2011, with construction to start in early 2012.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Transit Center Construction Manager Hired

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (May 19, 2011): In a relatively brief meeting, the AATA board handled two pieces of business: (1) approving a contract with its CEO Michael Ford; and (2) hiring a construction manager for the reconstruction of the Blake Transit Center, AATA’s downtown hub.


This AATA-owned parcel, where Blake Transit Center is located, sits in the middle of the block bounded by Fourth and Fifth avenues on the west and east, and by Liberty and William streets on the north and south. Among the outstanding issues in a project to rebuild BTC is discussions with the city of Ann Arbor over a city-owned 6-foot-wide strip that runs along the southern edge of the parcel’s western half. (Image links to higher resolution view. Parcel map and aerial photo from Washtenaw County’s website:

The contract with Ford renews annually on Oct. 1 unless terminated by Ford or the AATA. Ford will earn the same salary as he did previously – $160,000 – but will receive a lump sum payment equal to 4% of his salary dating from July 20, 2009, when he was first hired. Board members uniformly praised Ford’s work for the AATA since he was hired in the summer of 2009.

Approval of the construction manager contract for the downtown Blake Transit Center sets up the reconstruction project possibly to begin in earnest later this year. AATA has so far declined to release any schematics or drawings of the proposed new transit center to the public, citing as-yet-unfinalized details, including issues related to a city-owned 6-foot-wide strip on the southern edge of the parcel’s western half.

The new transit center will be built on the same AATA-owned parcel where BTC is currently located, between Fourth and Fifth avenues, north of William Street and a city-owned surface parking lot. The current building sits at the northwest corner of the parcel, long Fourth Avenue – buses enter from Fifth Avenue and exit onto Fourth Avenue. The planned design calls for a new building to be constructed kitty-corner on the parcel from the existing building, which would be demolished. The new transit center would sit at the southeast corner of the parcel – buses would enter from Fourth Avenue and exit onto Fifth Avenue.

At its meeting, the board also heard its usual range of reports and commentary. Among those reports, Ford told the board that two local governments – Ann Arbor Township and Superior Township – have voted to sign an Act 7 agreement. That’s a step that will allow their joint participation and representation in a countywide transit authority. [Full Story]

AATA Hires Construction Manager for Blake

At its May 19, 2011 meeting, the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority authorized a contract with Spence Brothers for up to a total of $384,000 to oversee two major construction projects: (1) demolition and reconstruction of the Blake Transit Center on Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor [$253,000]; and (2) expansion of the bus storage facility at the AATA headquarters located at 2700 Industrial [$131,000].

The need for a construction manager was identified by representatives of the Federal Transit Administration after reviewing AATA projects that are being funded with federal dollars.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the Ann Arbor district library, where the AATA holds its meetings. A more detailed report of the meeting will follow. [Full Story]

AATA Continues Push for Master Plan Input

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Oct. 21, 2010): The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has several major projects in the works, including remodeling the downtown transportation terminal – the Blake Transit Center – and developing a countywide master plan that calls for a series of community forums.

One of those community forums was held on Thursday, an hour prior to the AATA’s monthly board meeting. But no one from the public showed up to that particular event – several other meetings are scheduled. The board meeting that followed was over within an hour. In addition to the master plan, the board discussed the most recent quarter’s on-time trip performance, which board member David Nacht described as “abysmal.” [Full Story]

AATA Hires Architect for Transit Center

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (May 12, 2010): With the expiration of two board members’ terms on May 1, and no replacement finalized for either, an absence further reduced the now five-member AATA board to four at its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday.


The mailbox at the AATA headquarters on South Industrial. There's no particular connection between the mailbox and this meeting report – it's here for pure aesthetics. (Photo by the writer.)

The meeting had been rescheduled from its usual slot on the second-to-last Wednesday of the month to avoid additional absences.

The four board members who were present listened to a glowing review of the AATA from McCollom Management Consulting, which had been hired to perform an organizational audit.

The only business transacted by the board was to approve a contract for architectural and engineering services to design a replacement of the downtown Blake Transit Center. The $343,439 contract was awarded to DLZ Michigan Inc., which had three representatives on hand at the meeting to field any questions. [The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority may eventually provide a grant to the AATA for foundation work related to the newly constructed transit center.]

Before the meeting, the trio from DLZ clustered in conversation in the board room and noticed the missing members in the set of official framed board member photos hanging on the board room wall – “Where’s Paul?” one asked. [Full Story]

DDA Floats Idea for Fourth Avenue

Typically on the last Wednesday morning of the month, two committees of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority meet back to back – transportation and operations. This past Wednesday was no different.

Fourth Avenue Ann Arbor

At Fourth & William streets in downtown Ann Arbor. The view is looking to the north. At right is an AATA bus shelter – further in the background on the same side of the street is the Blake Transit Center. Opposite the AATA facilities is a parking deck. (Photos by the writer.)

At the transportation committee meeting, Susan Pollay, the DDA’s executive director, floated an idea for partnering with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority on improvements to the South Fourth Avenue corridor, between William and Liberty streets. The partnership would include a grant to the AATA in connection with the reconstruction of the Blake Transit Center. No numbers are yet attached to the concept, which Pollay described as a possible “transit mall” – she was checking with the committee for their basic reaction to the idea. That reaction could fairly be described as warm, with some caution expressed by DDA board member Leah Gunn, when she arrived for the operations committee meeting.

Starting last month, the last half hour of the  transportation committee’s meeting has been configured to overlap with the operations committee’s meeting, so that the two groups can meet jointly to discuss a directive from the city council to the DDA to deliver a parking plan to the council by April. A preliminary outline of that plan was discussed on Wednesday. [Full Story]

AATA Board: Get Bids to Rebuild Blake

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Dec. 16, 2009): At its regular meeting Wednesday night, the AATA board gave authorization to staff to solicit bids for the demolition, design and construction of a replacement for the Blake Transit Center, located in downtown Ann Arbor on Fourth Avenue.

AATA temporary board room

At its headquarters on South Industrial Avenue, the AATA board tried out a makeshift venue for its Wednesday board meeting, because it offered an additional 12 seats for audience members, compared to the actual boardroom. Conceptual plans for the new Blake Transit transit center downtown include a boardroom. (Photos by the writer.)

The conceptual design calls for the new center to be constructed on the same footprint as the old center, with flexibility to expand, if abutting property were to become available.

The hope for flexibility on the Blake Transit Center design had also surfaced earlier in the day, at the Downtown Development Authority‘s transportation committee meeting. There, the concept of Fourth Avenue as a transit corridor had been floated by DDA executive director Susan Pollay.

In other business, the board kept the discussion going on the question of how to proceed in expanding its service to include more of Washtenaw County. But they did not consider any resolutions related to formation of a new, expanded public transit authority. As part of the effort to expand, a general board consensus emerged that the public needed to be educated about what public transit is, and how the AATA worked.

Related to the need to educate the public about what the AATA does was the treasurer’s report, submitted by Ted Annis, which recommended greater financial transparency through posting various financial data on the AATA website. The specific suggestion to post employee salaries was not embraced by all on the board, but the suggestions were remanded to the performance monitoring and external relations committee (PMER).

And a response by staff to the November treasurer’s report highlighted a potential point of contention in estimating revenues available for funding an expanded service. Specifically, how much revenue could be expected from fares in an expanded service? [Full Story]

AATA Adopts Vision: Countywide Service

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Nov. 18, 2009): At its Wednesday meeting, the AATA board took the first of the steps that CEO Michael Ford had recommended at their meeting on Oct. 29: adopt a vision statement and start developing a plan for a countywide system. The board will continue to address Ford’s recommendations by holding  a special meeting on Dec. 8, at 5:30 p.m. at AATA headquarters to discuss formation of an Act 196 authority.

two men standing, one seated, papers getting passed out

Michael Ford, left, had extra copies made of the treasurer's report and distributed them to audience members. (Photo by the writer.)

The board’s resolutions were complemented by a treasurer’s report from Ted Annis that laid out a possible budget within which the countywide system could be designed. Presentation of that report revealed some conceptual differences among board members in their preferred approach to engaging an outside consultant to do the countywide system design: (i) Here’s a budget, now design the system; or  (ii) Design us a system, then tell us how much it would cost.

Key to the budget that Annis proposed was the assumed elimination of Ann Arbor’s transportation millage – on Annis’ assumption, Ann Arbor residents would pay the same countywide millage as other county residents if such a millage were approved.

In other business, the board approved service changes to Route #2 in northeast Ann Arbor.

Also generating discussion was the plan to repair, refurbish or reconstruct the Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor, which was described as “dilapidated.”

The board also received an explanation for the decreased ridership compared to last year, and a report on the move to different office space by the getDowntown program. [Full Story]