Stories indexed with the term ‘five-year transit plan’

5-Year Transit Plan: Possible Tax Vote Soon

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (Jan. 16, 2014): The board’s one substantive voting item on its agenda was the adoption of a five-year transit improvement plan. The unanimous vote came after a staff presentation and public commentary from three people, who all expressed support for the improvement program.

Yellow lines indicate routes along which the AAATA is planning frequency improvements as a part of its five-year transit improvement plan.

Yellow lines indicate routes along which the AAATA is planning frequency improvements as part of its five-year transit improvement plan. (Image links to .pdf of full presentation given to the board on Jan. 16, 2014)

Generally, the improvements include increased frequency during peak hours, extended service in the evenings, and additional service on weekends. Some looped routes are being replaced with out-and-back type route configurations. The plan does not include operation of rail-based services. The AAATA has calculated that the improvements in service add up to 90,000 additional service hours per year, compared to the current service levels, which is a 44% increase.

The AAATA refers to the plan in its communications as the 5YTIP. A draft five-year plan was presented to the public in a series of 13 meetings in the fall of 2013. Changes to the five-year plan made in response to public feedback were included in the board’s information packet for the Jan. 16 meeting. [.pdf of memo and 5-year improvement plan] [.pdf of presentation made to the board on Jan. 16]

The plan indicates that $5,456,191 of additional local revenue would be required to fund the expanded services. Implementation of the program will include a request to voters sometime in 2014 for an additional transit millage, likely at the level of 0.7 mills.

The two city members of the AAATA – Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti – already levy a dedicated transit millage of their own, which would stay in place if voters in the AAATA’s three-jurisdiction area approved a 0.7 mill tax. For Ann Arbor, the rate for the existing millage is 2.056 mills, which is expected to generate a little over $10 million by 2019, the fifth year of the transportation improvement plan. For the city of Ypsilanti, the rate for the existing transit millage is 0.9789, which is expected to generate about $314,000 in 2019. For the owner of an Ann Arbor house with market value of $200,000 and taxable value of $100,000, a 0.7 mill tax translates into $70 annually, which would be paid in addition to the existing transit millage that translates to about $200 annually.

The transit improvement program also calls for an additional $1,087,344 to come from purchase of service agreements (POSAs), based on increased service hours in Pittsfield, Saline, and Superior townships.

At the Jan. 16 meeting, board chair Charles Griffith indicated that he felt the board would be taking the next step on implementing the program very soon. That indicates a probable vote on the millage question at the next board meeting, on Feb. 20. If the board voted then to put a millage question on the ballot, that would be in time to meet the Feb. 25 deadline for a millage request to be placed on the May 6, 2014 ballot.

A new millage would be decided by a majority vote of all three member jurisdictions of the AAATA. The two Ypsilanti jurisdictions were added as members of the AAATA just last year. The Ann Arbor city council voted to approve changes to the AAATA’s articles of incorporation – to admit the city and the township of Ypsilanti as members – at its June 3, 2013 and Nov. 18, 2013 meetings, respectively.

Even though the vote on the five-year transit improvement program seemed to be enthusiastically embraced by most everyone in the board room, that was not what prompted people to start clapping at the Jan. 16 meeting. The applause was reserved for the management and driver performance during the recent snowstorm. Board member Jack Bernard and likely future board appointee Larry Krieg both based their praise for drivers on their own trips using the bus. Praise for AAATA drivers during the inclement weather also came from bus rider Jim Mogensen during public commentary. And CEO Michael Ford highlighted the performance of AAATA’s manager of transportation Ron Copeland, as well as that of drivers and the rest of the AAATA staff.

The board also received routine updates on a range of issues. Those included ridership, which is now essentially flat on the fixed-route service compared to last year. The new Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor is expected to be open for use by the second week in February. Concepts for two finalists for the BTC public art project – which will be incorporated into the new building – will be on display at the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library from Jan. 20 through Feb. 3. The downtown library is located across the street from the BTC. [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]