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]
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.