The Ann Arbor Chronicle » mission statement it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 AAATA Gears Up for More Accessible Service Sat, 02 Aug 2014 15:56:23 +0000 Dave Askins Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (July 24, 2014): The board’s meeting this month was the next-to-last one before the initial expansion of services that the transit authority will be implementing. The expansion results from the new millage that was approved in a voter referendum held on May 6, 2014. The rollout of additional service is scheduled for Aug. 24, while the board’s next meeting is three days before that.

From left: AAATA strategic planner Michael Benham, Ed Vielmetti (background) and CEO  Michael Ford, talked after he meeting.

From left: AAATA strategic planner Michael Benham, Ed Vielmetti (background) and CEO Michael Ford, talked after the meeting.

The board barely achieved a quorum – with six of 10 board members attending. Anya Dale presided over the meeting in the absence of board chair Charles Griffith.

The board received some updates on the preparations for implementing that expanded service plan. And three of the board’s July 24 voting items were related at least indirectly to the additional services: a plan for acquiring 20 new buses; adjustments to the current fiscal year’s operating budget; and a tweak to the AAATA’s mission statement.

The mission statement was modified to highlight “accessible” as the kind of transit services that the AAATA aspires to provide. The change to the mission statement also reflected the addition last year of the word “area” to the name of the organization. That name change came as the result of adding the city of Ypsilanti as well as Ypsilanti Township as members of the authority. Previously, the city of Ann Arbor had been the sole member. The additional services will be paid for with a millage levied on property owners from all the member jurisdictions.

The fiscal 2014 budget ends Sept. 30. Revenues were adjusted to reflect the millage revenue. Of the additional $4,543,695 in local millage revenues, $3,850,000 is being put toward next year’s FY 2015 budget. Adjustments to this year’s budget include changes to reflect the hiring and training of 11 new bus drivers, bringing the total to 138 drivers. An operations supervisor, two new vehicle mechanics, an additional service crew member, and a human resources administrative assistant will also be added.

The additional 20 buses the AAATA is acquiring for the service expansion are spread over the next three years, with two to be acquired this year, 11 in FY 2015 and 7 in FY 2016. The buses for FY 2015 and 2016 will be paid for with the additional local millage funds, while the buses this year will tap a federal grant with matching state funds. A public hearing was held on the federal grant application that will include those two buses.

Potential future expansion of services – in addition to those to be implemented starting Aug. 24 – was also reflected in a voting item on the board’s July 24 agenda. The board approved an increase in the contract with SmithGroupJJR from $105,200 to $800,000 – to continue study of north-south commuter rail options between Howell and Ann Arbor. An earlier phase of the study for the WALLY (Washtenaw and Livingston Railway) project identified a segment of the Ann Arbor Railroad right-of-way, between Liberty and Washington streets, as a preferred location for a downtown Ann Arbor station. A portion of the work is being paid for with a $640,000 federal Transportation, Community and System Preservation (TCSP) program grant.

The final voting item on the board’s agenda was a $234,360 contract with GZA GeoEnvironmental to perform environmental cleanup work at the AAATA headquarters building at 2700 S. Industrial Highway. The cleanup, which involves contamination from a gasoline leak that was identified in 2010, is covered by insurance.

At its July 24 meeting, the board also heard its usual range of updates, reports and public commentary, much of which highlighted the idea of accessibility.

AAATA Mission Statement

The board considered an update to the organization’s mission statement – to reflect the new name of the organization and a few other concerns. The proposed modified mission statement, which reflected board discussion at its June 10 retreat, read as follows [added words in bold, deleted words in strike-through]

It is the Mission of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority to provide accessible useful, reliable, safe, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective public transportation options for the benefit of the Greater Ann Arbor Area Community.

The mission statement had been last affirmed over five years ago at the AAATA’s Feb. 18, 2009 board meeting.

The word “useful” was critiqued by some board members at the June retreat as too modest an attribute, and they argued for “valuable” instead. Ultimately, the consensus was that this positive, goal-oriented attribute could be incorporated through adding the word “benefit.”

Inserting the word “accessible” was championed at the retreat by board member Jack Bernard. He works in the office of the University of Michigan’s general counsel and serves on the university’s council for disability concerns.

The insertion of the word “area” in the mission statement reflects the geographic expansion of the AAATA’s jurisdiction in 2013 to include the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township – as well as the formal change of the authority’s name to include “area.” [.pdf of memo on AAATA mission statement]

Mission Statement: Public Commentary

Thomas Partridge addressed the board’s mission statement. He said it needed to be expanded – to serve the needs of the most vulnerable riders. The operating budget needs to have additional funding to greater serve the most vulnerable riders in terms of disabled persons and senior citizens in particular, he said. And the board needs to answer how, with the passage of the millage, service will be targeted to the disabled people and seniors. Partridge did not see those priorities in the existing materials and the existing applications to the FTA for formula funding. He also questioned whether existing funding could be used to continue planning for a true countywide transportation system. Such a system is certainly needed to serve those areas of the county that do not have existing bus service, senior ride service, or paratransit handicap ride service, he said.

Mission Statement: Board Discussion

Roger Kerson reported out for the performance monitoring and external relations (PMER) committee. He noted that the revised mission statement was on the board’s agenda. He pointed out that there had been some debate about the use of the word “useful.” He urged the board to take a careful read of the proposed new language, saying that the issue should not be re-debated at every meeting – the board should adopt a mission statement that it really likes.

During question time, Jack Bernard talked about the image of the “service star” in some of the marketing materials and how it matches up with the mission statement. He asked that the board continue to think about how that star is going to look after the mission statement is adjusted. He put a plug in for “accessibility” to be added into that graphic.

When the board came to the item on its agenda, Kerson was asked to read aloud the new mission statement, which he did. Larry Krieg said he rather lamented the demise of the word “useful” but was willing to live with a mission statement as it stands. He felt it would require too much revision of planned materials to change it now. In some ways, usefulness is so fundamental to the mission of any transit organization that it almost goes without saying. So Krieg could live without saying it, as long as the AAATA remembers that it needs to be useful to the community – that is why it’s there.

Jack Bernard thanked his board colleagues for including the word “accessible.” He also appreciated the fact that the word had not been relegated to the end. So often, accessibility is relegated to an afterthought at the end of the statement. Putting it at the beginning heralds that all the programs, services and buses are to be accessible to all – people who have disabilities, older passengers, kids, people with resources and people who don’t have a great deal of resources. It’s the entire community that they are trying to serve. So he commended the board for stepping up to this and including the word “accessible.”

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to adopt the new mission statement.

Mission Statement: Accessibility

During his report to the board, CEO Michael Ford noted that during public commentary at the planning and development committee meeting, there had been a request for additional information at bus stops to aid passengers. The AAATA is considering redesigning its bus stops and changing the size of the signs to provide more information on each side of each sign, he said.

During question time, Jack Bernard thanked Ford for talking about the expansion of information at the bus stops. He felt it was a very important thing. But as the organization thinks about doing that, he wanted to encourage people to be aware of a general trend across organizations: When more information is provided, the font tends to be shrunk. He encouraged the AAATA, as it thinks about the real estate of the sign, to understand that there’s a cost associated with shrinking everything down – because it ends up not having a great deal of utility.

Bernard asked that a QR code be included, as more information is added on bus stops signs. That would enable somebody to get that information and then enlarge it or get expanded information using a mobile device. Those QR codes are a very efficient way to drive people to information that they want, which can not be included on the sign. He allowed that not all riders have a smartphone, so essential information still needs to be included on the physical sign. Increasingly, however, riders are connected with mobile devices.

Ford responded to Bernard by saying that staff just had a meeting about QR codes and signage, and they discussed issues of color contrast, placement and height. So Ford welcomed Bernard’s comments.

During public commentary time at the conclusion of the meeting, Ed Vielmetti responded to Bernard’s suggestion about QR codes. A local example of where that’s being done is the University of Michigan’s transit system, he said. There are QR codes on a number of the university’s bus stop signs. You put your phone up to it, it beeps, and it gives you a link to information that is specific to that individual stop – so it is not general information about the system, or general information about the line that you’re on, but rather it’s information relevant to your exact location. That is immensely helpful, Vielmetti said, especially if you are in an unfamiliar spot wondering where the bus goes, or when the bus coming, or if it is even running right now. It’s not a trivial exercise to assemble real-time, pinpoint information for thousands of stops, he ventured, but he called it a worthwhile goal.

Also during public commentary at the end of the meeting, Thomas Partridge told the board that he had attended the AAATA’s meetings numerous times over more than a decade, pleading for greater assistance for the most vulnerable riders – including handicapped riders and senior citizens. He questioned whether the board and administration of the AAATA comprehended and absorbed the full range of difficulties that disabled people and senior riders have in using the system.

Earlier in the meeting, during his report from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, Roger Kerson noted that a new web developer has been hired on staff: Preston Stewart. Kerson felt it was a good transition to bring the web project in-house so that the AAATA is not at the mercy of a contractor. If you think about the core functions of the agency, Kerson said, the ability to communicate regularly with its customers in an efficient and up-to-date manner is not an add-on – that is a core function. He called Preston’s previous experience very impressive.

Bernard said he was thrilled to hear that a new web developer had been hired. It remains continually important for the website to be accessible. He said that strides have been made, but the website was not yet completely accessible. He hoped that the web developer would be provided any support that he needed to make the AAATA website as accessible as it can be. Bernard asked if the new web developer had any experience in accessible websites. Ford was not sure, but said the AAATA was focused on that issue.

New Buses

The board considered a change to its capital and categorical grant program – in order to acquire new buses needed to implement expanded services. The services will be funded by the new millage that voters approved earlier this year on May 6, 2014. The expanded services are scheduled to begin on Aug 24.

The plan is add a total of 20 new buses over the next three years to the AAATA’s existing fleet of 80 buses. Total cost for the vehicles is $9 million.

The initial service expansion will not require many additional buses – as expanded services focus on extended hours of operation. But over the five-year service expansion, new route configurations and higher frequency services will require the additional vehicles. By year, here’s how the bus acquisition breaks down:

  • 2014: 2 buses for service expansion. Federal grant and state matching funds ($1,016,250). [Tentative: clean diesel.]
  • 2015: 11 buses for service expansion. Local funds from new millage ($4,903,300). [Tentative: clean diesel.]
  • 2016: 7 buses for service expansion. Local funds from new millage ($3,187,100). [Tentative: clean diesel.]

A tentative decision appears to have been made to specify the drive train on the new buses as conventional clean diesel, as opposed to the hybrid electric technology used by 52 of the current 80-bus fleet. However, no final decision has been made on the technology choice. The incremental cost per bus for the hybrid technology is nearly $200,000.

Minutes from the board’s July 8, 2014 planning and development committee show that AAATA maintenance manager Terry Black has indicated a final decision on the type of power unit for the buses needs to be made by November or December of 2014 – and certainly no later than February of 2015. The battery packs for many of the existing hybrid buses are reaching the end of their projected life, and the AAATA is also weighing the hybrid-versus-conventional diesel decision for replacement of those buses.

Among the issues to be weighed for the hybrid-versus-conventional diesel decision are fuel savings and noise reduction associated with hybrids. At the AAATA’s June 10 meeting, Black reported that for the newer clean diesel models, there is not a significant difference in the fuel economy. Some of the AAATA’s existing hybrid buses have had some transmission problems, which have resulted in a cost of $50,000 per bus. Even though that cost has been covered under warranty, the manufacturer is looking toward reducing the warranty coverage.

The board’s planning and development committee is supposed to receive a report on the hybrid-versus-diesel issue at its August meeting.

Outcome: When the board reached the voting item on its agenda, there was no additional discussion. The board unanimously approved the amendment to the capital and categorical grant program.

New Buses: Federal Grant Application

While most of the new buses needed for the expansion of service will be purchased with new millage funds, at least two buses will be purchased with federal grant money. A public hearing was held on the federal grant applications, which essentially mirrored the capital and categorical grant program already approved by the board last year, with the exception of some “livability” funds that the AAATA had been awarded a few months ago.

Chris White, AAATA manager of service development, explained that the public hearing was about the FY 2014 program of projects. The program of projects and the public hearing notice had been published in the Ann Arbor News twice. And it had been posted on the AAATA website for the last 30 days. No written comments had been received either by mail or by email at that point, White said. He then reviewed the entire program.

The projects in this program come directly from the capital and categorical grant program that was adopted by the board in December 2013 – with one exception, White said. When the AAATA was developing the capital and categorical grant program, a process was used that was open to the public. That included three meetings of the planning and development committee, and the board meeting at which the program was actually adopted. Any additional comments received that night would be included in the record for the Federal Transit Administration to review, White said.

White explained that the amounts in the program – Section 5307 ($6,457,306), and Section 5339 ($752,049) funds – are formula funds that are allocated to the Ann Arbor urbanized area. The southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority (RTA) is now the designated recipient for those funds, but the RTA has given the AAATA the authority to program that money and to make applications directly to the Federal Transit Administration for those funds. Livability Section 5309 ($813,000) funds are discretionary, White said.

There was also an amount for 5307 carryover ($622,969), White said. Those are funds from last year that the AAATA did not program. The funds are available to the AAATA for the two years following their appropriation. So the AAATA always uses up the money, but not always in the year that the funds are appropriated.

The total program is for the use of a total of $7,521,000 in federal funds. The total amount available is $8,645,324, so about $1.1 million will be carried over into FY 2015, White said.

White then reviewed the items in the program – nine small “expansion buses.” These are buses that AAATA will purchase that the paratransit contractor now provides for A-Ride service, White explained. So these buses are not to expand A-Ride service, so much as for the AAATA to provide that service directly, he clarified.

The second item on the list of projects is three large buses for expanded service. Those buses will use the federal Livability Section funds – the discretionary funds that the AAATA received. The AAATA had been informed that it had received approval for funds during the year – just a couple of months ago. And they were not included in the capital and categorical grant program, because the AAATA didn’t think it had the funds for the buses at that time.

White noted that this item was labeled as “up to three large buses.” He explained the $813,000 was actually not enough for three full buses – it’s enough for two buses and a fraction of a bus. The AAATA must record “up to three” in order to spend the entire amount, White said. Those are buses for the AAATA’s expansion for the five-year transit improvement program. The millage funds that were approved by the voters were programmed to buy expansion buses. Most of those buses will still be purchased from the local funds, White said. The livability funds would help the AAATA purchase two and a fraction of those buses.

All the other items on the program of projects are being paid for with the Section 5307 formula funds – computer-aided reservations dispatch for A-Ride, computer hardware and software, bus components (for hybrid buses), bus stop improvements (a Super Stop on Washtenaw Avenue), capital costs of subcontracted service, preventive maintenance and operating assistance.

New Buses: Federal Grant Application – Public Hearing

Jim Mogensen told the board that he thought it would be helpful in the future to have an issue paper that explains how the formula funds work. Is it because of the amount of service that we have? It seems that what is happening, Mogensen said, is you find out how much the funds are and then you figure out how to allocate the money in these various categories. But for someone who doesn’t have that information, it’s a little unclear how that would work. The other thing that would be helpful to know is what happens if for some reason federal money doesn’t come through. How would that impact how the funds are sorted out?

Tom Partridge questioned whether the existing formulas are sufficient to serve the most vulnerable paratransit riders. He said he heard no significant amounts being dedicated to extending and expanding the service that is available to handicapped riders or senior riders and other people who are disadvantaged in the community. He called on the AAATA to take steps before sending this on to the federal government. He called on the Federal Transit Administration to give priority for expansion of transit services for senior and handicapped riders.

FY 2014 Budget Adjustments

The AAATA fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept 30. At its July 24 meeting, the board considered an amendment to the budget for FY 2014 fiscal year to increase total expenses by $41,597 – from $34,073,795 to $34,115,392.

The proposed change also reflects adjustments to incorporate proceeds from the new millage, approved by voters on May 6, 2014. Of that additional $4,543,695 in local millage revenues, $3,850,000 is being put toward next year’s FY 2015 budget. Although that net amount of the expense adjustment is small, the infusion of new millage funds was offset by several hundred thousand dollars that were not spent this fiscal year for north-south commuter rail study.

It’s not uncommon for public bodies to make adjustments to the budget toward the end of the fiscal year.

The AAATA’s proposed amended budget reflected a number of changes related to the new millage and the service expansion that it will pay for. Among those changes are the hiring and training of 11 new bus drivers, bringing the total to 138 drivers. An operations supervisor, two new vehicle mechanics, an additional service crew member, and a human resources administrative assistant will also be added. [.pdf of detail on FY 2014 budget amendment]

The fares collected under the AAATA’s agreement with the University of Michigan are under budget for the year, because the proportion of the $1-per-ride fare booked as cash has decreased. A federal grant – which is recorded as federal operating assistance – has increased.

In the report to the board treasurer, AAATA controller Phil Webb reported an $81,254 surplus. But the report also noted an unrestricted net asset reserve amount of 2.64 months. The board’s reserve policy is to maintain at least the equivalent of a 3-month operating reserve.

FY 2014 Budget Adjustment: Public Commentary

Jim Mogensen addressed the board during the board’s first opportunity for public commentary at the start of the meeting. He said he’d always been very impressed with how detailed the information is about the operating budget. The AAATA presented both the standard operating budget and the extended notes. Because people are trying to understand how this all works, he suggested that materials also include a discussion of how the money is flowing in. For example, in the category of “special fares” – which related to the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, Washtenaw Community College and Eastern Michigan University – it would be helpful to have that broken out so that people could see how the total number is determined. He suggested that the board figure out a way to include that kind of information in the extended notes on the budget.

FY 2104 Budget Adjustment: Board Discussion

Reporting out from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, Roger Kerson noted that the proposed budget revision includes the new millage funds and the expansion of service. The total amount of the adjustment is small because the AAATA spent less in a different area – namely, the north-south rail study. There were a few hundred thousand dollars not spent on that project in this fiscal year. So even though there is more than $42,000 going to new activities, the net effect is the increase that is included in the budget. The committee had discussed with staff the fact that the board wants to track as carefully as the AAATA can exactly how the new millage funds are used for the new service – so that the AAATA can report to voters on that in an ongoing way, he said.

The committee had reviewed financial reports. Budget-wise, the organization is under budget on both revenues and expenses, so that matches up fairly well, Kerson said. The news on performance reports is that over the year, ridership is down overall as a result of the severe winter weather. People stay home and work at home or make other arrangements so that they don’t have to travel, and that impacts the quantity of service that gets delivered, he said.

AAATA board member Eli Cooper.

AAATA board member Eli Cooper.

When the board came to the voting item on its agenda, Eli Cooper stressed that the amendment of the budget is a positive aspect of the effort, which is a culmination of the efforts that led to the successful millage. The budget amendment is needed, to incorporate resources to sustain the new services that are being offered. The AAATA needs to be able to account for the resources that have been bestowed on the organization, and they need to be vigilant to ensure that the pledges made with respect to the five-year service plan are kept. Those pledges should be kept in a way that is consistent with the mission statement – in a cost-effective manner.

The budget is a planning instrument expressing the AAATA’s plan as it moves forward, Cooper said. It’s not merely an item where the board says: Yep, the numbers all add up and we’re going to approve that. So Cooper asked that the board take a moment to reflect on the value and the meaning of the budget – as a device that reflects all the hard work and that prepares a platform for the services to be delivered in a manner that is fiscally responsible. That’s one of the challenges the AAATA as an authority does well with, Cooper said, and it needs to continue to do well with that. So Cooper was pleased to speak in support of this amendment to the operating budget – because of the work done in the last six months, the last year, and even before that.

Outcome: The board unanimously approved the budget adjustments.

North-South Rail Study (WALLY)

The board considered an $800,000 contract with SmithGroupJJR for additional study of north-south commuter rail project. [.pdf memo for July 24, 2014 WALLY resolution]

Planning and work for north-south commuter rail between Ann Arbor and Howell in Livingston County has been going on for several years in a project that has been called WALLY (Washtenaw and Livingston Railway). The AAATA appears to be transitioning to a project label that incorporates “N-S Rail” as part of the description.

About two years ago, at its Aug. 16, 2012 meeting, the AAATA board approved the award of a $105,200 contract to SmithGroupJJR for “station location and design services” in connection with the WALLY project. The board’s authorization at that time included an option to increase the contract scope at a later date. That’s what the board’s July 24 item was proposed to do – increasing the total amount of the contract from $105,200 to $800,000.

Of that $800,000, a significant portion will be covered with a federal grant received by the AAATA in 2012 under the federal Transportation, Community and System Preservation (TCSP) program. The federal grant award of $640,000 requires a $160,000 local match, which will be made by the Howell Downtown Development Authority, the Ann Arbor DDA and Washtenaw County – equaling a total of $143,000, with the remaining $17,000 to come from the AAATA.

The initial $105,200 contract with SmithGroupJJR was focused on a station location study and is now largely complete. The conclusion of that station location study was to identify a segment of the Ann Arbor Railroad right-of-way, between Liberty and Washington streets, as a preferred location for a downtown station.

The scope of the additional work under the contract considered by the AAATA board on July 24, 2014 will:

  • Thoroughly examine alternatives/supplements to N-S Rail service such as express bus, bus-on-shoulder and HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) options.
  • Complete the evaluation of boarding areas (stations) in terms of locations, costs and required features.
  • Estimate operating and capital costs at a much finer level of detail, taking into account new service concepts, rail right-of-way work, ownership changes, and railcar acquisition that has taken place since 2008.
  • Undertake a more rigorous approach to demand estimates in full compliance with FTA New Starts / Small Starts requirements.
  • Incorporate “green” concepts and operating principles.
  • Be accompanied by a robust public involvement effort aimed at informing stakeholders and testing public support for the service, governance and funding elements of the plan as they evolve.

The timeframe for the second phase of the study is about 18 months.

North-South Rail Study (WALLY): Board Discussion

In his report out from the planning and development committee, Larry Krieg noted that there was a federal grant of $640,000 to undertake the study. He noted that the city study would include not just the possibility of a rail corridor, but also the use of express buses, and high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on US-23. The study would take about 18 months, he said, and the federal portion covers 80% of the cost. Several organizations – including Washtenaw County, the city of Ann Arbor, the Howell Downtown Development Authority – had contributed to the local match for that. Krieg concluded that the study had received a lot of support from around the region.

In his report out from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, Roger Kerson also commented on the north-south rail feasibility study. He felt that including express buses in the scope of the study is a very good idea – so that the AAATA would have a good sense of what the cost and time alternatives are.

Kerson said he was personally a big fan of trains and noted that the reason the board had a quorum for the meeting was because of the efficiency of DC Metro – which had gotten him from his meeting in Washington, D.C., that morning to Union Station, and then to another train to get to his plane. But that system had cost taxpayers billions and billions of dollars. And WALLY would cost millions and millions. “We can have a bus for thousands of thousands of dollars,” Kerson said, and probably have it in a matter of months, instead of years.

The AAATA had hit a home run with its service between downtown Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport, he said, so the AAATA now knows how to provide that kind of service. AirRide is receiving very high marks for convenience and rider experience. So that’s in the AAATA’s inventory now of services it can deploy. Kerson wanted to see side-by-side from the feasibility report what it will take moneywise and timewise. He also wanted the study to find out people’s opinion about the different kinds of service. He felt that if people are exposed to that type of express bus service, they would really really like it, and it could be done in a cost-effective manner.

Outcome: When the board came to this item on the agenda, there was no additional discussion. The board voted unanimously to approve it.

Environmental Cleanup Work

The board considered a $234,360 contract with GZA GeoEnvironmental for environmental remediation work at the 2700 S. Industrial Highway headquarters of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

The need for the work dates back four years to 2010, when an in-ground gasoline leak was discovered during an upgrade to the fuel tank monitoring system.

The $25,000 insurance deductible through Chartis, the AAATA’s insurance company, has already been paid through previous work associated with this contamination. The current work – up to the $234,360 amount of the contract – will be reimbursed by Chartis for the total project price.

The work includes the following:

  1. Installation of new monitoring wells.
  2. Perform baseline groundwater sampling.
  3. Chemical analysis of groundwater samples.
  4. Anaerobic biodegradation bench scale study.
  5. Soil and dewatering excavation.
  6. Collection of excavation verification of soil remediation sampling.
  7. Introduction of selected bioremediation enhancement materials.
  8. Backfill restoration and concrete replacement.
  9. Groundwater sampling (will occur a year after remediation activities has been completed).
  10. Completed summary report that will be filed with MDEQ for satisfactory closure of incident.

Environmental Cleanup Work: Board Discussion

During his report out from the performance monitoring and external relations committee, Roger Kerson noted there are procedures and equipment in place to prevent that kind of leak from happening again.

AAATA controller Phil Webb

AAATA controller Phil Webb

Larry Krieg asked for clarification of the word “gas” in the report. Was it natural gas, diesel fuel, or gasoline? AAATA maintenance manager Terry Black explained that it was gasoline. There had been a connection on a tank that had probably been seeping for several years, he said. And it had previously been undetected.

Eric Mahler asked about the contingency costs. If the additional work is not necessary, he wondered if the money would be returned to the AAATA. AAATA controller Phil Webb explained that the AAATA would pay only for the work that was done. If additional work is needed, then there would be an additional negotiation about how that would be paid for. Webb also pointed out that it’s part of the insurance coverage the AAATA has. So the AAATA had worked with the insurance company on this project – which has been approved by the insurance company. The AAATA would be reimbursed through the insurance claim.

Outcome: The board voted unanimously to approve the contract for the environmental work.

Communications, Committees, CEO, Commentary

At its July 24 meeting, the 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: Title VI Compliance

During his report to the board, CEO Michael Ford noted that the planning and development committee had heard from members of the public during public commentary at its meeting on the issue of Title VI compliance. The AAATA is close to completing the new requirements under Title VI, Ford reported. The full board had approve the Title VI policy earlier in the year, he noted, and the five-year transit improvement program will provide consistent service in the member jurisdictions, starting with the service improvements in August.

The performance monitoring and external relations committee was also working on revisions to service standards that would need to be approved by September, Ford noted. With those elements in place, Ford continued, the AAATA would be submitting all of its materials in October to the Federal Transit Administration about how the AAATA is meeting Title VI standards. The performance monitoring and external relations committee would be working throughout fiscal year 2015 on service standards, which are not required, but would be updates to Title VI material.

Jim Mogensen said that the previous week he’d attended two public meetings. The first was a University of Michigan’s regents meeting. His topic was public transit and the university. It was a topic that he talked to the regents about a couple of years ago, he said. At that time, he had said: Look, I’m probably gonna file a Title VI complaint against the AAATA – because there are structural issues the university needs to pay attention to when they merge their own transit plans with the AAATA’s. He’d suggested that because outside people would be looking in [to review Title VI compliance], one of the things the university should consider is providing transit out to its East Ann Arbor medical center. What he had not told the regents is that he had decided not to speak to the regents again until he actually filed the complaint. So he had not spoken to the regents for a couple of years.

He told the AAATA board to remain calm – because he had not actually filed a Title VI complaint yet. But he felt it was time to revisit the situation. The M-Ride agreement – between the University of Michigan and the AAATA – is being re-authorized next year and there was a year to figure it all out. So he suggested to the regents that this continues to be an issue – even with the new transit millage, because it is based on property taxes. And if you evaluate service based on municipal capacity, that will always be a challenge.

He suggested that the M-Ride agreement should be linked to the full actual fair, which is $1.50 – whereas the agreement now is for UM to pay $1 per ride. His suggested approach would recognize that what is happening was: People affiliated with the university have their fares paid by the university. The idea would be to tie it to the full fare. So, over the longer term, if fares for the general ridership went up, they would also go up for university affiliates, and would be linked to the university’s use of the transit system.

The second meeting that Mogensen had attended the previous Thursday was the WeROC (Washtenaw Regional Organizing Coalition) meeting. He brought up the Title VI issue up with WeROC – which had worked in support of the public transit millage. So Mogensen wanted to convey to the board that this was something he was working on, and that he was not working on it just by himself. He asked the board to please not short-circuit the idea before it’s given the opportunity to happen. Because sometimes, when you put ideas forth, things actually happen, Mogensen said.

Comm/Comm: Construction Detours; On-Time Performance

During his report to the board, CEO Michael Ford noted that there have been some challenges with construction and detours throughout the city. He ventured that everyone had felt the pinch of that. Some of the routes of been impacted by traffic backups, he reported, which affected the AAATA’s customer satisfaction and on-time performance. They’re doing everything they can to mitigate those issues, but it’s a difficult slog, he said.

AAATA board member Roger Kerson.

AAATA board member Roger Kerson.

Traveling right now in Ann Arbor is a pain in the neck because of all the construction, Roger Kerson noted during his report out from the performance monitoring and external relations committee. That’s true whether you’re walking, riding a bus, or in a car. And that is impacting the AAATA’s ability to meet on-time standards. They’re doing the best they can, but when virtually every major artery and every major entrance and exit to town has construction, and the buses just can’t move.

Kerson was surprised to hear about the situation on Pontiac Trail, where the AAATA literally cannot run the buses down the street and has to stop and turn around and have a detour. Obviously that is going to impact people there quite a bit, he said, but added: “We are at the mercy of the construction project.”

During question time, Larry Krieg asked about the difficulty in achieving on-time performance. He asked if any of the methods the AAATA was using to do the best it could, were impacting budget. Ford replied that they were actually suffering in that area. They are adding buses, and according to AAATA manager of transportation Ron Copeland, the estimate of the additional cost is $4,000-$5,000 a week. There is not a lot of bandwidth available to the AAATA, Ford said, and so they’re trying to do the best they can – trying to communicate as best they can with customers, and to get them where they need to go, as efficiently as they possibly can. He allowed it is costing the organization money to do that.

Comm/Comm: Public Comment – Compliments

Ed Vielmetti addressed the board during the first opportunity for public comment. He introduced himself as an Ann Arbor resident. He told the board that he rides the bus from time to time. As he’d look through the board packet before coming to the meeting, he noticed some of the statistics that were gathered and reported with respect to complaints about drivers and service – as well as compliments about drivers and service. He was surprised to see that the number of compliments was just 41. When he rides the buses, people are generally friendly with the bus driver and say hello and they seem to be cheerful about the whole process – especially in the summertime. Since he had never registered a formal compliment, Vielmetti wasn’t sure what the process was for doing that. He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to send an email or fill out a form at the transit center. He had no clue about how he would add one to the number of compliments. He asked the staff to figure out what needed to be added to signage or to the RideGuide to let people know how they can report on how the ride went, and to encourage people to give positive comments.

Comm/Comm: BTC Public Art

During his report to the board, CEO Michael Ford noted that the planning and development committee had requested a summary of the evolution of the Blake Transit Center art project and the details on the warranty of the artist’s work. Issues of durability and the warranty had been discussed with the artist as a result of the PDC request, Ford said, and that agreement would be committed in writing. The AAATA is also documenting the award of the art project to this particular artist.

During his report out from the planning and development committee, Larry Krieg noted the committee had received an update on the artwork that was funded as a part of the new Blake Transit Center. The artist, Roberto Delgado, made a visit to Ann Arbor and had made photographs of the distinctive parts of the region so that those images can be incorporated into the artwork. The final artwork would be made of tile and would be vandal-resistant, Krieg said. Sue Gott had urged the AAATA to set aside funds for the maintenance of the art, saying that any outdoor artwork would require maintenance.

Comm/Comm: Art Fair Ridership

During his report to the board, Michael Ford noted that the Ann Arbor art fairs had taken place the previous week. Ridership for the AAATA’s art fair shuttle from Briarwood to downtown was up over 30% compared to last year, he reported. There were about 79 riders per service hour and the weather was great. He thanked everyone who was involved in the process.

Present: Eric Mahler, Eli Cooper, Roger Kerson, Anya Dale, Jack Bernard, Larry Krieg.

Absent: Susan Baskett, Sue Gott, Charles Griffith, Gillian Ream Gainsley.

Next regular meeting: Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor [confirm date]

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AAATA Mission Statement Tweaked Thu, 24 Jul 2014 23:50:30 +0000 Chronicle Staff The mission statement of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority has been updated to reflect the new name of the organization and a few other tweaks. The modified mission statement, adopted by the AAATA board at its July 24, 2014 meeting, reads as follows [added words in bold, deleted words in strike-through]

It is the Mission of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority to provide accessible useful, reliable, safe, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective public transportation options for the benefit of the Greater Ann Arbor Area Community.

The mission statement had been last affirmed over five years ago at the AAATA’s Feb. 18, 2009 board meeting.

The changes had been discussed at the board’s June 10 retreat. The word “useful” was critiqued by some board members as too modest an attribute and argued for “valuable” instead. Ultimately, the consensus was that this positive, goal-oriented attribute could be incorporated through adding the word “benefit.”

Inserting the word “accessible” was championed by board member Jack Bernard. He works in the office of the University of Michigan’s general counsel and serves on the university’s council for disability concerns.

The insertion of the word “area” in the mission statement reflects the geographic expansion of the AAATA’s jurisdiction in 2013 to include the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township – as well as the formal change of the authority’s name to include “area.” [.pdf of memo on AAATA mission statement]

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library at 343 S. Fifth Ave., where the AAATA board holds its meetings.

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AATA Plans for Countywide System Tue, 03 Nov 2009 14:13:37 +0000 Dave Askins Charles Griffith and Michael Ford, two men standing together

Charles Griffith, AATA board member (left),  and Michael Ford, CEO of the AATA, talk about Ford’s presentation and the board’s subsequent discussion after an Oct. 29 meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Oct. 29, 2009): At a special meeting of the AATA board held before dinner at Weber’s Inn, recently hired CEO Michael Ford gave board members a presentation that hammered home one basic point: The AATA needs to expand its current vision and mission by establishing a countywide transportation authority.

The AATA is currently funded by a millage levied at a rate of a little over 2 mill just in the city of Ann Arbor, with service to additional municipalities funded through purchase of service agreements (POSAs).

Board members were generally receptive to Ford’s presentation – David Nacht’s remarks reflected that this was essentially what they’d hired him to do. And to get things rolling towards an expanded, countywide mission for the AATA, Ford asked the board to adopt four specific resolutions in the coming few months. But when those resolutions are adopted, it’s not going to have an immediate impact on bus riders’ lives. As Nacht put it Thursday night, that’s simply “when the real work begins.”

And board member Rich Robben allowed that there were issues that he did not yet “feel that warm and fuzzy feeling about,” noting that ultimately the move to a countywide authority would need the support of the voting public.

After the jump, we take a look at the four specific steps Ford is asking the board to take, and summarize the board’s discussion on his proposal.

Ford’s presentation contained four requests, all of them couched in terms of board resolutions. He asked the board to pass resolutions that would (i) adopt a vision statement, (ii) establish an Act 196 authority, (iii) develop a countywide system, and (iv) integrate all transit initiatives with expertise of staff and consultants.

Vision Statement

Back at its February 2009 meeting, the AATA board adopted a mission statement, but postponed a decision on adopting a vision statement until its next meeting, with the intent of crafting the statement as an exercise undertaken by the board as a whole, instead of starting with a committee recommendation. [Chronicle coverage of that meeting: "AATA: What's Our Vision?"]

At its March meeting, however, as the board was winnowing down candidates for its CEO position, it decided to postpone the vision statement exercise until the new CEO was chosen. The thought behind this was that the new CEO, whoever it turned out to be, would probably like to have some input into the formulation of that statement. [Chronicle coverage of the March 2009 meeting: "Bus Fares Will Increase"]

The CEO who was eventually hired, Michael Ford, presented the board on Thursday with a draft of a possible vision statement. His  request was that it be considered, possibly amended, but ultimately adopted by the board through a resolution.

Here’s what Ford proposed:

Vision Statement [Ford's Draft]: The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority will facilitate public transportation that promotes quality-of-life for Washtenaw County stakeholders through mobility services that support the economy, safeguard the environment and strengthen communities. AATA will evolve toward a continuous expansion of coverage, increased frequency and hours of service to efficiently move people to countywide destinations using appropriate modes of transportation and with the most efficient use of resources.

Board discussion on the vision statement focused on the process by which the board would provide its input on the statement. Board member Ted Annis led off that discussion by saying that he was in broad overall agreement with what Ford had presented, but wanted to know what Ford had in mind as far as the mechanism by which board members could convey their input on the vision statement. He stressed that he viewed Ford’s proposal as a draft. It’s due to the apparent board consensus on that view that The Chronicle has labeled Ford’s proposal as a “draft.”

Annis also pointed out that the mission statement adopted earlier in the year should also be revisited – at least for minor revisions related to the geographic scope of the agency. Here’s the mission statement adopted by the board in February:

Mission Statement [Adopted February 2009]: It is the mission of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to provide useful, reliable, safe, environmentally-responsible, and cost-effective public transportation options for the benefit of the greater Ann Arbor community.

Annis pointed out that if the direction the AATA was headed was to countywide service, the phrase “Washtenaw County” should be considered as a replacement for  “greater Ann Arbor community.”

Ford said that he was open to using the board’s committee structure to handle the mission and vision statements.

Board member David Nacht said he had no objection to providing additional board input on details, but expressed his hope that the process would be expedited. In that spirit, board member Sue McCormick – who is the city of Ann Arbor’s director of public services – suggested that a joint meeting of the performance monitoring and external relations committee and the planning and development committee  could, in a 60-90 minute joint session sometime in the next 30 days, just “pound it out.”

Nacht was eager to get the job done even sooner: “I bet we could get it done over dinner!” But that idea was not embraced by his board colleagues.

The board did, however, reach a consensus that they’d vote on a vision and mission statement at their Nov. 18 meeting.

Form an Act 196 Organization

As part of the initiative to establish countywide service, Ford asked the board to pass a resolution to establish an Act 196 authority – something that Nacht characterized as the “800-pound gorilla” in the room.

The AATA is currently incorporated under the state of Michigan’s Act 55. What would be the point of incorporating a new entity under Act 196? The short answer is that Act 196 is written with explicit attention to the possibility that entities as large as an entire county or that even multiple municipalities might want to join together to form a transportation authority, whereas Act 55 is more narrowly construed.

Act 55, passed in 1963, was conceived as a way for cities to form transportation authorities:

From Act 55: Sec. 2. (1) The legislative body of any city having a population of not more than 300,000 may incorporate a public authority for the purpose of acquiring, owning, operating, or causing to be operated, a mass transportation system.

Act 196, passed in 1986, recognized that it’s not just cities, or individual municipalities that might want to form a transportation authority [emphasis added below]:

From Act 196: Political subdivision means a county, city, village, or township.

Sec. 4. (1) A political subdivision or a combination of 2 or more political subdivisions may form a public authority under this act.

In Act 196, then, the section laying out how members can join and how members can be released from membership is far more detailed and complex than the corresponding section in Act 55.

During public commentary at the conclusion of the meeting, Jim Mogensen would suggest that a key difference between the two pieces of legislation with respect to membership is that Act 55 allows for non-membership when there are purchase of service agreements in place, but Act 196 does not.

The details of what must happen and what can happen are sufficiently complex that board member Ted Annis requested that a consultant, who’d previously been engaged by the AATA to provide legal advice on Act 196, be brought back. When Ford assured the board that he was prepared to lay out a specific plan for incorporation under Act 196, Annis responded: “I still want to lobby you to bring that guy back.” That guy is Jeff Ammon, a Grand Rapids attorney, who along with Jerry Lax, a local attorney who also provides legal counsel to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, previously provided the AATA with advice on Act 196 incorporation. [See previous Chronicle coverage: "AATA: What's Our Vision?"]

Annis reminded his board colleagues about part of the advice they’d heard from Ammon: The Act 51 Act 55 organization of AATA would not disappear as soon as an Act 196 organization was established. Instead, an Act 196 organization would be set up essentially as a “shell” to be populated later. Otherwise put, it’s not a “conversion.”

In discussing the timeframe for a board vote on Act 196, David Nacht stressed the importance of holding a public hearing, whether or not it was legally required.

During public commentary, Terri Blackmore, who is director of the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS), suggested that the public hearing on Act 196 incorporation presented a communications challenge. She urged the board to consider the fact that what they needed public input on was the more  intuitive notion of a countywide system, as opposed to the Act 196 versus Act 55 question. Most people don’t know that AATA is an Act 55 organization now, she said.

Discussed briefly by the board was the possibility of a public hearing held between their November and December meetings, dedicated solely to the question of Act 196 reorganization. However, a consensus emerged for that hearing to be held at the board’s regular December meeting, when a vote on Act 196 reorganization would be taken.

Among the questions to be answered about the new Act 196 organization concerns the make-up of its governing board. Currently, the seven members of the AATA board are appointed by Ann Arbor’s mayor, with confirmation by its city council.

The System: The Ride Goes Countywide?

If the AATA expands to a countywide system, then one basic question to be answered is: Where will the buses go and how often will they go there? Also not a trivial matter: What will the name of the new entity be?

slide meant to show the complexity of all AATA systems and new transportation options

AATA CEO Michael Ford’s “slide of confusion.” These are the elements that require integration in development of the countywide system.

In his presentation to the board, Michael Ford had built one slide by adding one-by-one all the current services offered by the AATA and all the transportation initiatives currently under discussion. He called it “the slide of confusion,” meant to illustrate that currently the AATA did not have a clutter-free narrative to tell about what a countywide system would actually look like.

The AATA needed to hire a consultant, Ford said, to assist in the development of a system that could be presented to the public – to voters – that would lay out “what they’ll get.” The recommendation by the AATA’s planning and development committee to hire a consultant for that task was reported by Ted Annis at the board’s last meeting. [For Chronicle coverage, see "AATA Sets Meeting on Regional Authority"]

Board members at Thursday’s Weber’s Inn meeting expressed a desire to have some say in the scope of work developed for the request for proposals that would be put out for the consultant. Among the items they’d like addressed: the name of the new entity. Annis expressed his assumption that the new entity would be called The Ride, which is how the AATA is currently branded in all of its marketing literature. The domain name for the AATA website reflects that branding: Annis was still curious to see what a consultant might come up with.


Among the challenges facing a transition to a countywide authority is integration of the expanded services with services currently under discussion that are broader than just Washtenaw County. Those include north-south commuter train service from Ann Arbor to Howell (WALLY), as well as east-west commuter train service between Detroit and Ann Arbor. Demonstration service on the east-west line is expected to be rolled out in October 2010.

During public commentary, LuAnne Bullington focused her remarks on these commuter train initiatives, asking, “Where’s the money for the trains going to come from?” She pointed out that these projects were focused on commuters outside of Washtenaw County, and that if the AATA was to become a countywide system, then it should focus on Washtenaw County residents.

Sketch of the Future

Based on the consensus that seemed to form in the course of board discussion, we can expect to see committee work on the vision and mission statements between now and the board’s Nov. 18 meeting and a vote to adopt those statements at that meeting.

The board will receive detailed briefing documents from Ford on the Act 196 question in preparation for a public hearing and vote to incorporate an Act 196 organization at its Dec. 16 meeting.

After getting feedback from the board on the scope of work for a consultant to develop a plan for an actual countywide system, an RFP will be issued, with a request coming to the board to award a contract early in 2010.

As board member Rich Robben pointed out, voters will ultimately decide the question. A vote on a countywide millage to support the new Act 196 organization could happen in November 2010. Ann Arbor residents could face a ballot choice that eliminates or reduces the current transportation millage, contingent on passage of a countywide millage. Ypsilanti residents – who currently get bus service from the AATA through a purchase of service agreement – could face a ballot choice with the opposite contingency: implementation of a dedicated transportation millage, contingent on the failure to pass a countywide millage.

Present: Charles Griffith, David Nacht, Ted Annis, Jesse Bernstein, Paul Ajegba, Sue McCormick, Rich Robben

Next regular meeting: Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. at AATA headquarters, 2700 S. Industrial Ave., Ann Arbor [confirm date]

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AATA: What’s Our Vision? Sat, 21 Feb 2009 14:29:14 +0000 Dave Askins Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Feb. 18, 2009 ): At its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, the AATA board postponed a vote on its vision statement until its March meeting, when the board as a whole will thrash through the statement. A bit of news relevant to the board’s vision of the future was the announcement that the number of candidates for the executive directorship has been winnowed down to five. That position has been open since Greg Cook’s resignation in early 2007. Speaking briefly to the board at the meeting on the topic of its search for an executive director and the issue of countywide service was the mayor of Ypsilanti, Paul Schreiber.

Mission, Vision, Values

The relatively unassuming item in the agenda of “Consideration of Resolution Adopting Mission, Vision and Values Statements” led to some of the richest back-and-forth among board members since The Chronicle began covering AATA board meetings in the fall of 2008.

For readability, we divide the board’s deliberations on the single resolution on the three statements (mission, vision, values) by individual statement. Why? When there appeared to be difficulty reaching a consensus on wording for the mission and values statements, the idea of tabling the resolution adopting the three statements was briefly contemplated. But Sue McCormick weighed in for splitting the resolution so that the board might adopt at least one or two of the statements, if not all three. Much of the content of the deliberations reported below on the separate statements was chronologically intertwined, and came before the decision to split the resolution into three parts.

Intermediate outcome: The resolution to adopt the mission, vision, and values statements was split into a separate resolution on each statement.

On the Word “Options” and “Cost-Effective” in the Mission Statement: The board’s discussion of the resolution to adopt mission, vision and values statements began on a wording issue to which Jim Mogensen had drawn attention during public time at the start of the meeting.

Jim Mogensen: Mogensen noted that mission statements are always fun to create and oftentimes when they’re revised, the text just gets reused and edited as opposed to recreating them from scratch. He said he’d noticed that “cost effective” had replaced the word “affordable” in an earlier version of the AATA mission statement. Mogensen said that even though you could think of them as synonymous, they’re really quite different things: Cost-effective has to do with how much things cost, whereas “affordable” has to do with whether people are able to pay for those things. So, “attractive transportation services at competitive prices” – a quote from the proposed vision statement – might not actually be “affordable,” said Mogensen.

Mission Statement (adopted)

It is the mission of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to provide useful, reliable, safe, environmentally-responsible, and cost-effective public transportation options for the benefit of the greater Ann Arbor community.

Responding to Jim Mogensen’s comments during the public time, board member Ted Annis said that the previous version of the mission statement  didn’t say “cost effective” but rather “cost optimized.” Annis said that it was meant to be a statement  about operating  buses at the least possible cost. Board member Charles Griffith also tied the discussion back to Mogensen’s comments, saying that the benefit of operating the buses at the least possible cost is supposed to be affordability.

When giving his summary of planning and development committee activities earlier in the meeting, Ted Annis had mentioned that he’d be offering a  friendly correction when discussion of the mission statement took place:  the elimination of the word “options”  in the phrase “public transportation options.” When the discussion unfolded, Annis said the AATA doesn’t provide the options, it provides the transportation. A potential rider has options, like a car, a bike or a bus, said Annis, but the AATA doesn’t provide the options of a car or a bike – it provides the bus.

Sue McCormick’s take on the word “options” was that it was somewhat ambiguous, but that when she read it, she took it to allude to the idea that the AATA aspired to be more than just a bus company.

Paul Ajegba, who served on the ad hoc committee charged with formulating the various statements, urged some reflection on why the word “options” was there in the first place, instead of simply striking it. Charles Griffith said that the rationale for “options” had to do with the fact that the AATA acted in some cases as a conduit for pass-through funds, as opposed to providing the transportation directly. Griffith pointed to the contrast made in the vision statement – which the board was also considering – between providing transportation directly and indirectly: “… AATA will be the primary provider or facilitator of public transportation.”

A motion to strike the word “options” found support only from Annis and McCormick, and thus failed.

Outcome: The resolution adopting the mission statement passed, with dissent from Annis.

Vision Statement: Small, Medium, or Large: It was Charles Griffith who first  opened the question of what the vision statement was supposed to accomplish. He assessed the draft this way: “As a vision statement, it’s not very visionary. It says what we do, but not where we are going.” He said that the vision statement should ideally outline a strategy for moving forward as opposed to saying what we’re doing now.

The planning and development committee had vetted the various statements being considered by the board. Its chair, Ted Annis, made two brief points. First, the language for the various statements came from the ad hoc committee and for that reason, the planning and development committee had taken a fairly hands-off approach to redacting any language. Second, said Annis, from his perspective he would just get rid of the vision statement.

McCormick was quick to reply that the AATA needed a vision statement, but that it needed to be clear and concise, as opposed to the somewhat lengthy draft the board was considering. McCormick outlined what the point of a mission and vision statements were: The mission statement should say why the AATA was created; the vision statement should say what the AATA wants to do. The vision statement is about direction, while the mission is about identity, she said.

Rich Robben disagreed with McCormick’s assessment that the vision statement needed to be short and concise and that in his experience vision statements could be quite lengthy.

For his part, board chair David Nacht declared, “These exercises are generally stupid. In our case, however, we’re actually grappling with what our vision is.” He concluded by emphasizing that it was an extremely important process  for the AATA. Robben supported Nacht’s assessment by saying that if what the AATA wanted was to change its culture, it was  important to have a vision statement and actually to reference it in day-to-day operations.

McCormick suggested  postponement. Griffith supported the idea, saying he was somewhat caught by surprise and he felt it required a bit of time to further digest.

Annis wanted clarification about whether the planning and development committee would be charged with the task of making revisions, and indicated that he was willing to shorten up the text. [The AATA board has moved increasingly to a committee-based work structure over the last few months.]

Nacht floated the idea that “figuring out who we are and where we want to go is perhaps one thing that we could do as a committee of the whole, as all seven of us together – we never do anything together anymore.”

Outcome: The vote on the vision statement was postponed to the next board meeting, where the wording would be discussed.

Jesse Bernstein emphasized that it was important in advance of the next board meeting to determine what kind of statement they would be trying to craft: a long, medium or short kind of statement. In contemplating how to collaborate in advance of the meeting, Nacht said that HyperOffice software employed by the AATA  probably wouldn’t be suitable as a mechanism to conduct discussion, because the public would not have access. He suggested e-mailing and CC-ing messages to Dawn Gabay so that they could be easily provided in response to a FOIA request.

Vision statement (postponed to March meeting)

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) will be the primary provider or facilitator of public transportation for those without access to a private vehicle within the greater Ann Arbor community. It will be a viable, valuable and frequently-used transportation option for those able to choose between private automobiles and other transportation modes. AATA will be responsive to its customer needs.

AATA will increase ridership by offering attractive transportation services at competitive prices using the highest professional standards, collaborative efforts, public relations and customer interactions to remain responsive to the transportation needs of the community and encourage the use of alternative transportation options.

AATA will be an excellent steward of public funds and resources and will foster collaborative transportation partnerships with public and private entities for the benefit of its customers and the community.

AATA will provide frequent, customer friendly, reliable, safe, and convenient transportation services that are environmentally conscious and contribute to the reduction of climate changing emissions and vehicle miles traveled.

AATA will contribute to the enhancement of the quality of life and the economy of the greater Ann Arbor community while improving air quality, decreasing traffic congestion, and reducing dependence on foreign energy sources.

AATA will support a variety of size and type of land development and redevelopment within transit service areas to foster walking, bicycling, carpooling, and vanpooling, thereby enabling the residents, workers and visitors to the Ann Arbor community to be closer to transit facilities and services.

AATA will actively pursue opportunities for joint development that can benefit the community as well as its ridership and system goals.

AATA will respect and value its stakeholders, customers and employees and will recognize and celebrate the great diversity within the Ann Arbor community. It will encourage its employees to do their best work and will provide the tools, training, and environment to enable them to excel.

Values Statement: Nacht read forth the values statement.

Outcome: The values statement was unanimously approved with no significant discussion.

Values Statement (adopted)

The core priorities guiding the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s conduct toward its customers, stakeholders, employees and the entire greater Ann Arbor community are embodied in the following values:

SAFETY from harm, injury, or loss.

RELIABILITY based on consistent performance over time.

CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SATISFACTION due to providing the highest level of service.

RESPECT resulting from attentiveness, consideration, and courtesy.

INCLUSIVENESS without discrimination.

COOPERATION toward the common good.

RESPONSIBILITY by being accountable for both actions and conduct.

INNOVATION aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness.

FLEXIBILITY to adapt to new, different, or changing conditions.

INTEGRITY from incorporating principles of right and wrong into principles of moral behavior.

ENVIRONMENTALISM centered on a concern for the conservation and improvement of the environment.

Executive Director Search

The AATA has had an unfilled executive director position since the resignation of Greg Cook in early 2007. At the beginning of the meeting Nacht announced that he’d received a letter, whose lead author was Nancy Shore (former AATA board member and current director of the getDowntown program), about the executive director search. The letter, said Nacht, contained thoughts about the executive director search – things that the board should be thinking about in connection with it.

Asked to provide the letter to The Chronicle, Shore sent it along, and we include a link to a text file with its contents. Signatories to it besides Shore were Richard Sheridan (Menlo Innovations), Jeff Irwin (Washenaw County Board of Commissioners), Conan Smith (Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners), Chuck Warpehoski (Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice), and Joan Lowenstein (Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss, P.C. and Downtown Development Authority board member).

The first point made by the letter is one that the board grappled with Wednesday evening: the importance of a vision.

The search committee, reported Nacht, had identified five finalists, but noted it would be inappropriate to comment further, because none of the finalists had been notified yet. There were 62 candidates in all, which were narrowed to 20 by the headhunter, and further winnowed down to 5 by the AATA search committee, which is chaired by Paul Ajegba.

Remarks from the Mayor of Ypsilanti: Paul Schreiber

At the meeting partly in order to speak to the board about the executive director search was Paul Schreiber, who is mayor of the city of Ypsilanti. He encouraged the board to keep working hard on the executive director search and to identify somebody who has the know-how to work constructively with the community.

He also asked the board to continue to work towards creating a countywide authority, because the purchase-of-service agreement model doesn’t allow forward-looking thinking. He characterized the current system as somewhat of a piecemeal approach.

When Schreiber concluded his remarks, board member Jesse Bernstein asked if he could depart from the usual protocol of not having a back-and-forth with public speakers, given that Schreiber is the mayor of Ypsilanti. After a quick check with the rest of the board, Nacht gave Bernstein the green light. Bernstein curious to know if Schreiber had any specific thoughts on an equitable way of financing the countywide authority. Schreiber said that he did not have a specific proposal, because he didn’t have an in-depth understanding that would really allow him to offer such an opinion. However, he did note that Ann Arbor was a leader in this area with its  transportation millage.

Schreiber also said he expected that the demand for transit was only going to increase, citing as an example the fact that the city of Ypsilanti  had received two offers for parts of the Water Street property along Michigan Avenue. He said this reflected the fact that developers are starting to give up on green field space – as opposed to already-built infrastructure. And that meant that the area would need to find ways to provide more mass transit – for people to get from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor and from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti. As an example of the latter, Bernstein offered: “To go have have dinner at Haab’s.” To which Paul Schreiber added, “And breakfast at Beezy’s.”

Committee Updates and Communications: Crisis Contingencies and WALLY Update

Nacht solicited two-minute updates from committees. The governance committee, which he chairs, did not meet since the last full board meeting because he’d been sick.

Planning and Development Committee: Ted Annis reported that the committee had met two times since the last full board meeting. He said that they had worked on the countywide authority formation under Act 196 but there was no news yet to report. At another point in the meeting, interim executive director, Dawn Gabay, indicated that the two attorneys, Jerry Lax and Jeff Ammon, who’d been engaged as consultants on the matter would soon be providing some more concrete options.

Another main focus of the committee had been on contingency planning, said Annis. He said the idea was to develop a contingency plan that would be ready to use in the event of an adverse economic situation – which he felt we would in fact be facing. So AATA staff had been asked to develop responses in the event of 10%, 20%, and 40% revenue losses. And he said there would be a report forthcoming divided essentially into three parts: (i) revenues, (ii) services that would be cut, and (iii) the internal cost cuts that would be undertaken. Annis said the idea was to figure out how to get the cost per service hour down from its current level of $103 per hour to the $77 per hour that Grand Rapids runs its system on.

Performance Monitoring & External Relations Committee: Sue McCormick reported that the committee had met the previous Friday. She said they had focused on performance criteria and taking an exceptions-based approach to them. That is, they had set up a system to review the performance data that would call their specific attention to items that fell outside of expected ranges. She said that the same exceptions-based approach was being applied to the financial piece of performance.

Federal Transit Administration: AATA’s interim executive director, Dawn Gabay, reported that the tri-annual review by the FTA would be happening on May 26-27. At the time of the AATA’s last review there had been no findings, she said.

North-South and East-West Commuter Rail: Nacht asked for an update on the north-south WALLY commuter rail project. Gabay said Tom Cornillie (AATA staff) was working out the scope of work for services. The planning and development committee had directed staff to look at the east-west commuter rail project, which is being headed up by SEMCOG, and that had temporarily shifted its focus from the north-south WALLY initiative.

Nacht noted that as a board they had voted to have staff “work it up” to have a policy consideration. They’re not taking a position that they’re necessarily heading down that path, no matter what, he said. Nacht reiterated later in the discussion with respect to WALLY: “We’re not backing off from that.” He said that a vote had been taken on WALLY, and they’re not trying to slow it down, they’re going to do it right. The idea behind taking a look at the east-west commuter rail project was to get an idea of what kind of resource commitments would be required for that project, so that AATA could assess better the ramifications on the WALLY project, he said.

In the context of the balance of commitments to the east-west project versus the north-south WALLY project, Bernstein emphasized that the role of the AATA in the east-west project was as a “connector” to the project, not as the entity running the project (as with WALLY). McCormick said that the east-west rail was much closer to reality than the north-south one, which was another reason it was worth putting some time into now. “About the east-west rail, we hear dates,” she said. Those dates are fall 2010 for a demonstration project, and in that light, she said, we need to know how the AATA is going to connect with that service.

Part of what had prompted the east-west rail conversation was Nacht’s introduction of the topic of AATA service to the Detroit airport. In response to a query from Nacht, Gabay said that  in 2002-03, they had approached the airport for consideration of east-west service and determined that it was at that time not feasible. Nacht asked if it had to do with a charge for entry to the airport facility. Gabay said there would be no charge for entry. What was the barrier then, wondered Nacht. Gabay said there was a possible lack of a state match, because operating east-west service to the airport might be taking business from a private operator already providing that service.

Nacht then noted that AATA routes had been altered to support a private service, and Gabay confirmed that the AATA routes had been changed to go closer to Wolverine Tower.

Nacht then declared that he would like to have active consideration of providing the Ann Arbor community with bus service to the airport. He said that he didn’t want to hear back simply, “It’s too expensive,” which prompted Ajegba to observe that this seemed contradictory to the mission statement to provide service in a cost-effective manner. Griffith said Nacht wasn’t saying the cost doesn’t matter, which Robben agreed with, saying  that it was a question of not wanting to dismiss it out of hand. Gabay said that the timing of such a service needed to be coordinated with east-west rail that might be going in.

Resolutions: Procurement Manual and Project List

Besides the item on mission, vision, and values statements, two other resolutions were on the agenda, the first concerning the adoption of a procurement manual, which came out of McCormick’s performance monitoring committee. The procurement manual was postponed after Nacht asked that it be systematically reviewed with an eye towards ensuring that potential issues of inappropriate influence and conflict were adequately addressed.

The remaining resolution concerned the adoption of a revised project list in light of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) a.k.a the “stimulus package.” It was approved unanimously by the board. Under the provisions of ARRA, the AATA expects to receive around $6 million, to be administered through the Federal Transit Administration. Of that amount, at least 50% of the funds allocated to AATA must be obligated within six months and the remainder within a year. The AATA has identified the following projects for implementation within 180 days:

  • Construction of a park-and-ride lot on Plymouth Road at U.S. 23
    Expected cost: $1.4 million
    Expected contract award: July 2009
  • Purchase of 4 hybrid-electric buses
    Expected cost: $2.1 million
    Expected contract award: March 2009 (option on existing contract)
  • Improvement of the safety and accessibility at selected bus stops
    Expected cost: $0.2 million
    Expected contract award: June 2009

Public Time: Reflections on Buses that Don’t Stop

Jim Mogensen: Mogensen’s comments on the mission statement, reported above, came at the start of the meeting when comments are supposed to focus on topics related to the agenda, which the mission statement was. At the end of the meeting there’s time for the public to weigh in on whatever topic they like.

At the end of the meeting, Mogensen reported that on Jan. 29 he took the No. 4  bus to Arborland intending to transfer to the No. 22 to get back home. But the No. 22 bus drove past without stopping. He then had to transfer back to the No. 4. But because he had ridden the No.  4 he had to pay another dollar fare – because you cannot “transfer” to  the same bus. He said that the experience had reminded him of a few policy issues: (i) In the Ride Guide there is no prominent printing of a telephone number for complaints, (ii) the signage on major routes needs to be somewhat better so the drivers can more easily spot where to stop, and (iii) the transfer policy has impacts on short trips. When Mogensen concluded his remarks, board chair David Nacht said: “I’m sorry on behalf of the organization.”

Present: Ted Annis, Charles Griffith, Jesse Bernstein, David Nacht, Paul Ajegba, Rich Robben, Sue McCormick

Next meeting: Wednesday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. at AATA headquarters, 2700 S. Industrial Ave. [confirm date]

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