Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Nov. 15, 2012): Board chair Charles Griffith called it a “bumpy month” since the incorporation in early October of a new countywide transit authority under Act 196 – The Washtenaw Ride. A week before the AATA board’s meeting, the Ann Arbor city council had voted to withdraw from the new authority and to terminate an agreement between four parties – the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the AATA – that would have governed a transition from the AATA to The Washtenaw Ride.
Since the incorporation of the new authority on Oct. 3, 2012, the “bumps” have included a divergence of views by legal counsel – about the start of the 30-day opt-out period, and the ability of someone to render simultaneous service on boards of the AATA and The Washtenaw Ride. [Previous Chronicle coverage "Positions Open: New Transit Authority Board" and "Ann Arbor Mayor: Need Transit Board Members"]
Bumps also include decisions by a majority of municipalities countywide to withdraw from the authority, including some that the AATA had expected would participate. Ann Arbor’s withdrawal ended this approach to expanding transit. Until Ann Arbor’s decision to opt out, a majority of the county’s population was still included in the areas that would have participated.
Nevertheless, the mood of AATA’s Nov. 15 meeting was moderately optimistic. The Ann Arbor city council’s resolution had encouraged the AATA to pursue expanded service – but with a narrower focus. And CEO Michael Ford reported that following the council’s decision, a meeting had been held with representatives of eight different jurisdictions who were interested in pursuing some alternative to the Act 196 incorporation.
Having attended both the city council meeting and the subsequent meeting with representatives of interested jurisdictions, AATA board member Roger Kerson said, “The second was more fun than the first.” It’s expected that in December, it would be possible to start settling in on a geographic footprint for communities that would opt into an arrangement for expanded service and more stable funding.
Paul Schreiber, the mayor of Ypsilanti, attended the board’s meeting and encouraged the establishment of a more stable funding source than the purchase-of-service agreements (POSAs), through which the AATA has historically provided service to areas outside of Ann Arbor – like Ypsilanti.
The relatively optimistic tone of the board’s discussion was backed by two votes in support of expanded services: (1) the purchase of 25 additional vans to expand the AATA’s vanpool service; and (2) an allocation of funds to increase the frequency of service on the Ann Arbor branch of Route #5, which runs down Packard toward Ypsilanti.
The vote to increase service frequency on Route #5 came only after considerable debate and over the dissent of two board members. The AATA staff had recommended the increased service for Route #5 – but on a timetable that would have included a more thorough financial analysis of other services. Those other services have been added based on anticipated additional funding that would have been available through the newly incorporated Act 196 authority. They include: increased Route #4 frequency, the AirRide airport service, expanded NightRide service, and commuter express service to Chelsea and Canton.