An Ann Arbor city council work session held Oct. 14, 2013 provided a roundup of several transportation initiatives.
The projects all fit into the general rubric of regional transportation – relative to different scales of the concept of “region.” Eli Cooper, the city of Ann Arbor transportation program manager, led off the session with some introductory remarks that framed the session in those terms – regions defined on a national, state and more local scale.
Nationally, Amtrak provides rail service between major cities like Chicago and Detroit. And it’s to support that service that the city of Ann Arbor is currently planning for a new or reconstructed Amtrak station. A contract for a required planning study, 80% of which is funded with a federal grant, appears on the council’s Oct. 21 agenda. [Legistar file 13-1128]
On a smaller regional scale, SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) is the lead organization for a possible new kind of future service on the same tracks as the Amtrak inter-city service: an Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail service. That would be at least two years out, partly because no operating funds for the service have yet been identified. Those funds could eventually come from the nascent southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority (RTA), which could ask voters in a four-county region – Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne – to approve either a transit property tax or a vehicle registration fee dedicated to supporting transit.
On the smallest regional level, voters in member jurisdictions of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority could be asked as soon as May 2014 to approve additional transportation funding. The AAATA currently includes the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township – provided that the Ann Arbor city council approves the township’s membership at its Oct. 21 meeting. [Legistar file 13-1267]
As AAATA staff stressed at the Oct. 14 work session, the board of that organization has not yet made a decision to place a millage request in front of voters. If approved by voters, the additional funding – likely to be 0.7 mills – would be used to increase frequency and time of service in the local region.
Details about the service improvements are the subject of a series of public meetings, which is set to start this Thursday, Oct. 17 from 4-6 p.m. That first session takes place just before the AAATA board meeting at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown location.