Possible 4-Party Transit Amendments

With her regular constituent update sent by email on Jan. 22, 2012, Ward 1 Ann Arbor city councilmember Sabra Briere has included a marked-up version of the four-party transit agreement reflecting possible amendments that could be made to that document during the council’s Jan. 23, 2012 meeting. [.pdf of potential amendments to four-party transit agreement]

The four-party agreement – between the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County – will be considered by the Ann Arbor city council on Jan. 23 for the second time, after the council postponed its consideration at its Jan. 9, 2012 meeting. A public hearing on the agreement is also scheduled for Jan. 23. There’s some indication that the measure could again be postponed.

The agreement would establish a framework for making a transition of the AATA to a countywide system of governance under Michigan’s Act 196 of 1986.

The transition to a countywide governance and funding base is intended to (1) ensure stability of funding for transit connections outside of the city of Ann Arbor, which until now has depended on purchase-of-service agreements; (2) provide a higher level of transit service inside the city of Ann Arbor; and (3) expand the area where transit service is provided. The service plan is laid out in two volumes of the transit master plan.

In the four party-agreement, the role of the two cities – Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti – would be to pledge their current transit millages to the new authority, contingent on identifying a countywide funding source. The two cities currently levy millages that are designated for public transit and are passed through to the AATA. For Ann Arbor, that’s currently just over 2 mills. For Ypsilanti, which uses the proceeds of the tax – approved in November 2010 – to fund its purchase-of-service agreement with the AATA, the levy is just under 1 mill. [One mill is $1 for each $1,000 of a property's taxable value.]

As part of the four-party agreement, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor would agree that AATA’s existing assets would be assumed by the new Act 196 transit authority, and they’d also agree to assign their existing millages to the new Act 196 authority. But the asset transfer and the millage assignment would be contingent on identifying a countywide funding source for the new Act 196 authority.

The potential revisions to the four-party agreement, which could be made on Jan. 23 during the city council’s meeting – reflect an attempt to provide reassurance to the Ann Arbor city council and residents.

A section that could be completely struck is one that contemplates the possibility that “funding sources are elected to fund the NEW TA [transit authority] which do not require voter approval.” A new addition would be an explicit requirement that the city councils of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti would need to vote to adopt the articles of incorporation that Washtenaw County would file to formally incorporate the new Act 196 transit authority. [.pdf of draft articles of incorporation]

In two places in the four-party agreement, a phrase might be inserted to place on the new Act 196 transit authority a requirement to the effect that the new authority must provide to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti “at a minimum, the continued level of services provided by its predecessor-in-interest, AATA, …”

Another revision would highlight at the beginning of some relevant paragraphs the condition that must be met in order for the substance of the paragraph to apply, and expresses it in terms of time, not abstract logic: “After all of the Section 8 contingencies to Closing are satisfied, …”

Another revision would accommodate the possibility that some municipalities might choose to opt out of an Act 196 authority if one were to be incorporated – by swapping in “authority-wide” for the phrase “county-wide.”

The city council’s Jan. 23 meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the second floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron. The meeting is also broadcast live on Community Television Network’s Channel 16, and is available for viewing online.