AATA on Regional Transit: It Needs Funding

At its Feb. 16, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board passed a resolution expressing its intent to continue to work to improve transportation services and in support of a new regional transit authority (RTA) described in legislation currently pending in the state legislature.

The position expressed by the AATA is that the funding for any new RTA for southeast Michigan, described in legislation introduced in the state legislature in late January, should be supported with funds above and beyond the level expended by existing public transportation service. [For coverage of the proposed legislation, see "Michigan Regional Transit Bills Unveiled"] The legislation would create a four-county region for the RTA that would include Washtenaw, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties.

From the board’s resolution [emphasis added]: “In order to guarantee and assure the continuation of our role in providing local transit or existing services, funding for a southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority must be new, additional funding so that the existing (and future state and federal funding) for the current Ann Arbor Transportation Authority Board, and any Board that supersedes it, will not be negatively impacted.” [.pdf of the draft resolution]

The language of the draft resolution was amended at the board meeting at the suggestion of Eli Cooper to stress the role of the AATA in its current provision of transportation services, and to condition the AATA’s support for an RTA at this time to an RTA that coordinates and connects existing services.

The RTA legislation as introduced would give two seats on a 10-member board to Washtenaw County – with two seats for each of the other three counties, one for Detroit, and one non-voting ex-officio appointment made by the governor.

However, according to a Michigan Information and Research Service (MIRS) summary of initial testimony on Feb. 14 before the Michigan senate’s transportation committee, Conan Smith – chair of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners – would be willing to give up one of those seats: “Washtenaw County Commissioner Conan Smith not only supported the bills, but expressed an openness to support giving up one of Washtenaw County’s appointments on the RTA to Detroit if ‘that’s what it took” to get the bills passed.’”

The possible RTA is a different initiative from the AATA’s effort to expand its governance structure and its service area to include a wider geographic region – most of Washtenaw County, not just the city of Ann Arbor. That possible transition is currently being debated by the Ann Arbor city council, in the context of a four-party agreement – between the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the AATA.

This brief was filed from the fourth-floor boardroom of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]