Ypsi Approves Amended Transit Agreement

At its May 15, 2012 meeting, the Ypsilanti city council unanimously approved a proposed four-party agreement which establishes a process to create a new countywide transportation authority in Washtenaw County. The new authority, tentatively named the Washtenaw Area Transportation Authority, would be incorporated under Act 196 of 1986, and would replace the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority – with a broader geographic base for its governance, services and funding.

The four parties to the agreement are the AATA, the city of Ypsilanti, the city of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.

The Ann Arbor city council approved a version of the four-party agreement on March 5, 2012, after amending the version that the AATA had first presented. Amendments were made in several ways, and stretched over multiple meetings.

However, on May 15 the Ypsilanti council amended and approved the agreement in a way that may require reconsideration by the Ann Arbor city council – in the opinion of Ypsilanti city attorney John M. Barr. [.pdf of red-lined four-party agreement as amended by Ypsilanti city council]

The Ypsilanti council also unanimously approved, without change, the proposed articles of incorporation for the new transit authority. The Ann Arbor city council has not yet voted on the articles of incorporation. [.pdf of articles of incorporation]

The amendment to the four-party agreement, proposed by Ypsilanti councilmember Peter Murdock, had two components. Murdock’s amendment involved the transit millages currently levied by the cities of Ann Arbor (a perpetual millage authorized in the charter at 2.5 mills) and Ypsilanti (a .9879 mill tax authorized by voters in 2010).

First, Murdock’s amendment  eliminated a “municipal service charge of 1% of the annual millage,” in all sections where it appears – for Ypsilanti and for Ann Arbor. In the original four-party agreement (approved by the Ann Arbor city council), the two cities would be able to withhold the 1% municipal service charge from the millage dollars they transfered to the new countywide transit authority. The rationale, Murdock said, is that “the money should go to the new authority, not to the two cities, and that Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor should both do that.”

The second component of the amendment was specific to Ypsilanti. The following language was inserted: “… and in Ypsilanti specifically authorize the continued collection and transfer of the full Charter Transportation millage to the new Act 196 TA.”

By way of background, Ypsilanti voters approved, in 2010, a “Charter Transportation” amendment to the city charter that provides for .9879 mill of the city’s revenue to be used to pay for a purchase-of-service agreement with AATA. That part of Murdock’s amendment is intended to remove any uncertainty about that provision in the future.

The Ypsilanti council voted after hearing a presentation by AATA CEO Michael Ford, who focused on the improvements that the countywide system could bring to Ypsilanti. Ford said that AATA would consider the four-party agreement on May 16 (at its combined board meeting and retreat), and that the Washtenaw County board of commissioners would consider it in the near future.