County Session Set on Transit Accord

At their June 6, 2012 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners voted to schedule a special work session for Thursday, June 14 to discuss a four-party public transit agreement that’s intended to set the stage for a possible countywide transit authority. A new transit authority – tentatively called The Washtenaw Ride – would expand the governance and service area of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.

The effort is spearheaded by the AATA. Its CEO, Michael Ford, had expressed interest in putting the item on the county board’s June 6 agenda. The other three entities in the agreement – the AATA board, and the city councils of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti – have authorized the accord. However, county commissioners wanted more time to consider the agreement before voting on it. Their next regular board meeting is on July 11.

The process of ratifying the four-party agreement has been somewhat complex. The Ypsilanti city council had initially approved the agreement on May 15, 2012, but amended it in a way that required the Ann Arbor city council, which had approved an earlier version on March 5, to reconsider the amended version. The Ann Arbor council did that on June 4, 2012, but Ann Arbor did not accept all of the Ypsilanti amendments. So the agreement went back to Ypsilanti city council, and on June 5, Ypsilanti councilmembers voted to match the amended agreement that was approved by the Ann Arbor city council the previous day. That version, now approved by both bodies, provides for different treatment of a 1% municipal service charge by each city.

Under the agreement approved by both councils, Ann Arbor will extract a 1% municipal service charge before forwarding its transit millage revenues to a possible new transportation authority to be formed under Act 196 of 1986. Ypsilanti will not assess the charge, and will forward the full amount of its millage revenues to the Act 196 authority. The service charge would be roughly $90,000 for Ann Arbor, and about $3,000 for Ypsilanti – based on the revenues raised by the respective transit millages in those cities.

The fourth party in the four-party agreement – the AATA board – had approved the accord on May 16, 2012, but may now review and revote its approval in light of the amendments made by the two city councils.

At the county board’s June 6 meeting, commissioner Yousef Rabhi – who chairs the board’s working sessions – said he hoped that the board could reach a consensus on the agreement at the working session, even though a formal vote wouldn’t take place until July 11. He suggested that commissioners take a straw poll on any amendments they’d like to offer, so that the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti city councils would have the opportunity to respond before the board’s July 11 vote. None of the other commissioners voiced objections to that approach. At least one commissioner has indicated to The Chronicle an intention to bring forward specific changes to the agreement.

The June 14 working session starts at 6:30 p.m. at the county administration building, 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor.

This brief was filed soon after adjournment of the June 6 board meeting. A more detailed report will follow: [link]