County Gives Initial OK to 4-Party Transit Deal

After a lengthy debate at their July 11, 2012 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners on a 7-4 vote gave initial approval to a four-party agreement and articles of incorporation that lay the foundation for a broader public transit authority in this area – tentatively called the Washtenaw Ride Transportation Authority. Voting against the agreement and articles of incorporation were Alicia Ping, Wes Prater, Dan Smith and Rob Turner. The board also set an Aug. 1 public hearing to gather feedback on the agreement. A final vote is expected to take place at that Aug. 1 meeting.

The other parties in the agreement are the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, which both would contribute existing millages to the new authority, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which is spearheading this effort and would shift its assets to the new entity. The governing bodies of those three parties have already approved the transit documents. [.pdf of four-party agreement and articles of incorporation]

At the July 11 meeting, several amendments proposed by commissioner Dan Smith were discussed, but none of the amendments secured enough votes to pass. If the agreement or articles of incorporation are amended, the documents would need to be reconsidered by the other three parties. The amendments were similar to those that Smith had put forward at a three hour working session on June 14. Broadly, the amendments and discussion centered on the following topics: issues of local versus regional control; the process by which local communities could opt-out or opt-in to the new transit authority; parity between Ann Arbor and other municipalities; and how details of the service and funding plan would be communicated.

The county would not be contributing assets or a millage to the new authority. Nor would the county board be asked to put a countywide millage request on the ballot. Rather, the county’s role would be for the the county clerk to file articles of incorporation with the state – an action to create a transit authority under Michigan Act 196. When formed, the Act 196 board would have authority to put a funding proposal on the ballot for voters to consider. A financial advisory group that’s been working on this effort has suggested that revenues equivalent to a 0.5 mill tax would be needed to cover the cost of expanded services for the first five years. [.pdf of financial advisory group report]

For the most recent general Chronicle coverage of transit issues, see: “AATA Board OKs Key Countywide Documents.”

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]