Transit Study Brought Back, Postponed

No final action was taken at the Ann Arbor city council’s Sept. 17, 2012 meeting on funding for continued study of a transportation corridor from the northeast of Ann Arbor to the city’s southern edge. But the council kept the possibility alive that it would eventually make a $60,000 budget adjustment to fund the study, choosing to postpone the issue until its Oct. 15 meeting.

The council had failed to approve a requested $60,000 appropriation from the city’s general fund at its Sept. 4, 2012 meeting. However, the council brought back the resolution for reconsideration at its Sept. 17 meeting. The council voted without much discussion to postpone the issue, in part because the city’s transportation program manager, Eli Cooper, could not attend the meeting to field questions.

The 4-5 vote on the budget item on Sept. 4, which required an eight-vote majority on the 11-member body, reflected a strategic move by some councilmembers – who wanted to be on the prevailing side, which by council rules would have allowed them to bring the item back for reconsideration.

The city’s $60,000 is supposed to help the study move ahead with an alternatives analysis. The corridor runs from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street and farther south to I-94. This alternatives analysis phase of the study is to result in a preferred choice of technology (e.g., bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) and identification of stations and stops.

The city’s $60,000 is a portion of $300,000 in local funding that has been identified to provide the required match for a $1.2 million federal grant awarded last year to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority for the alternatives analysis phase. The breakdown of local support is intended to be: $60,000 from the city of Ann Arbor; $150,000 from the University of Michigan; and $90,000 from the AATA.

In November 2011, Michael Ford – CEO of the AATA – had updated the AATA board on the possible timeline for the alternatives analysis. He said that phase would take around 16 months.

A feasibility study for the corridor costing $640,000 has already been completed. That initial study concluded that some type of improved high-capacity transit system would be feasible – which could take the form of bus rapid transit, light rail transit, or elevated automated guideway transit. That study had been funded through a partnership with the city of Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, University of Michigan and the AATA. Chronicle coverage of that feasibility study includes: “Transit Connector Study: Initial Analysis“; “AATA: Transit Study, Planning Updates“; and “Washtenaw Transit Talks in Flux.”

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]