AATA: We Hear You, Ypsilanti

In a formal resolution, the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has acknowledged the request of the city of Ypsilanti to join the AATA. The board’s action came at its May 16, 2013 meeting.

Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber attended the May 16 meeting and discussed Ypsilanti’s desire to join the AATA, citing several signs of  Ypsilanti’s support for transit – including the request to join AATA and the dedicated transit millage approved by Ypsilanti voters in 2010.

At the Ypsilanti city council’s April 23 meeting, councilmembers had made a formal request to join the AATA under the transit authority’s existing enabling legislation – Act 55 of 1963. For the city of Ypsilanti, joining the AATA represents a new way to generate more funding for transportation. Because the city already levies at the state constitutional limit of 20 mills, the city itself can’t add an additional tax burden.

But the AATA could ask voters of all member jurisdictions to approve a levy of its own – something that it currently does not do. And that would not count against the 20-mill state constitutional limit that Ypsilanti already levies. The city of Ypsilanti and the city of Ann Arbor each have a millage dedicated to transit, which is not levied by the AATA itself.

Adding Ypsilanti to the AATA would also require the cooperation of the Ann Arbor city council – to amend the AATA’s articles of incorporation. At a meeting of the urban core communities held on April 25, 2013, Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje indicated his support for the idea, suggesting that the seven-member AATA board could be expanded to nine seats, one of which would be appointed by the city of Ypsilanti.

Meetings among nearby surrounding jurisdictions – including the cities of Ypsilanti and Saline, and the townships of Ypsilanti and Pittsfield – have continued after the demise of an effort in 2012 to expand the AATA’s service and governance area to the entire county. The smaller group of government units has been presented with a set of increased services and various funding and governance options. Among those options is the possibility of Ypsilanti and other nearby jurisdictions joining the AATA.

While there had been some speculation the AATA might act immediately to approve admission of Ypsilanti as a member, the AATA is taking a somewhat more deliberative approach. That’s due in part to the fact that the board has a natural opportunity to discuss the issue in the context of broader planning issues at an upcoming annual retreat that had already been set for this general timeframe. That retreat will take place at 12:30 p.m. on May 22 at the Holiday Inn Express (Gresham Room), 600 Briarwood Circle.

At the May 7, 2013 meeting of the AATA board’s planning and development committee, a rough outline of possible steps toward Ypsilanti’s membership was discussed. From the committee minutes:

  • Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber would meet with the Ann Arbor City Council to discuss the request to join the Authority;
  • AATA would then adopt a resolution supporting Ypsilanti’s request and send it to the Ann Arbor City Council;
  • The Articles of Incorporation would need to be modified to include Ypsilanti, and then be sent to City Council;
  • AATA would then ask the City Council to approve and file the Articles of Incorporation.

The next meeting of the urban core group is June 27 at the Pittsfield Township hall starting at 4 p.m.

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