AAATA: Just Say “TheRide”

Final paperwork for a name change of Ann Arbor’s local transit agency – from the “Ann Arbor Transportation Authority” to the “Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority” – is now complete.

As of Aug. 15, 2013 the transportation authority will begin using the new name on all official communications and transactions. That’s the date when the filings with the state became official, as well as the date on which the board of the AAATA passed a resolution giving formal notification of the name change. The resolution was passed at the board’s regular monthly meeting.

The board’s Aug. 15 resolution indicates that the organization will continue to use “TheRide” in its marketing and branding. That’s partly a response to the increased challenge of pronouncing the acronym of the new organization letter-by-letter. Suggestions had been made to adopt a convention of calling the AAATA “A3TA” or “Triple-A-TA” – but the board’s resolution indicates only that “The Ride” will continue as the organization’s mark.

The name change reflects a more substantive revision to the articles of incorporation of the AATA, which added the city of Ypsilanti as a member to the authority. The AATA board gave final approval for that change at its June 20, 2013 meeting. The city councils of the two cities had already approved the change. The Ann Arbor city council voted on June 3, 2013 to approve the change in governance, while the Ypsilanti city council took its vote on June 18. Both councils voted unanimously to support the move. [.pdf of new AAATA articles of incorporation] [.pdf of old AATA articles of incorporation]

The change to the articles to include Ypsilanti as a member is  intended to provide a way to generate additional funding for transportation. The AAATA could, with voter approval, levy a uniform property tax on the entire geographic area of its membership – something the AAATA does not currently do. The cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti now levy their own millages, which are transmitted to the AAATA. However, Ypsilanti is currently at its 20-mill state constitutional limit. A millage levied by the AAATA would not count against that 20-mill cap.

While there had been an outside chance that a millage request could be placed on the ballot as soon as November 2013, it now appears likely for May 2014.

The change to the articles of incorporation also gave Ypsilanti the right to appoint a member of the board – which expanded from seven to nine members. Gillian Ream was appointed to the board by the city of Ypsilanti, and cast her first votes as a board member on Aug. 15.

The other additional board seat is to be appointed by the city of Ann Arbor. At the Ann Arbor city council’s Aug. 8, 2013 meeting, Jack Bernard was nominated to fill that spot. The council will vote on that appointment at its Aug. 19 meeting.

Bernard is a lecturer in the University of Michigan law school and an attorney with UM’s office of the vice president and general counsel. He is also currently chair of the university’s council for disability concerns. Given the nature of wrangling over Eric Mahler’s recent appointment to the AAATA board, Bernard’s chairship of that group could be a key qualification. Some councilmembers objected to Mahler’s appointment, arguing that someone who could represent the disability community should be appointed instead.

The articles of incorporation might need to be revised again soon, to accommodate the possible addition of Ypsilanti Township as a member of the AAATA. At the Aug. 14, 2013 meeting of AAATA’s planning & development committee, it was discussed that the township had indicated some preliminary interest in joining the authority.

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