AAATA: 40 More Vehicles for Vanpools

Up to 40 vehicles could be purchased for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority’s vanpool program to replace aging vehicles, as well as to meet additional demand for the program. The vans will be either Dodge Caravans (mini-vans) at $21,356 from Snethkamp of Lansing, or Ford Econoline vans (full-size vans) from Gorno of Woodhaven, at $20,940.

According to the resolution approved by the board, the Ford Econoline meets the conditions of the Federal Transit Administration’s Buy America program – which require 65% American components and final assembly in the United States. The Dodge Caravan meets the 65% American-made component requirement, but is assembled in Canada – with union labor. So the funding of the Caravan, which does not meet all the FTA’s Buy America criteria, will be drawn from local millage money, while the Ford vehicles will use federal funds.

According to AAATA manager of service development Chris White, operations that the local millage money would have covered will instead be paid for with federal dollars.

AAATA board action authorizing the purchase of the vans came at its Oct. 17, 2013 meeting.

A vanpool is essentially a group of people who are provided a vehicle, and charged a price for the use of that vehicle so they can drive to work together. According to CEO Michael Ford’s written update to the board, the AAATA’s vanpool program currently has 44 active vanpools.

Minutes from the AAATA’s planning and development committee meeting earlier in the month indicate the original proposal was to purchase 25 vans, with the option of 10 additional vans. And according to the minutes of the Oct. 8, 2013 committee meeting, at that time the AAATA estimated that during the current fiscal year, a total of 35 vans – either to replace aging vehicles or to provide a vehicle for new vanpools – would be needed.

However, because of the federal government shutdown, FTA representatives overseeing the Michigan area were not able to address some questions from AAATA staff – about the possibility of obtaining a waiver to FTA’s Buy America program for the Dodge vehicles. The FTA had previously granted a waiver for the Dodge vehicles that had expired. So the request originally placed on the agenda was just to buy 10 vehicles right now, in order to meet the immediate needs.

Subsequently in the last week, according to Ford’s memo to the board, additional requests for vanpools were received, which bumped the estimated total number of vehicles needed for the next fiscal year to 40.

That led the AAATA to pursue the strategy of using local funds for the Dodge vans, but federal funds for the Fords.

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