Column: More Taxes for Transit? Yes, Please

Why I'm voting for the May 6 millage – for my future, decrepit self

On Tuesday, May 6, voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township will cast ballots on a 0.7 mill tax that could be levied by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

(AAATA is not the name of an actual prescription drug.)

(AAATA is not the name of an actual prescription drug.)

The transit taxes currently collected in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti are levied by the cities, and passed through to the AAATA.

This would be the first tax ever levied by the AAATA itself. The additional revenue is supposed to pay for a range of service improvements, including extended hours of operation on weekdays, additional service on weekends, and greater frequency of operation.

My guess is most people by now have made up their minds about the May 6 ballot referendum.

My purpose here is not to review the arguments pro and con and to weigh that balance in some sort of calculus that points to an unavoidable conclusion that the only possible rational vote is yes.

If you’re on the fence, though, this column is meant to give you a reason to vote yes. Any number of reasons might be given to vote yes, and surely there are also credible reasons for voting no.

But I am going to vote yes. And I’m going to tell you one of many reasons why.

If you don’t have the patience to wade through a bunch of words to find out that reason, here’s a one-sentence summary: I have noticed that my once-reliable body is getting old and creaky.


For Ann Arbor taxpayers, the 0.7 mill tax will translate into a total transportation tax of about 2.7 mills – after the city’s own roughly 2 mill charter millage is added in. (Many people have forgotten that Ann Arbor’s charter transportation millage is actually 2.5 mills, but has been reduced over the years to just over 2 mills by the Headlee Amendment.)

My house has a taxable value of $97,010 – which means that I’m currently paying about $194 a year in transportation taxes. The 0.7 mill tax would mean an additional $68 for me, or a total transportation tax burden of $262. For the five-year period of the millage, I’ll pay something like $1,300.

The existing charter millage is perpetual, which means that it’s not subject to regular voter approval like this new five-year millage would be. If the millage is approved, the AAATA would need to ask voters for approval again after five years.

In five years, I’ll be 54 years old. That’s pretty damn old. But that’s still 11 years away from eligibility for the AAATA’s Good as Gold senior ride program, which allows seniors (age 65 and up) to ride the regular fixed-route buses without paying a fare to board. If I were an Ann Arbor senior making just two round trips a week by bus, that would work out to $0.26 $2.60 per round trip (my $262 tax burden divided by 100 trips).

That strikes me as a bargain. If I were 65, I would fill out the application form right now.

But critics of the AAATA’s route system will sometimes contend that the routes don’t go where they need to go, or that the trip into downtown to make a transfer makes the journey too long – so making that trip cost-free doesn’t help much. There’s some merit to that criticism. No doubt it is a challenge to get from Point A to Point B using fixed-route bus service for many As and Bs in Ann Arbor.

Shared-Ride Taxi Service: Compared to Standard Cab

But here’s an under-appreciated fact about the Good as Gold program: It allows seniors to call and order same-day shared-ride taxi service – for $4 one-way and $4 for the return trip.  Think about that for just a second: If you’re a senior in Ann Arbor, you can make a phone call and get door-to-door transportation service – to your destination and back – for just $8. If you can plan things out a day in advance, you can save $1 for each leg of the trip for a total cost of $6.

It’s fair to point out that the Good as Gold service is different from a standard cab for hire: Your ride will often be shared with others; the vehicle cannot wait for you while you make a stop; and the assistance that the driver can provide is limited.

How does Good as Gold compare to calling a standard cab? Let’s consider an actual trip. Let’s say I wanted to travel from my house on the Old West Side to the University of Michigan School of Public Policy to attend a mayoral candidate forum.

At the maximum rate set by the city of Ann Arbor, which many taxi companies charge, that would be $3 to get in and $2.50 a mile, or $3 + $3.25 (for 1.3 miles) = $6.25. If I don’t want to pay for the waiting time  – and I don’t, because it would be $24 per hour – that works out to $13 round trip. Compared to the $6 a senior could pay in the Good as Gold program (reserving one day in advance) that’s a $7 savings.

Shared-Ride Taxi Service: Compared to Car Ownership

But that’s a $7 savings compared to a cab ride, not compared to a personal car, the preferred mode of many seniors. So let’s assume a roughly $9,100 average cost to own and operate a car for 15,000 miles – a number that comes from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation for 2012.

How much would it cost annually to take one round trip a day under the Good as Gold program – assuming none of those trips were planned a day in advance? It works out to $2,920 ($8 times 365 ) + $262 (my tax burden) =  $3,182 a year. Otherwise put, the cost of taking those trips with the AAATA’s Good as Gold program is about one-third the cost of owning and operating an automobile.

Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison for senior couples, whose $9,100 annual cost of owning and operating a car covers both of their trips. But even if we double the cost under Good as Gold – to account for the trips of each member of the couple – that’s still just two-thirds the amount it takes to own and operate a car.

What More Could You Want?

The 0.7 mill tax is supposed to pay for a five-year transportation improvement plan. But the Good as Gold program exists now. Does the senior shared-ride taxi service get any better if the millage is approved?  Yes.

The hours of operation for the shared-ride taxi service run parallel to the hours of operation for fixed-route service. So in every instance where the five-year improvement plan indicates hours of service being extended later into the evenings or on weekends, the shared-taxi service runs later into the evenings or on weekends. Wherever there is additional geographic area added in the service improvement plan, the shared-taxi service will follow.

But I Am Not a Senior

Readers who know me, or perhaps just know of me, might wonder why I am championing the cause of senior public transportation riders – and not just because I am not a senior. Some readers might know that I routinely haul loads upwards of 100 pounds on my bicycle cargo tailer, so I do not seem to suffer from mobility issues.

But every once in a while, life gives you a sneak preview of what it might be like to be older and less dynamic. Over the weekend three weeks ago, my lower back seized up into an angry block of tissue. I could not sit, stand or even roll over in bed without hitting a 10 on the pain scale. After 12 hours of pain-med therapy at the University of Michigan hospital’s observation unit, I was able to stand up and walk. But I still had to plan out every movement, slow and steady.

On my calendar that week was the first mayoral candidate forum – held at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy. I was feeling feeble and unsteady, so walking and bicycling weren’t an option. So I took the bus – the #12 down Liberty to Blake Transit Center downtown. It turned out that I had narrowly missed the #6 bus connection I needed to continue to the Ford School.

Waiting the half hour for the next #6 bus wasn’t the end of the world – because I’d allowed some time for unplanned mishap and mayhem. I waited sitting on a bench outside on Fourth Avenue, soaking up the warmth of a sunny spring day. Eventually the #6 rolled up, I boarded, and I arrived on time for the mayoral forum.

The AAATA got me where I needed to go that day – but so what? What difference would the proposed 0.7 mill tax have made for that trip? The answer: 15 minutes. The proposed service improvements for Route #6 – to be paid for with the additional tax – include service every 15 minutes, not just every half hour. So for that specific trip, I would have reduced my waiting time by 15 minutes. A 15-minute difference can be important, especially if you have to make that trip every day – because not every day is sunny and warm.


Sunny warm days in Ann Arbor turn to gray, icy wind soon enough. And even though I am young and strong now, I will be older and decrepit soon enough. So I’m voting yes, for older people now – and for my future, decrepit self.

The Chronicle could not survive without regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already on board The Chronicle bus, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!


  1. By Matthew Naud
    May 4, 2014 at 8:39 am | permalink

    I was unaware of the broad range of transit services provided by AAATA until we needed them. For several years the A-Ride program picked up my mother-in-law who lived with us and had early onset dementia. Three times a week a driver arrived at our house at 9 to take her to the Silver Club program (which I highly recommend) and at 3 took her back to our home and walked her into the house. Each ride was $3. We didn’t have to leave work early and had the peace of mind that she would be brought safely back home. This probably saved me 3 hours a week for 50 weeks. Assuming your time is worth $20/hr, that works out to $3,000 per year.

  2. May 4, 2014 at 10:29 am | permalink

    It is customary to indicate any perceived conflict of interests. This publication has had an abundant paid advertising from AAATA.

    I to would support expansion of bus service in AA. This can be done without a 33% tax increase.

    I would be more supportive of this millage (I am voting no) if we didn’t have all the questionable spending for transit in AA.

    For example: the ‘Sewer to Nowhere’ $2M for a Fuller Park Station not supported by the voters, which violated federal environmental study requirements; $2M for County wide planning that failed because no one first picked up the phone to ask if there was support; City/UM behind closed door agreement for the station in the Fuller Park; Wally planning for UM workers with little UM funding support and $2M/Y taxpayer operating costs; AA bus (UM) Connector service without real UM funding support; Buses that have gotten worse over the years; $8M+ station with little or no real improvements for bus users.

    I would support: better buses, more buses, electric buses, covered bus stops and better service. Most of this is not covered in the new millage.

    We need more logical planning before we pay for more for these services. We use the bus very often and support mass transit but only when it is logical for the users of the service.

  3. May 4, 2014 at 10:47 am | permalink

    I’m very excited about this millage. For me, AAATA is very close to being useful for every day use, but not quite there. Just a few more 15 minute headways, better weekend service, and fewer detours would do it for me, and that’s exactly what this millage will provide.

  4. May 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm | permalink

    I already voted yesterday and I voted yes. Even though I don’t ride the bus much, I am more than happy to subsidize others. It’s kind of like when I pay $5 to TOP instead of $3 to sort of make up for someone who can’t pay anything.

    The problem–and I don’t know what to do about this–are the NFMW (not from my wallet) folks. People just don’t want to help others be it through a tax, millage, whatever–end of story. It’s the “up by your bootstraps” mentality that seems to have strangleholded (is that a verb? it is now) at least one major political party.

  5. By Larry Baird
    May 4, 2014 at 1:45 pm | permalink

    Dave, sorry to hear about your back problem. I know your not trying to change my mind, but your article did create some questions which I am not sure you or the AAATA can answer quite yet.

    I am wondering what the long-term financial impacts/expenses will be of both the “good as gold” and shared-taxi services being extended to a much larger and aging geographic area?

    A taxi ride into downtown from Ypsilanti Twp. will cost the AAATA considerably more than a ride in from the west side, yet both fares will be the same $8/$6 roundtrip?

    Also, the “townie” population is getting older so each year more and more will eventually qualify for a free ride, how will this impact the paid fare revenue projections?

    For you and I the 5 year millage will have to be approved/renewed three separate times before we are “good as gold”. I have nothing against seniors riding for free if the plan is financially sustainable. However, when I look at the AAATA’s 30 year plan along with the rise in expenses to be incurred with the expanded service area, I do not expect this to be the last request for a tax increase.

  6. May 4, 2014 at 2:19 pm | permalink

    I am voting yes for the greater good, because I know people who depend very much on the bus, even though service to my neck of the woods is barely improved at all. Which makes me wonder–did AAATA even ask for enough funding?

    I didn’t know about the impact of the Headlee amendment on the original millage. Will it affect this millage? Also, Larry (above) has some good questions about long-term projections.

  7. May 4, 2014 at 2:24 pm | permalink

    The original reason that AATA was formed was because of a citizen initiative (1973) that was aimed at providing transportation for those unable to use a car. (No, the ballot language did not include any restriction to that use.) For many of us, making such transportation available is a major reason to maintain a city transit system. I became very aware of that when I broke an ankle ten years ago and couldn’t drive. This is when I also became aware of the serious limitations of our existing bus system. (You can’t get to many places unless you go through the downtown, and then those transfer times are an issue.)

    The free senior passes don’t cost the AAATA anything, assuming that buses are never completely full. I am an old (not too decrepit yet) senior who uses one of those passes, but I’ve never taken up a seat from a fare-paying passenger yet. The justification for free bus travel is to encourage seniors and others not to use the taxi-type service, which is much more expensive.

    As long as we offer fixed-route bus service, the demand service must be offered alongside it, according to current Federal guidelines. It really helps that we get those Federal and state subsidies. Of course, the Federal transportation bill (MAP-21) has not yet been renewed (expires October 1) and the trust fund that pays for both roads and transit is almost zeroed out. So I hope that the money is there, even over the next 5 years. And I wish that AAATA would stop running at a deficit, whether or not the millage succeeds. We really should conserve transit funds for that rainy day.

  8. May 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm | permalink

    I’m voting no. I don’t feel the necessity of a taxpayer subsidy for growth, or a taxpayer subsidy for the parking needs of downtown businesses.

    Also, the “yes” campaign has been problematic. The AAATA has bought political materials with public funds, and has sent staff into local businesses to lobby for “yes” votes.

    In case anyone is still on the fence, have a look at the “yes” campaign’s ad on page A2 of today’s AA News. It has a picture of Ted Annis and a quote from him taken out of context. This is a new recent low for local campaigns.

  9. By Luis Vazquez
    May 4, 2014 at 3:27 pm | permalink

    I, for one, would love to see A2Chronicle poll all of the city council candidates on this issue, it would help me to make an informed decision come the primary.

  10. By Libby Hunter
    May 4, 2014 at 3:31 pm | permalink

    Lou Glorie has an interesting take on the transit millage. She submitted an LTE to mlive which they published and quickly buried. I’ve heard long time residents say they’ve never seen so much money being spent on a campaign (More Buses.) And, it’s our money being used to persuade us! AAATA has been at it for 3-5 years. It seems that a truly well-run bus system would not need millions in advertising.
    Lou’s letter: [link]

  11. By Leslie Morris
    May 4, 2014 at 4:14 pm | permalink

    David Cahill,

    I am on the other side in supporting the transit millage, but I strongly agree with you that the campaign ad you refer to is improper and potentially misleading. Ted Annis is quoted accurately, but the information that he does not support the millage is given in tiny print, while the VOTE YES message is in huge print. We should discourage this sort of campaigning on either side of any issue.

  12. By jeff alson
    May 4, 2014 at 4:48 pm | permalink

    The No proponents seem to want to talk about everything but the merits of the millage.

    In response to the comment from Mr. Cahill, I just read today’s Yes ad in The Ann Arbor News. I cannot understand his unexplained comment that it represents a “new recent low.” It simply provides a direct quote from Mr. Annis (or did Mr. Annis not say this?) and then clearly states that Mr. Annis and Better Transit Now urge a No vote (obviously true). So, there should be no confusion about where he stands, unless you are confused by his own words which use the “more buses more places more often” tag line of our Yes side. If this makes Mr. Annis look ridiculous, well, that is the risk you take when you appear to be saying two diametrically opposite things and, in fact, you claim to support the goals of the other side.

    Ms. Hunter says that the Glorie piece was “buried.” Not so. Earlier today, hours before I read Ms. Hunter’s comment, I saw the Glorie piece featured in a boxed set of articles about the millage on the website.

    There has been much misinformation by the No’s. Here are two of Better Transit Now’s “top five” reasons to vote no from its website:

    1)”More empty buses will not reduce traffic or save energy.” Where is the evidence of empty buses? Based on objective, national studies, AAATA has much higher ridership than its peers. Of course, buses start empty when they begin a route. I live near the beginning of 2C, and got on a near-empty bus recently, and by the time it arrived at Central Campus it had between 50 and 60 people. Why does Better Transit Now use the canard of “empty buses”?

    2)”No more funds for grandiose transit schemes.” What are the grandiose schemes? Most will infer that this means rail, but AAATA has documented what it will do with the millage funds and not a penny will be spent on rail. Why does Better Transit Now suggest otherwise?

    I am one homeowner who will happily pay a little more in taxes to improve our excellent bus system. It is essential for people who need the bus, because they cannot afford to or cannot legally drive, and it is good for the community in terms of economic growth, congestion and parking, and pollution.

  13. By Vote No!
    May 4, 2014 at 10:08 pm | permalink

    No more dirty buses. I am voting “No”. People cannot afford to live in Ann Arbor because of the taxes. Whether you rent or buy a home, you are paying taxes in your payment. We have enough buses.

    VOTE NO!

  14. By kittybkahn
    May 5, 2014 at 12:35 am | permalink

    Dave, you state: If I were an Ann Arbor senior making just two round trips a week by bus, that would work out to $0.26 per round trip (my $262 tax burden divided by 100 trips).

    By my calculations, $262 divided by 100 would come out to $2.62/trip.

  15. By Jeff Hayner
    May 5, 2014 at 7:24 am | permalink

    Voting yes because you want to put the costs of subsidizing your transit choices on the 90% of the community who does not use mass transit? Selfish. Less than 10% of the population of Washtenaw County uses the AAATA, but all of us pay for it. And now we are supposed to pay more? The cost per ride continues to climb, even though ridership is up. The average fare remains steady at $0.90. Of course it looks like a good deal for your aging mind and body, every time you take a single fixed route ride, your cost is between $0.00 and $1.50 while the taxpayers are picking up the other $3.00. Good deal if you can get it, especially good if you can use public funds and local media, including this publication, to convince a small percentage of the voters in a May election it is worth it. A shameful money grab, which will not be having my support.

  16. May 5, 2014 at 8:18 am | permalink

    Taking quotes out of context and using photos of the opposition are tactics I would expect of Congressional Republicans.

  17. May 5, 2014 at 9:13 am | permalink

    Re: “By my calculations, $262 divided by 100 would come out to $2.62/trip”

    Yes, thanks, I’ve corrected that.

  18. May 5, 2014 at 9:50 am | permalink

    Jeff Hayner writes: “Of course it looks like a good deal for your aging mind and body, every time you take a single fixed route ride, your cost is between $0.00 and $1.50 while the taxpayers are picking up the other $3.00.”

    Jeff, the canard of the “ever-increasing cost per ride” was debunked on a different thread. What the graph actually shows is that during a period when the ridership was increasing at its highest rate, the cost per ride decreased. Current cost per fixed route ride for the five-month period ending in February is $3.56. The part not covered by fares for someone who pays the full cash fare is about $2.

    Further, the rhetorical tactic of trying to set this issue up as “taxpayers versus bus riders” is unnecessarily divisive at the same time it is factually inaccurate. Bus riders are living somewhere, so they’re either paying property taxes directly, or through their rent payments out of which their landlords pay property taxes. There is no “us versus them” here: It’s just us. It sounds like you’ve got your own transportation needs covered, because you can afford to own and operate your own automobile – but it sounds like you resent the fact that your taxes support those who can’t afford to own and operate an automobile or else choose to make the roads incrementally less congested for you in your car when they choose to ride the bus. I’d encourage you at least to think about whether bus riders deserve that kind of resentment, even if you decide to vote no.

  19. By David Widmayer
    May 5, 2014 at 10:03 am | permalink

    Jeff Hayner: It’s disingenuous to refer to transit “choices.” People don’t “choose” their economic class or medical status. You seem to be suggesting that riding the bus is a form of privilege, but it’s actually the opposite. Those of us who mostly drive are the privileged ones, and it’s our moral responsibility to recognize and correct for our disparity in privilege. Personally, I’d like to see parking fees dramatically raised to subsidize public transit and discourage people from driving all the time. But lacking that policy option, which would be a true non-starter with the wealthier population of Ann Arbor, I will of course vote in favor of this modest millage.

  20. By jeff alson
    May 5, 2014 at 10:21 am | permalink

    Dave, I agree completely with you that it is illogical to portray this as “tax payers versus bus riders.” We all pay taxes, either directly or indirectly. And to call transit supporters “selfish” is just hyperbole. As a car driver myself, I know that we car drivers have been the selfish ones, we have successfully designed the entire transportation system around our needs. Bus systems get bread crumbs. And it is hypocritical to expect a bus service to pay for itself. We car drivers do not pay the full cost of our driving–-construction and maintenance of our national road system cost trillons of dollars of public monies (far beyond gasoline taxes, and nobody asked me whether I wanted to pay for that), oil and auto companies have been heavily subsidized, and we don’t pay the full health and environmental costs due to air pollution and carbon emissions. In addition, every time somebody takes the bus instead of driving a car, we car drivers benefit in terms of reduced congestion, lower risk of accident, more parking, and less oil consumption and pollution.

    Re: Dave Cahill’s concern over the Sunday Yes ad, the ad is very clear that Mr. Annis opposes the millage. The ad simply exposes Mr. Annis’ attempt to both support “more buses more places more often” while leading the public opposition to the millage. If he did not want to be exposed for this hypocrisy, he could have avoided it completely by simply not using those six words that are the centerpiece of the Yes campaign. He obviously made a conscious decision to use those six words in order to try to confuse the public. The ad helps clarify the choice for voters.

  21. May 5, 2014 at 10:29 am | permalink

    I’m happy to pay transit taxes so that others can ride. I disagree with the model of paying only for societal benefits that I personally use. But then, I’m a communitarian. I also know that the success of a transit system (which we may all find we need at some point) depends on a reasonable cost ratio so that people don’t avoid using the bus because of the expense.

    What worries me is when those taxes are used to expand the system in an unsustainable way. Michael Ford has said that the Transit Master Plan (TMP) 30-year plan is still operative. The implementation of that plan calls for “an increase from 18% of cost coverage (farebox recovery) in 2010 to around 30% by 2040″ (see p.16, [link]). These fare increases will be needed to pay for capital projects surrounding commuter rail and high-capacity systems (i.e. the Connector), as well as extension of express bus service to distant locations. (The TMP plan also calls for public/private partnerships, which demand revenue, and Federal transportation funding is increasingly based on loans, not grants. The plan calls out the TIFIA program, for example.)

    In other words, I fear that this measure will ultimately mean an increase in fares, so that transit becomes less affordable. Why? Because it is the first step in implementation of the broader regional plan.

  22. By Libby Hunter
    May 5, 2014 at 11:44 am | permalink

    Usually, when someone asks for more money, they have to show that they’ve been responsible with the money they already have but this shows the opposite.

    (and for comparisons, the second link is Madison, WI (notice how Madison’s cost per mile is falling yearly, whereas AAATA keeps rising)


  23. By Joel Batterman
    May 5, 2014 at 2:11 pm | permalink

    Luis: I don’t know where the Council candidates stand, but I culled these statements from the Chronicle transcript of the recent mayoral candidate forum, available at this link: [link]

    Kunselman: “As mayor, we need to support local transit…Commuter rail to Detroit when the City of Detroit went from 2 million people down to less than 700,000 or so – it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to a broader range of people. ”

    Petersen: “I am saying I am leaning towards supporting [the local transit millage] right now, but I am a little bit still on the fence…I live in a ward where there is quite a bit of opposition to the transit millage…[on pedestrian safety ordinance] We need to look at other solutions other than requiring cars to stop for pedestrians waiting on the crosswalk.”

    Taylor: “I believe that more buses more often is a good and I am a hearty supporter of the upcoming millage…I think also the mayor has a role in supporting and moving forward the conversation about expanded rail services to the city…Folks from the west, from the north, coming into town, not driving, coming into employment centers, this is great for us all.”

    Briere: “Public transit is not a local issue. Public transit is a regional issue. It’s about people coming to Ann Arbor, people leaving Ann Arbor. It’s about the relationships between the various communities in southeast Michigan. It is the mayor’s obligation to see the big picture…And then, if you can’t support transit, then there is something really seriously wrong.”

  24. By Mary Morgan
    May 5, 2014 at 3:12 pm | permalink

    Re. Sally Petersen’s “I am a little bit still on the fence….”

    Two days later, at a May 1 mayoral candidate forum hosted by the Main Street Area Association, Petersen came out in support of the millage: “I am happy to say that I am supporting the millage on May 6 and will vote yes. We need better public transportation to alleviate parking issues downtown.”

  25. By Luis Vazquez
    May 5, 2014 at 3:57 pm | permalink

    Thanks Joel and Mary, I am aware of the mayoral candidates’ positions from having read all of the local news items on the Transit Millage and mayoral race. In particular, I would like to know the position of my First Ward CM Sumi Kailasapathy and her opponent Don Adams Jr., but I think it would be useful for all of Ann Arbor’s voters to know what their current CM’s and potential future CM’s positions are on an issue of such importance to the entire community. Council approves AAATA Board members after mayoral appointments, so it is important to know where they stand on this millage.

    The only other indication I have seen recently is 5th Ward candidate Leon Bryson’s opinion piece in the Ann Arbor News, in which he asks for more open, civil dialogue, but does not express his own opinion regarding support of or opposition to the millage itself.

  26. By Jack Eaton
    May 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm | permalink

    I have promised to stay neutral on the transit millage. I can see the reasons why opponents are against this millage and the reasons proponents are for the millage.

    The AAATA is a Public Act 55 transit authority. PA 55 requires transit authorities to seek renewal of their millage at least every 5 years. By doing so, the transit authority must ask voters: “How are we doing?”

    The AATA (and now AAATA) has historically received its funding through our City Charter transit millage, which does not require renewal. Thus, AATA has never had to face a millage renewal or ask about what voters think of their performance.

    I think this is an opportunity for elected officials to step back and listen to what the voters have to say about AAATA and this millage. What better way to learn what the voters think than to let them vote as they wish on a ballot issue like this?

    With all of the high powered endorsements, we may not be able to get a clear picture of what voters really think. Looking at the endorsement list, it seems a lot like the list of library bond supporters. If the millage fails, will it be attributed to the list of supporters? If the millage prevails, can it be taken as a clear expression of support for the efficacy of the AAATA?

    I was disappointed to receive a mailing from the millage proponents that characterized the opposition as Tea Party members. I thought we learned last year that name calling of that kind is wholly ineffective. Why can’t we have civil discussion of issues?

  27. By Peter Zetlin
    May 5, 2014 at 4:56 pm | permalink

    With a massive multi year expansion/marketing campaign and a low turnout special election, plus a lack of balanced opinions from politicians who have spoken about the millage, it will be difficult to characterize the vote as representing the informed opinion of a significant number of AA residents.

    So far, no public official who has any doubt about the millage has been willing to say anything. AAATA and its companions in millage promotion have emphasized that if you’re not for the millage, you’re not a worthwhile person.

    If, after all this pumping, the millage doesn’t pass, it’s going to be a slap in the face for the subsided growth coalition.

  28. May 5, 2014 at 5:53 pm | permalink

    I am paying for the roads, with 2.125 mills city tax, and a state gas tax, and I am paying for the buses with 2.06 mills city tax, which might be increased to 2.76 mills; and each time someone rides the bus at an AAATA stated average fare of $0.90 I am paying my portion of the difference between the actual cost of that fare and what the user pays – my portion of $2.66/ride – at 6.6 million rides per year – to use your numbers Dave, which are not reflected in the National Transit Database – and somehow this is not enough to absolve myself of the “moral crime” of driving a small-body work truck instead of taking the bus? Give me a break.

    The largest population of bus users are those who can, indeed, afford the small fare increase that would be more than enough to cover the free rides given to those who have no other choice. A small fare increase, combined with more efficient operation would also pay for the minor expansions of the system asked for. Downtown commuters, and University employees – are these the people who have no other choice? No, they ride because it’s a good deal, since their commute is subsidized by the rest of us.

    And what of the other communities who need economic development opportunity and transit operating funds more than Ann Arbor? What about cities like Flint, Detroit, and Saginaw? Is it not selfish of our transit users and transit authority to demand MORE! – to raise and spend as much money as possible -adding on to an already decent system -even though this takes State and Federal matching funds away from other more needy communities? How is this not selfish? More Buses! More Places! More Tax Dollars! Give us More! Sounds pretty selfish to me.

  29. May 5, 2014 at 7:23 pm | permalink

    According to campaign finance reports, on Friday the “yes” campaign received a $10,000.00 contribution from DTE Energy!

  30. By Jose Galofre
    May 5, 2014 at 10:51 pm | permalink

    As a former resident of Miami-Dade county, I say that AAATA bus routes are “backward”s compared to the bus routes in Miami-Dade county. (For the sake of bus route comparison, here’s the link: then click on bus icon at that website for bus routes.)

    Are you happy with the current bus routes? Are you satisfied with the current bus routes? Let’s AAATA forward…NOT BACKWARDS!! Let’s vote YES for the bus route expansion!

    Looking ahead to a new name for AAATA…WCTA (Washtenaw County Transit Agency)!

  31. By Steve Bean
    May 6, 2014 at 8:04 am | permalink

    @30: My guess is that they’ll go with the “A2″ branding at some point, with “A2ATA”. In any case, I think the easiest pronunciation is like “atta”, as in “atta boy!”