Stories indexed with the term ‘2014 snowstorm’

5-Year Transit Plan: Possible Tax Vote Soon

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (Jan. 16, 2014): The board’s one substantive voting item on its agenda was the adoption of a five-year transit improvement plan. The unanimous vote came after a staff presentation and public commentary from three people, who all expressed support for the improvement program.

Yellow lines indicate routes along which the AAATA is planning frequency improvements as a part of its five-year transit improvement plan.

Yellow lines indicate routes along which the AAATA is planning frequency improvements as part of its five-year transit improvement plan. (Image links to .pdf of full presentation given to the board on Jan. 16, 2014)

Generally, the improvements include increased frequency during peak hours, extended service in the evenings, and additional service on weekends. Some looped routes are being replaced with out-and-back type route configurations. The plan does not include operation of rail-based services. The AAATA has calculated that the improvements in service add up to 90,000 additional service hours per year, compared to the current service levels, which is a 44% increase.

The AAATA refers to the plan in its communications as the 5YTIP. A draft five-year plan was presented to the public in a series of 13 meetings in the fall of 2013. Changes to the five-year plan made in response to public feedback were included in the board’s information packet for the Jan. 16 meeting. [.pdf of memo and 5-year improvement plan] [.pdf of presentation made to the board on Jan. 16]

The plan indicates that $5,456,191 of additional local revenue would be required to fund the expanded services. Implementation of the program will include a request to voters sometime in 2014 for an additional transit millage, likely at the level of 0.7 mills.

The two city members of the AAATA – Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti – already levy a dedicated transit millage of their own, which would stay in place if voters in the AAATA’s three-jurisdiction area approved a 0.7 mill tax. For Ann Arbor, the rate for the existing millage is 2.056 mills, which is expected to generate a little over $10 million by 2019, the fifth year of the transportation improvement plan. For the city of Ypsilanti, the rate for the existing transit millage is 0.9789, which is expected to generate about $314,000 in 2019. For the owner of an Ann Arbor house with market value of $200,000 and taxable value of $100,000, a 0.7 mill tax translates into $70 annually, which would be paid in addition to the existing transit millage that translates to about $200 annually.

The transit improvement program also calls for an additional $1,087,344 to come from purchase of service agreements (POSAs), based on increased service hours in Pittsfield, Saline, and Superior townships.

At the Jan. 16 meeting, board chair Charles Griffith indicated that he felt the board would be taking the next step on implementing the program very soon. That indicates a probable vote on the millage question at the next board meeting, on Feb. 20. If the board voted then to put a millage question on the ballot, that would be in time to meet the Feb. 25 deadline for a millage request to be placed on the May 6, 2014 ballot.

A new millage would be decided by a majority vote of all three member jurisdictions of the AAATA. The two Ypsilanti jurisdictions were added as members of the AAATA just last year. The Ann Arbor city council voted to approve changes to the AAATA’s articles of incorporation – to admit the city and the township of Ypsilanti as members – at its June 3, 2013 and Nov. 18, 2013 meetings, respectively.

Even though the vote on the five-year transit improvement program seemed to be enthusiastically embraced by most everyone in the board room, that was not what prompted people to start clapping at the Jan. 16 meeting. The applause was reserved for the management and driver performance during the recent snowstorm. Board member Jack Bernard and likely future board appointee Larry Krieg both based their praise for drivers on their own trips using the bus. Praise for AAATA drivers during the inclement weather also came from bus rider Jim Mogensen during public commentary. And CEO Michael Ford highlighted the performance of AAATA’s manager of transportation Ron Copeland, as well as that of drivers and the rest of the AAATA staff.

The board also received routine updates on a range of issues. Those included ridership, which is now essentially flat on the fixed-route service compared to last year. The new Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor is expected to be open for use by the second week in February. Concepts for two finalists for the BTC public art project – which will be incorporated into the new building – will be on display at the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library from Jan. 20 through Feb. 3. The downtown library is located across the street from the BTC. [Full Story]

Jackson & Wagner

Eastbound Jackson east of Wagner is broken up pavement most of the way along the seam between the road and the bicycle lane. [photo] Freeze-thaw cycle is working its magic. Current temperature: 33 F.

Cold City Cash for Edwards Brothers Land?

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Jan. 6, 2014): On a bitter cold night, Ann Arbor city councilmembers ended their first regular meeting of the year with an item not originally on their agenda. They passed a resolution that directs city administrator Steve Powers and city attorney Stephen Postema to gather information to help the city council determine whether to purchase the 16.7-acre Edwards Brothers Malloy property on South State Street.

Graph from showing the -12 F temperature at the start of the city council meeting.

Graph from showing the -12 F temperature at the start of the Jan. 6, 2014 city council meeting. (Image links to

The direction came after the city council met in a closed session for about half an hour. Councilmembers emerged to craft and then pass the resolution. It gives direction to explore options to make the purchase financially feasible. That means finding a way to finance a $12.8 million deal. The sale of the Edwards Brothers property on South State Street is currently pending to the University of Michigan for $12.8 million, in an agreement that was announced in a Nov. 27, 2013 press release. The business – a fourth-generation Ann Arbor publishing and printing firm – had signaled its intent to put the property on the market in late July.

The topic of the possible land acquisition ties in to an upcoming Jan. 13 city council work session about economic development.

At the start of the Jan. 6 meeting, the council got an update from three key staff members about the city’s response to the snowstorm that had hit the entire Midwest over the weekend.

From public services area administrator Craig Hupy they heard an update on snowplowing, which was continuing during the meeting. From police chief John Seto, they heard an update on the police department’s support for relocating residents of a housing complex after a water pipe burst. And from Mary Jo Callan, Washtenaw County’s director of the office of community and economic development, they heard an update on efforts to address the needs of the homeless population during the freezing weather.

Concern for how the homeless were faring was the topic of eight out of nine speakers who signed up for public commentary reserved time.

In its regular business agenda, the council dispatched two items leftover from its last meeting of 2013. One of those items was the official termination of a four-year-old memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan for construction of the Fuller Road Station project. That item was voted through with little controversy, although mayor John Hieftje compared it to digging someone up who died a couple of years ago and re-burying them.

Fuller Road Station was a planned joint city/University of Michigan parking structure, bus depot and possible train station located at the city’s Fuller Park near the UM medical campus. The council had approved the MOU on Fuller Road Station at its Nov. 5, 2009 meeting on a unanimous vote. However, a withdrawal of UM from the project, which took place under terms of the MOU, was announced on Feb. 10, 2012.

The other item delayed from last year was a resolution assigning a specific cost to the removal of on-street metered parking spaces, in connection with future developments: $45,000 per space. That amount was based on the cost of constructing a new parking space in a structure. After the policy was amended during the Jan. 6 meeting, it included a requirement that lost revenue also be compensated, based on projections of revenue for the space for the next 10 years. An average parking meter in the system generates $2,000 in annual income.

Apart from those previously delayed items, the rest of the council’s agenda was mainly filled with future development.

Accounting for two of the council’s Jan. 6 voting items was Traverwood Apartments – a First Martin development on the city’s north side. The site is located on the west side of Traverwood Drive, north of Plymouth Road. The council gave final approval of some rezoning necessary for the complex of 16 two-story buildings. And on a separate vote, the council gave site plan approval and a wetland use permit associated with the apartment complex.

The council also approved the upward expansion of the Montgomery Ward building on South Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. The estimated $3.8 million project will expand the existing 17,273-square-foot building – a former Montgomery Ward’s department store – to 38,373 square feet, with housing on the second through fifth floors.

And finally, the council approved the site plan and development agreement for two restaurants at Briarwood Mall. The restaurants – one at 6,470 square feet, the other at 7,068 square feet – will be constructed on the east side of the Macy’s building. The restaurants would be operated by two chains: P.F. Chang’s and Bravo! Cucina Italiana.

As part of the consent agenda, the council approved agreements with Sprint for placing antennas at four facilities: the Plymouth Road water tower, the Manchester Road water tower, the Ann-Ashley parking structure, and the water treatment plant on Sunset Road. The contracts are being revised upwards to $45,000 a year at each location, with 4% annual escalators.

The council also approved appointments to the Ann Arbor Summer Festival board of directors.

Members of a pedestrian safety task force, established late last year, were also nominated at the meeting. A confirmation vote will come at the council’s meeting on Jan. 21. Related at least indirectly to that, city administrator Steve Powers has provided the council with the first part of his response to the council’s direction in connection with the city’s updated non-motorized transportation plan. [Full Story]

Huron & First

Apparently the Ashley Terrace owner doesn’t think anyone will be walking down this stretch of sidewalk. Looks like it hasn’t been cleared since the major snowfall, and the northeast corner is almost impassable. [photo]

Seventh & Liberty

Finished clearing sidewalk on south side of Liberty from AAATA bus stop to intersection of Seventh & Liberty. Watched as x-country skier on sidewalk from the west approached intersection, observed cleared sidewalk, and opted for the road – which was mostly snow-covered, but was well-plowed, with some pavement showing in spots.

Main Street

A group of snowmobilers just headed south down Main Street.

Beckley Park near Pontiac Trail

Six young adults packing snow into refrigerator drawers and spritzing with water to create snow bricks for an ambitious family-sized igloo.  Still working into the night, they hope to finish the domed roof on Monday.

Argo Pond

Two folks have cleared a spot on river and are making huge geometric snowballs. [photo]

Downtown Ann Arbor

Sidewalk snow removal scorecard: city of Ann Arbor for city hall and Republic Parking for adjoining public parking facilities get top marks. Everyone else is currently falling a short of a reasonable standard. Even the Main Street BIZ district looks pretty awful.

Plymouth Road

Last night around 7 p.m. I saw at least a dozen Maple Leaf fans all trudging through the unshoveled sidewalks along Plymouth Road looking very tired. I stopped to offer a ride to two of them and learned that the driver of their “promised bus” back to the Park N Ride at Plymouth and US-23 had told them (as they were dropped off at Michigan Stadium) that they would NOT be getting a ride back. Having no other options, they decided to walk. I gave them a ride and then went back and picked up two others because it was just so horrible out.

Liberty & Ashley

Eastbound traffic slogging through the snow backed up in continuous line at least to Seventh Street. Encountered several Maple Leafs fans walking eastbound, who gracefully accepted congratulations.