Stories indexed with the term ‘Act 196’

County Board Ends “Washtenaw Ride”

The Washtenaw County board of commissioners voted officially to dissolve a countywide public transit authority known as the Washtenaw Ride. The 7-1 vote took place at the board’s April 17, 2013 meeting, without discussion, and followed initial approval given on April 3. Voting against the resolution was Conan Smith (D-District 9), but he did not comment on his decision during the meeting. Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) was absent.

The Act 196 authority, created in mid-2012 and spearheaded by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, was for all practical purposes ended late last year when the Ann Arbor city council voted to opt out of the transit authority at its Nov. 8, 2012 meeting. Of the 28 municipalities in Washtenaw … [Full Story]

County Takes Step to Dissolve “Washtenaw Ride”

Taking a step officially to end an effort that stalled last year, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners has given initial approval to dissolve a countywide public transit authority known as the Washtenaw Ride. The unanimous vote took place at the board’s April 3, 2013 meeting, without discussion. A final vote is expected on April 17.

The Act 196 authority, created in mid-2012 and spearheaded by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, never gained traction and was for all practical purposes ended late last year when the Ann Arbor city council voted to opt out of the transit authority at its Nov. 8, 2012 meeting. Of the 28 municipalities in Washtenaw County, the city of Ypsilanti is the only one that … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Opts Out of Countywide Vehicle

On a 10-0 vote, the Ann Arbor city council has opted out of the new transit authority – called The Washtenaw Ride – that was incorporated on Oct. 3, 2012, a little over a month ago. Incorporation of the new transit authority under Act 196 of 1986 had been preceded by the development of a 30-year transit master plan and a five-year service plan by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, over a more than two-year period.

At the Nov. 8, 2012 council meeting, when the Ann Arbor opt-out vote took place, Jane Lumm (Ward 2) described the effort that had gone into planning for The Washtenaw Ride as a colossal waste of time and money. Carsten … [Full Story]

End of Road for County Transit Effort?

The expansion of transit services throughout Washtenaw County appears to be taking turn away from some specific approaches that have been intensively discussed for the last couple of years.

Act 196 Transit Authority

Possible action by the Ann Arbor city council this week could lead to dissolution of a newly incorporated Act 196 transit authority – called The Washtenaw Ride – just as it is emerging.

At its Nov. 8 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council is now scheduled to vote on the question of opting out of a newly incorporated countywide transit authority – an initiative that the city of Ann Arbor had been expected to help lead. With Ann Arbor’s withdrawal, this particular approach to expanding transportation services would be effectively ended.

Update: The Ann Arbor city council did decide to opt out of the transit authority, on a 10-0 vote taken at the Nov. 8 meeting.

And the topic of transit has already been raised at the post-election Nov. 7 meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. Dan Smith, a Republican who represents District 2 covering northern parts of the county, had been prepared to introduce two transit-related resolutions at the meeting, but wound up placing only one of them on the agenda. The one he brought forward was a proposal to rescind support for a metro Detroit regional transit authority (RTA) – which the board had given in September of 2011. Although board chair Conan Smith has been a champion of legislation to enable an RTA, Dan Smith’s resolution passed on a 6-4 vote.

More significantly, Smith had also considered bringing forward a resolution to dissolve The Washtenaw Ride, a new countywide transit authority created under Act 196 of 1986 when the county filed articles of incorporation last month with the state. [.pdf of resolution to dissolve The Washtenaw Ride]

The Oct. 3 filing was undertaken as part of a four-party transit agreement between the county, the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which is leading this initiative. Since then, all but five of the 28 municipalities in the county have voted to opt out of the new authority. However, those that are still participating include several of the county’s largest population centers: Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, and Saline.

Dan Smith’s resolution indicated that because so few municipalities are participating, the Act 196 authority should be dissolved. He held off introducing it, however, in part because of pending action by the Ann Arbor city council the next day. As The Chronicle reported in mid-October, Ann Arbor city councilmember Stephen Kunselman had said he planned to pursue the possibility of Ann Arbor opting out – because he felt he’d have the required six-vote majority after the new city councilmembers are sworn in on Nov. 19.

But now the city council will take up the issue of withdrawing from the new transit authority at its Nov. 8 meeting. And that withdrawal will be accomplished with the support of at least some of those on the council who previously advocated to expand the AATA’s governance and service area through incorporation of the new authority. A resolution on withdrawal of Ann Arbor from the Act 196 authority was added to the Nov. 8, 2012 agenda the day before the meeting – sponsored by not just Kunselman, but also mayor John Hieftje, and councilmembers Sabra Briere, Christopher Taylor and Marcia Higgins. That indicates the city council’s resolution on withdrawal is almost certain to pass.

Under the terms of the four-party agreement, once the city of Ann Arbor withdraws from the Act 196 authority, the city can terminate the entire agreement. The council’s resolution indicates encouragement to the AATA to continue to work towards regional transportation, but not with the mechanism of this Act 196 authority.  [Full Story]

County Likely To Send Out Transit Notice

It appears that Washtenaw County will now be the entity sending out an official letter to local municipalities in early November, informing them that the official 30-day “opt out” period for leaving the new Washtenaw Ride transit authority will start at that time. Curtis Hedger – the attorney for Washtenaw County – informed county commissioners of that news at their Oct. 17, 2012 meeting, in response to a query from commissioner Wes Prater.

Many commissioners expressed surprise at the county’s involvement in this way. Previously, the expectation was that the county would not be involved in the process after filing articles of incorporation – which occurred on Oct. 3 at the request of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. The Washtenaw Ride is … [Full Story]

Positions Open: New Transit Authority Board

Articles of incorporation for a new Act 196 transit authority, called The Washtenaw Ride, were filed with the state last week, on Oct. 3, 2012. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority had hoped the new authority’s board would convene on Oct. 11, but that meeting was cancelled because key appointments to that board have not yet been made.

Simultaneous service on the 15-member Washtenaw Ride (Act 196) board and the AATA board generated legal questions.

Simultaneous service on the 15-member Washtenaw Ride (Act 196) board and the seven-member AATA board generated legal questions. (Illustration by The Chronicle.)

It was previously assumed that the seven Ann Arbor appointments to the new authority’s 15-member board would serve simultaneously on AATA’s board. Now, it appears that different appointments will be made.

Responding to an emailed query from The Chronicle, Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje wrote late Friday afternoon: “On Monday night [at the council's Oct. 15 meeting] I will put out a call for applications to serve on the 196 Board. I will not be appointing anyone to that board who would also sit on the AATA Board.”

An application for all city boards and commissions is available on the city clerk’s website.

An informal 15-member group has been meeting as the board of the unincorporated authority for around a year. Some members of the AATA board and many others had assumed that upon incorporation, the informal group would become automatically installed as the board of the new Act 196 authority. However, that won’t be the case. Ann Arbor’s seven representatives to the new authority’s board first need to be nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the city council – under terms of a four-party agreement ratified between the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the AATA.

More significantly, according to several sources, the apparent current view of the Ann Arbor city attorney’s office is that service on the AATA board is not legally compatible with simultaneous service on the board of the new transit authority. So appointing seven Ann Arbor members to the new authority’s board would require nominating seven individuals who are different from those who might continue to serve on the seven-member AATA board.

Another issue apparently identified by the city attorney’s office is the fact that Act 196 of 1986 refers to an additional 30-day window for a jurisdiction in the county to opt out of inclusion in the new transit authority – a window that has not yet opened. Letters of notification sent by the AATA in late September to all jurisdictions in the county referred to a statutory 30-day window starting with the filing of the articles of incorporation. But Act 196 also requires that the new transit authority itself notify jurisdictions, which also triggers a 30-day window for opting out. The statute makes clear that it’s the later of the two windows that is relevant. Because the new transit authority does not yet have a seated board, it has not yet acted to notify jurisdictions countywide.

In any case, some jurisdictions have already opted out of the new Act 196 authority. The Northfield Township clerk’s office responded to a Chronicle phone query with confirmation that on Oct. 9, the township board decided to withdraw from the new authority on a 4-0 vote. The Chronicle has as-yet-unconfirmed reports that the boards of Salem Township and Manchester Township have also voted to opt out.

Another wrinkle: The change in composition of the Ann Arbor city council after the Nov. 6 election. Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) has told The Chronicle that he would like to pursue the possibility of Ann Arbor opting out – and he thinks there might be six votes on the new council to accomplish that. If Ann Arbor opted out, it would effectively end the initiative. [Full Story]

AATA 5-Year Program: May 2013 Tax Vote?

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority special board meeting (Sept. 5, 2012): At a meeting called for the purpose of ratifying and releasing the final draft of a 5-year service plan, the four members of the AATA board who attended voted unanimously to approve its release. [.pdf of final 5-year transit program] Publication of the 5-year plan is a required part of the AATA’s possible transition into a new transit authority with a broader governance and service area – to be called The Washtenaw Ride.

AATA board table Sept. 5, 2012

Several members of the unincorporated Act 196 board attended the AATA’s Sept. 5 special board meeting. Clockwise from the near left corner of the table: Bob Mester (U196 West District – trustee, Lyndon Township); David Read (U196 North Middle District – trustee, Scio Township); Peter Murdock (U196 Ypsilanti District – councilmember, city of Ypsilanti); Roger Kerson, Charles Griffith, and Jesse Bernstein (AATA board members); Michael Ford (AATA CEO), David Nacht (AATA board);  Karen Lovejoy Roe (U196 Southeast District – clerk, Ypsilanti Township); and Bill Lavery (U196 South Middle District – resident, York Township).

According to a press release announcing the 5-year service plan’s final draft, a millage to support The Washtenaw Ride could be placed on the ballot by May 2013.

The estimated cost of the service in the plan is now 0.584 mills, an increase of 0.084 mills compared to the estimated cost in a draft plan that was released in April. Compared to the draft plan, the final version also includes several additional services, which were added based on input from district advisory committees (DACs).

The 5-year service plan includes: (1) countywide demand-responsive services and feeder services; (2) express bus services and local transit hub services; (3) local community connectors and local community circulators; (4) park-and-ride intercept lots; and (5) urban bus network enhancements. For Ann Arbor, the program includes increased bus frequencies on key corridors, increased operating hours, and more services on weekends. According to the Sept. 5 press release, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti will get a 56% increase in service hours compared to current levels.

The possible transition from the AATA to The Washtenaw Ride will take place under the framework of a four-party agreement between the city of Ypsilanti, the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and the AATA.

The other vote taken by the AATA board at its Sept. 5 meeting stemmed from a formal protest in connection with the AATA’s award of a contract for handling advertising on its buses – to CBS Outdoor Advertising of Lexington, New York. The contract previously had been held by Transit Advertising Group Ann Arbor (TAG).

TAG president Randy Oram addressed the board during public commentary at the Sept. 5 meeting. Also during the meeting, AATA CEO Michael Ford pointed the board to his written response to the protest and asked board members to uphold his decision to award the contract to CBS. The board voted in a formal resolution to support the advertising contract award to CBS. [Full Story]

Washtenaw Board to Re-Vote on Transit Accord

Again on the agenda of the Washtenaw County board commissioners for Sept. 5 will be the articles of incorporation for a new countywide transit authority. The intended outcome is not for the board to rescind or amend in a significant way the articles it approved on Aug. 1, 2012 – on a 6-4 vote.

Once again on the agenda for the Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting on Sept. 5 will be the articles of incorporation for a new transit authority. It’s expected to be a stamp of approval for some administrative changes, not a chance to change the document or rescind the board’s previous decision to approve the document.

Instead, the point of re-introducing the agenda item is to provide an opportunity for the board to affirm the administrative changes to the articles of incorporation that took place after the board’s Aug. 1 vote.

The administrative changes were already included in the documents by the other three parties to the four-party agreement when they subsequently ratified the document. Those parties are the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which is leading this effort. The Ann Arbor city council voted (for a third time) to approve the articles of incorporation at its Aug. 9, 2012 meeting; the Ypsilanti city council voted at its Aug. 14 meeting (also for a third time); and the AATA board voted (for a second time) at its meeting on Aug. 16.

News of the agenda item came from an email sent by Washtenaw County board chair Conan Smith to other commissioners on the evening of Aug. 22. It’s not entirely clear whether the board will: (1) take a vote that affirms the administrative (non-substantive) nature of the changes that were made after the board approved the document on Aug. 1; or (2) take a vote that amends the document to match the version approved by the other three parties.

Previous re-votes have been driven by substantive amendments made by one of the parties to the agreement. For example, the Ypsilanti city council amended the four-party accord after the Ann Arbor city council first voted, on March 5, 2012. That amendment involved service charges applied to the respective cities’ existing millages. When the agreement went back to the Ann Arbor city council, that body amended the document further – which meant that it returned to the Ypsilanti city council for its approval again. The AATA board then ratified the agreement.

It was expected to be approved by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners without further substantive amendment. But on Aug. 1 the board made a change to the size of the majority needed, in order for the new transit authority’s board to change the articles of incorporation – from 2/3 to 4/5 of the 15 board members. That triggered the most recent round of approvals by the various bodies.

But those approvals incorporated some changes that were driven by a desire to harmonize the county board’s amendment with the rest of the document, as well as with Act 196 of 1986 – the act under which the new transit authority will be incorporated. For example, the 4/5 majority requirement for changes to the articles of incorporation is at apparent odds with one kind of change to the articles specifically mentioned in Act 196 – a change in jurisdictions that are part of the authority. Act 196 explicitly indicates that a 2/3 vote is required. So an administrative change undertaken after the board’s Aug. 1 meeting was to add the clause: “… unless another vote of Board is required under the terms of these Articles or provided for in Act 196.”

The view of legal counsel for the four parties was apparently that it’s not actually necessary for those changes to be explicitly re-voted and affirmed by the county board of commissioners. However, there is at least some sentiment on the county board that the changes might be construed as substantive and contrary to the intent of the county board, which could become an unnecessary point of contention down the road.

The AATA is current finalizing the details of a five-year service plan that will need to be published as one of several conditions that must be met before the AATA could transition into the newly incorporated authority, to be called The Washtenaw Ride. This week, the AATA board called a special meeting for Sept. 5 to unveil that service plan.

Earlier in the year, the AATA had hoped to be in a position to possibly place a transit millage proposal on the ballot this November. But at this point, that won’t be possible. Any transit millage proposal will come at a later election.

After the jump, this report describes the administrative changes in question and possible misinterpretations. [Full Story]

AATA: Special Meeting to Unveil Service Plan

The board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has called a special meeting for Sept. 5, 2012 at 10:30 a.m. The purpose of the meeting is simply to release publicly the five-year service plan associated with a possible transition of the AATA to a new transit authority to be incorporated under Act 196 of 1986 – to be called The Washtenaw Ride.

Publication of the service plan is one of the conditions that must be met before Washtenaw County can be asked by the AATA to file the articles of incorporation for the new transit authority. A draft of the plan was released on April 26, 2012.

At the AATA’s most recent regular board meeting, held on Aug. 16, 2012, strategic planner Michael … [Full Story]

Differences on Countywide Transit Debated

Washtenaw County board of commissioners special working session (June 14, 2012): A wide-ranging discussion on proposed expansion of public transit in Washtenaw County revealed some sharp philosophical differences among county commissioners.

Michael Ford, Dan Smith

From left: Michael Ford, CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, talks with county commissioner Dan Smith after the June 14, 2012 special working session of the county board, which focused on a plan for regional public transit. Smith put forward several amendments to a four-party transit agreement and articles of incorporation that were discussed at the session. (Photos by the writer.)

A three-hour working session was intended to be a chance talk through these issues prior to a formal board of commissioners vote on a four-party transit agreement and articles of incorporation for a new Act 196 transit authority. That vote might take place as soon as the county board’s July 11 meeting. These documents would set the framework for a broader public transit authority than currently exists in the county.

Washtenaw County is one of the parties to the four-party agreement, but with a unique role compared to the other three entities: the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which is spearheading this effort. Unlike those entities – whose governing bodies have already approved the transit documents – the county would not be contributing assets (AATA) or a millage (Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti). Nor would the county board be asked to put a countywide millage request on the ballot.

Rather, the county clerk would be asked to file articles of incorporation with the state – an action to create a transit authority under Michigan Act 196. When formed, the Act 196 board would have authority to put a funding proposal on the ballot for voters to consider. A financial advisory group that’s been working on this effort has suggested that revenues equivalent to a 0.5 mill tax would be needed to cover the cost of expanded services for the first five years. [.pdf of financial advisory group report]

Most of the comments and questions from commissioners at the working session related to issues of local versus regional control; the process by which local communities could opt-out or opt-in to the new transit authority; parity between Ann Arbor and other municipalities; and how details of the service and funding plan would be communicated. Dan Smith was the only commissioner who put forward specific proposals for amendments to the documents, which were discussed at the working session and covered many of these broad issues.

The original intent of the working session was to review any possible amendments from commissioners and take a straw poll to gauge the board’s sentiment on those amendments. Any consensus could then be reported back to the other three parties, for possible action prior to formal consideration by the county board.

Although eight of the 11 commissioners attended the June 14 session, two of them – Leah Gunn and Rolland Sizemore Jr. – left before straw polls were taken. Not attending were Rob Turner, Ronnie Peterson and Barbara Bergman.

Three possible amendments were considered to have sufficient consensus to discuss with a separate committee that helped develop the draft documents, which includes representatives from all four parties as well as an unincorporated Act 196 board. The three amendments relate to these questions: (1) Should the Act 196 authority be dissolved if a vote on funding fails in any of the jurisdictions? (2) What restrictions should be placed on board membership? and (3) Who should have the power to amend the articles of incorporation?

The outcome of that committee meeting, held on June 18, was to let the current four-party agreement and articles of incorporation stand for now. At the Ann Arbor city council’s June 18 meeting, councilmembers Sabra Briere and Christopher Taylor – who participated in a committee meeting earlier that day – reported to their council colleagues this consensus: AATA, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor would not consider any further amendments to the documents before a vote by the county board.

Wes Prater described Dan Smith’s amendments overall as being “absolutely necessary” to ensure proper oversight of the new authority. If the changes aren’t made, he said, there will come a time when the board will regret it: “Mark my words.”

Although it’s unclear which of the amendments might have traction, at this point it seems likely that there are sufficient votes on the county board to pass the four-party agreement and articles of incorporation in some form. [Full Story]

AATA Board OKs Key Countywide Documents

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (May 16, 2012): At a gathering that combined a retreat with a regular monthly meeting, the AATA board voted on business items necessary for a possible eventual transition of the AATA to a broader countywide governance structure and expanded service area.

CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority handed the microphone around to board members so their commentary could be more easily heard. Board member Anya Dale had just finished speaking.

Michael Ford, CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, handed the microphone around to board members at a May 16 meeting so their commentary could be more easily heard. Board member Anya Dale had just finished speaking. (Photos by the writer.)

The two key documents approved or endorsed by the board were the articles of incorporation for a possible new transit authority, and a four-party agreement establishing a framework for possibly transitioning AATA to that new authority – now with the working name of “The Washtenaw Ride.” The four parties to the agreement are the AATA, Washtenaw County, the city of Ann Arbor and the city of Ypsilanti. [.pdf of articles of incorporation]

Board action came in the context of various unknown factors, including continued federal funding, pending state legislation on a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan, and the number of Washtenaw County municipalities that will participate in a possible countywide authority. Another uncertainty relates to the status of the four-party agreement, which the Ann Arbor city council approved on March 5, 2012, after amending (several times over multiple meetings) the version that the AATA had first presented.

A wrinkle emerged on May 15, 21012, when the Ypsilanti city council approved the four-party agreement, but amended it in a way that requires reconsideration by the Ann Arbor city council. In response to an emailed query from The Chronicle, mayor John Hieftje indicated that the four-party agreement would be back on the Ann Arbor council’s agenda for its June 4 meeting. [.pdf of red-lined four-party agreement as amended by Ypsilanti city council]

The Ypsilanti amendment relates to a 1% municipal service charge that the agreement originally allowed the two cities to impose on their millages, before forwarding the millage money to the new transit authority. The Ypsilanti council struck the municipal service charge from the agreement. At its Feb. 6, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council had already contemplated – and rejected, on an 8-3 vote against it – an amendment of the language related to the municipal service charge.

Balanced against that set of uncertainties was a generally very optimistic tone during the meeting, with board chair Jesse Bernstein indicating that he felt that no matter what happened on a variety of fronts, the AATA was well-positioned for the future.

Bernstein and the board’s optimism was based in part on positive reports on several fronts. The doubling of frequency on the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Route #4 has resulted in 20-25% ridership gains on that route. The new Ann Arbor-Detroit Metro airport service had double the number of passengers in the last week of April compared to the first week of April, when it was first launched. AATA’s vanpool service is poised for implementation. And results of a survey conducted on board AATA buses late last year indicate a high level of customer satisfaction among AATA riders.

On the budget front, AATA controller Phil Webb also delivered positive news, in the context of an approved budget this year that was expected to absorb additional expenses in order to pay for some of the new service initiatives. Through the first six months of the fiscal year 2012 (which began Oct. 1, 2011) the AATA is under budget by around $500,000. The board had approved a budget on Sept. 15, 2011 that called for tapping fund reserves for $1 million. Now, Webb said, the AATA could finish the year breaking even, depending on how things play out in the second half of the fiscal year.

The board voted to support three other resolutions at the meeting: (1) approval of a contract for vanpool and rideshare matching software; (2) approval of a contract for construction of additional bus shelters; and (3) approval of revisions to the AATA’s procurement manual. The board also got updates on a number of other projects, including the construction of the new Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor. [Full Story]

4-Party Transit Accord on Ann Arbor Horizon

As part of the written report from Ann Arbor Transportation Authority CEO Michael Ford to the AATA board for their Nov. 17, 2011 meeting, Ford describes a four-party agreement that is anticipated to be reached by the AATA, Washtenaw County, the city of Ypsilanti and the city of Ann Arbor. The agreement would be a step towards establishing a countywide transit authority under Michigan’s Act 196 of 1986, because it would provide part of the mechanism for a transition from the AATA’s governance (under Act 55 of 1963) to a new transit authority based on Act 196.

The agreement would establish an arrangement for Washtenaw County to incorporate a new transit authority under Act 196 and for the two cities (Ann … [Full Story]

Countywide Transit Finance Group to Meet

CEO Michael Ford’s written report to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board for its Sept. 15, 2011 meeting included a partial list of members in the group tapped to review the funding options report for the countywide transit master plan. At the meeting, an updated list was circulated. They’ll meet for the first time on Friday, Sept. 16.

At the board’s August 2011 meeting, Ford had announced that McKinley Inc. CEO Albert Berriz and Bob Guenzel, retired Washtenaw County administrator, will be co-chairing the panel of financial and funding experts. They are tasked with reviewing the report on funding options and making recommendations that will form the basis of a countywide governance proposal.

That governance proposal is expected to come from … [Full Story]

More Steps for AATA Toward County Transit

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority special board meeting (July 19, 2011): The four members who attended Tuesday’s special meeting of the AATA board voted unanimously on a raft of resolutions, ranging from infrastructure projects to more action toward a countywide transit authority.

Blake Transit Center

The AATA's Blake Transit Center Fourth Avenue entry.

The latter item – authorizing AATA resources to support formation of an unincorporated Act 196 board (U196) – was approved without discussion. The resolution also authorized the board chair, Jesse Bernstein, to appoint three members to the U196 board.

In a related item, board members approved a $193,317 extension of AATA’s contract with Steer Davies Gleave (SDG), the London-based consultant hired last year to work on developing AATA’s transit master plan. SDG will work on implementing the plan – some board members indicated they’d like to see the consultant include more local resources as the process moves forward. The original contract with SDG was for $399,805. It was previously extended and increased at the AATA board’s Nov. 18, 2010 meeting by an amount not to exceed $32,500.

The infrastructure projects approved at the July 19 meeting include an expansion of AATA’s bus storage facility – in part to accommodate growth if a countywide transit entity is formed. Other projects entail replacement of bus hoists, a blanket contract for concrete work, and detention pond and landscaping improvements.

AATA board meetings are typically held on the third Thursday of the month, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown boardroom, where the meetings are televised by Community Television Network (CTN). Tuesday’s special meeting, called in order to move ahead on some of these projects, began at 1 p.m. at the AATA headquarters on South Industrial, and was not videotaped. It was attended by more than a half-dozen AATA staff members, but not by CEO Michael Ford. Only four of the board’s seven members attended – it takes four members to make a quorum. [Full Story]

AATA OKs Support for Unincorporated 196

At a special meeting held on July 19, 2011, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board authorized appointment of three of its board members to serve on an unincorporated Act 196 board (U196), with the direction to move towards creation of an active Act 196 transit authority for countywide transportation. There was no discussion among board members on this item prior to their vote.

Act 196 of 1986 is a state statute that provides for creation of transit authorities that encompass wider geographic areas than just cities. It’s the legislation on which a countywide authority for Washtenaw County would likely be based. Under one proposal that has been presented by the AATA to various public bodies, a fully incorporated Act 196 board would have 15 members countywide, with seven of them coming from Ann Arbor.

The rationale for appointing only three members of the current AATA board to the U196 board is to avoid the possibility that the actions of four or more members of the AATA board (a quorum of its members) as a part of the U196 would be understood as the action of the AATA board.

The same resolution authorized the AATA’s CEO to use AATA resources to support an unincorporated Act 196 board. The language of the resolution differed in a subtle but significant way from a draft resolution considered but not voted on by the AATA board at a meeting held on June 3 in a retreat-style format at Weber’s Inn. The draft language from that meeting read “… the AATA Chief Executive Officer shall use the resources of the Authority as needed and as appropriate …” The version of the resolution approved by the board at its July 19 meeting read “… the AATA Chief Executive Officer shall use the resources of the Authority as budgeted by the AATA Board.”

Recent Chronicle coverage: “AATA Finalizes Transit Plan for Washtenaw

This brief was filed shortly after the July 19 AATA board meeting, which took place at the AATA headquarters at 2700 South Industrial Highway. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

AATA Finalizes Transit Plan for Washtenaw

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meetings (June 3 and June 16, 2011): The AATA board met twice in June – first at a special morning retreat held at Weber’s Inn on  June 3 June 6, and again 10 days later for its regular monthly meeting.

Michael Ford Slide Act 196 Local Participation

Michael Ford, CEO of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, presents a possible board configuration for a countywide transit authority at the board's June 3 meeting at Weber's Inn. (Photos by the writer.)

On both occasions, a significant focus was the AATA’s countywide transit master plan. At the June 16 meeting, the board approved the final version of the first two volumes of the plan, which had previously been released in draft form. The two volumes cover a vision and an implementation strategy. A third volume, on funding options, is not yet complete.

The plan is the culmination of over a year of work by AATA staff and a consulting firm to perform a technical analysis and gather public input. The goal was to create a document to guide transit planning in the county over the next 30 years. The timing of the next step – beginning to translate a neatly formatted document into reality – will depend in part on a third volume of the plan, which has not yet been finalized. The third volume will describe options for how to fund expanded transit service in the county. Countywide transit funding will ultimately be tied to the governance structure of some entity to administer transit throughout Washtenaw County.

And governance is a topic that’s ultimately reflected in the actual wording of the resolution that the board adopted at its June 16 meeting on the transit master plan. The resolution authorizes transmittal of the documents not just to the public, but also to an unincorporated board, described as an “ad hoc committee” that will work to incorporate a formal transit authority under Michigan’s Act 196 of 1986. [AATA is currently incorporated under Act 55 of 1963.]

For the last few months, CEO Michael Ford’s regular monthly reports to the AATA board about his activities have included his efforts to meet with individuals and representatives of government units throughout the county to discuss participation in the governance of a countywide transportation authority. June continued that trend. So wrapped into this combined report of the AATA board’s last two meetings is a description of the June 2 visit that Ford and board chair Jesse Bernstein made to the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.

At its June 3 retreat, the board also voted to shift some funding to the AATA staff’s work associated with the countywide transit master plan.

At its June 16 meeting, the board handled some business not specifically related to the transit master plan. The board adopted two policies that it has previously discussed: one on the rotation of auditors, and the other on a living wage for AATA vendors. They also received updates on the expansion of service to the University of Michigan’s East Ann Arbor Health Center and to the Detroit Metro airport.

Progress on those two fronts led board member David Nacht to suggest that the kind of movement and progress the AATA was demonstrating, even without additional money that could come from a countywide funding source, showed that the agency’s future plans deserved support from the community. [Full Story]

County Transit Governance Causes Concern

A tentative proposal for the governance structure of a countywide transit authority received strong disapproval from some Washtenaw County commissioners at their April 7, 2011 working session. A governance plan is being developed as part of a countywide master transit plan that’s been in the works for more than a year. [Chronicle coverage of AATA countywide planning to date: "'Smart Growth' to Fuel Countywide Transit"]

On Thursday, staff of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) and the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS) presented a possible transit authority board structure that would administer a countywide system. The proposed board would include 15 members, seven of them from Ann Arbor. [.pdf of proposed board seats] The assumption underpinning such a structure is that Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti would keep their current transportation millages, in addition to whatever countywide transit millage might be approved by county voters to fund an expanded transportation system. Before any countywide transportation millage would be put on the ballot, a countywide governance structure would first need to be established. It’s the countywide transportation authority board – likely to be incorporated under the state’s Act 196 – that would then place a countywide millage on the ballot.

Commissioner Wes Prater expressed serious reservations about the governance plan, and was “flabbergasted” that it had been developed to such an extent without input from the county board. One possible approach to creating a countywide transit authority would require the county board to ratify membership of a transit authority board, though the county would not be responsible for funding it or for putting a transit millage on the ballot. Commissioner Kristin Judge was concerned about putting too much of a financial burden on residents.

Terri Blackmore, WATS executive director, stressed that the plans were still in the early development stage and they were seeking feedback from elected officials in communities across the county. Another work session for county commissioners is scheduled on the topic on June 2.

This brief was filed soon after adjournment from the boardroom in the Washtenaw County administration building, 220 N. Main St., Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

AATA Adopts “Smart Growth” as Plan Basis

At its March 17, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board voted unanimously to adopt a “Smart Growth” scenario as the basis of continued development of its transportation master plan (TMP). The Smart Growth scenario is the most ambitious of three scenarios the AATA has developed, which unfolded over the course of a planning and public engagement process that began in the summer of 2010.

Transit options in the three scenarios – which the AATA has labeled Lifeline Plus, Accessible County, and Smart Growth – are nested subsets, starting with Lifeline Plus as a base, which expands on existing services and focuses on services for seniors and disabled people. Accessible County extends services by adding fixed-route bus service to connect all the county’s urban centers. The Smart Growth scenario includes north-south and east-west commuter rail regional components, as well as high-capacity local transit options for corridors like Washtenaw Avenue and State-Plymouth.

Development of the TMP for countywide service has been identified by the AATA board as a necessary step to take before reorganizing the AATA as a transit authority for the entire county. In December 2009, the board held a special meeting to seek advice on various options for reorganization under Act 196 or Act 55. [Chronicle coverage "AATA Gets Advice on Countywide Transit"]

This brief was filed from the Ann Arbor District Library boardroom, where the AATA board holds its regular monthly meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

AATA Gets Advice on Countywide Transit

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority special board meeting (Dec. 8, 2009): Late Tuesday afternoon at a special meeting, the AATA board heard from two consulting attorneys, as well as heads of three other Michigan transit authorities, on the subject of expanding the geographic scope of AATA service.

Jeff Ammon donut and layer cake

Jeff Ammon, a Grand Rapids area attorney who’s been consulting for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, explains legal options for establishing an entity that could expand the geographic reach of AATA service. Millage options use the metaphor of “donut” (upper left) and “layer cake” (middle right). (Photo by the writer.)

The meeting of the full board, with their five guests, came on the heels of a planning and development committee meeting. At that committee meeting Chris White, AATA’s manager of service development, gave highlights from a recently completed survey of Washtenaw County voters on their attitudes towards a possible countywide transportation tax.

Those who said they would “definitely” or “probably” vote yes on a 1 mill countywide millage eked out a 51% majority countywide.

However, Bob Foy, general manager of Flint’s Mass Transit Authority, repeatedly reminded the full board at their meeting: To get a millage passed, you need a product you can sell. In Flint, which is a countywide authority, Foy reported that the last millage was approved with 68% of the vote.

What the expanded transportation product might look like for Washtenaw County is not yet clear. At the planning and development meeting, AATA CEO Michael Ford indicated that AATA would be bringing in a consultant to address that issue.

The message sent at the board meeting by the two consulting attorneys – Jerry Lax and Jeff Ammon – was that there’s a difference between (i) deciding on the legal authority to be formed, and (ii) deciding on the desired service that AATA wanted to offer. When the board knew what countywide service it wanted to provide and how it wanted to fund that service, they said, at that point it would make sense to decide on the legal mechanism for establishing an expanded authority.

That authority could be established legally under either of the state’s enabling acts: Act 55 or Act 196. [Full Story]

AATA Adopts Vision: Countywide Service

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Nov. 18, 2009): At its Wednesday meeting, the AATA board took the first of the steps that CEO Michael Ford had recommended at their meeting on Oct. 29: adopt a vision statement and start developing a plan for a countywide system. The board will continue to address Ford’s recommendations by holding  a special meeting on Dec. 8, at 5:30 p.m. at AATA headquarters to discuss formation of an Act 196 authority.

two men standing, one seated, papers getting passed out

Michael Ford, left, had extra copies made of the treasurer's report and distributed them to audience members. (Photo by the writer.)

The board’s resolutions were complemented by a treasurer’s report from Ted Annis that laid out a possible budget within which the countywide system could be designed. Presentation of that report revealed some conceptual differences among board members in their preferred approach to engaging an outside consultant to do the countywide system design: (i) Here’s a budget, now design the system; or  (ii) Design us a system, then tell us how much it would cost.

Key to the budget that Annis proposed was the assumed elimination of Ann Arbor’s transportation millage – on Annis’ assumption, Ann Arbor residents would pay the same countywide millage as other county residents if such a millage were approved.

In other business, the board approved service changes to Route #2 in northeast Ann Arbor.

Also generating discussion was the plan to repair, refurbish or reconstruct the Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor, which was described as “dilapidated.”

The board also received an explanation for the decreased ridership compared to last year, and a report on the move to different office space by the getDowntown program. [Full Story]

AATA Plans for Countywide System

Charles Griffith and Michael Ford, two men standing together

Charles Griffith, AATA board member (left),  and Michael Ford, CEO of the AATA, talk about Ford’s presentation and the board’s subsequent discussion after an Oct. 29 meeting. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Oct. 29, 2009): At a special meeting of the AATA board held before dinner at Weber’s Inn, recently hired CEO Michael Ford gave board members a presentation that hammered home one basic point: The AATA needs to expand its current vision and mission by establishing a countywide transportation authority.

The AATA is currently funded by a millage levied at a rate of a little over 2 mill just in the city of Ann Arbor, with service to additional municipalities funded through purchase of service agreements (POSAs).

Board members were generally receptive to Ford’s presentation – David Nacht’s remarks reflected that this was essentially what they’d hired him to do. And to get things rolling towards an expanded, countywide mission for the AATA, Ford asked the board to adopt four specific resolutions in the coming few months. But when those resolutions are adopted, it’s not going to have an immediate impact on bus riders’ lives. As Nacht put it Thursday night, that’s simply “when the real work begins.”

And board member Rich Robben allowed that there were issues that he did not yet “feel that warm and fuzzy feeling about,” noting that ultimately the move to a countywide authority would need the support of the voting public.

After the jump, we take a look at the four specific steps Ford is asking the board to take, and summarize the board’s discussion on his proposal. [Full Story]

AATA Sets Meeting on Regional Authority

man giving plaque to woman

New AATA board chair Paul Ajegba presents a plaque of appreciation to Dawn Gabay, deputy CEO, who served for two years as interim director of the authority until Michael Ford was hired as CEO this past summer. In the background at left is board member Jesse Bernstein. To the right, opening a box containing his ceremonial gavel, is outgoing board chair, David Nacht. (Photo by the writer.)

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Oct 21, 2009): Some news of significance announced at the AATA‘s board meeting last Wednesday received relatively brief mention and discussion: There will be a special meeting of the AATA board at Weber’s Inn, on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009 at 5 p.m. in the Varsity Room.

The topic of the meeting will be the possibility of reorganizing as a regional authority under Act 196. That meeting will be a precursor for the conversation about countywide service – and a countywide millage.

As far as the board’s business as reflected on Wednesday’s agenda, the item receiving by far the most discussion was one authorizing a contract for $171,704 for facility camera upgrades. Board member Rich Robben got an animated conversation rolling when he pointedly asked, “Was the bid spec written around a product line??” The board wound up authorizing the contract, with dissent from Robben and fellow board member David Nacht.

Putting a punctuation mark on the past year’s activity was the board’s new chair, Paul Ajegba, who presented the former chair, David Nacht, with a ceremonial gavel in appreciation of his service. Ajegba also presented deputy CEO Dawn Gabay with a plaque in appreciation for her service as interim director of the agency. [Full Story]