Stories indexed with the term ‘AirRide’

AirRide OK’d, State Funding Reviewed

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (March 20, 2014): Board chair Charles Griffith opened the meeting by noting that the agenda was a lot lighter than last month, when the board had passed 10 separate resolutions – including a vote to put a transit millage proposal on the May 6 ballot.

Looking north on Fifth Avenue at the AirRide stop, just south of the newly opened Blake Transit Center.

Looking north on Fifth Avenue at the AirRide stop, just south of the newly opened Blake Transit Center. (Photos by the writer.)

The only voting item handled by the board at its March 20 meeting was the extension of a contract with Michigan Flyer to provide service between downtown Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport. The board authorized the first of three one-year extensions on the initial two-year contract for the service, called AirRide.

For the third year of the agreement, the not-to-exceed amount is $170,000. That compares with the first year of the contract that was not to exceed $700,000. The drop in the cost to the AAATA stems from a revenue-sharing agreement based on fare revenues – and ridership has exceeded projections.

The board also received an update on statewide transit issues from Clark Harder, executive director of the Michigan Public Transit Association, and Dusty Fancher, a lobbyist with Midwest Strategy Group. A main theme from their presentation was the need to focus on overall funding increases, as opposed to trying to fine-tune the part of the funding formula that divides public transportation funding among the 78 transit agencies in Michigan.

Harder also described an initiative to provide a non-emergency medical transportation brokerage that would tap public transportation resources. A demonstration program, to be provided through the newly formed Michigan Transportation Connection (MTC), could be up and running by Oct. 1, 2015, Harder reported.

Another highlight of that presentation included the idea that the abysmal road conditions – which have resulted from the long and harsh winter – could be a rallying point for more transportation funding. To the extent that additional money for transportation is funneled through the general transportation funding formula, that would lead to an increase in public transportation funding, along with funding for road infrastructure.

The harsh winter and the challenge of clearing snow at the 1,200 bus stops was also a part of another basic theme of the board’s discussion – accessibility of the bus service to those in the disability community. Carolyn Grawi of the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living addressed the board to stress the importance of making sure all the bus stops are accessible. She also reiterated the CIL’s support for the upcoming May 6 millage vote.

Other highlights from the meeting included a round of applause for AAATA maintenance manager Terry Black, who managed the Blake Transit Center construction project. The driveways still need concrete to be poured before the project is completed, but the building itself is now open to the public. [Full Story]

AAATA Extends AirRide Contract

Michigan Flyer will provide transportation between downtown Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport for a third year, in a service called AirRide. Action by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board on a contract that pays Michigan Flyer an amount not to exceed $170,000 came at the board’s March 20, 2014 meeting.

The average number of passengers for the last four weeks is 1,406, according to the AAATA .

The average number of passengers for the last four weeks is 1,406, according to the AAATA.

Two years ago, the board had authorized … [Full Story]

A2: Bus to East Lansing

The Lansing State Journal reports that Michigan Flyer will be adding four daily trips between Ann Arbor and East Lansing, following approval this week by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission. The bus service will be funded through a federal grant. It will increase the number of daily trips between the two cities from 8 to 12 starting this fall. The service continues on to Detroit Metro Airport, branded as AirRide. [Source]

A2: Michigan Flyer

The Lansing State Journal reports on opposition to Michigan Flyer adding more routes between Lansing and Ann Arbor, reportedly because of federal grant dollars that would be used to subsidize the business. The company runs the route – known as AirRide – to the Detroit Metro airport. According to the report, opponents of awarding the federal funding say it would “give bus operators a leg up on airlines and other transit services that don’t receive similar money to buy fuel and pay workers.” [Source]

AirRide Talks OK’d, Ypsilanti to Join AATA?

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (April 18, 2013): Board member David Nacht’s final regular meeting after 10 years of service included action on a significant project he’d worked on during that time: bus service between downtown Ann Arbor and Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

AATA board member David Nacht

AATA board member David Nacht. (Photos by the writer.)

To provide the AirRide service, which was launched a year ago, the AATA is currently in negotiations with Michigan Flyer to revise terms of the second year of the contract. While the first year called for the AATA to pay Michigan Flyer an amount not to exceed $700,000 for the hourly service, the ridership – given the structure of the revenue-sharing deal – has resulted in a far lower cost.

So the board passed a resolution at its April 18 meeting reflecting the current status of negotiations, which are pointing toward a not-to-exceed amount of $300,000 for the contract’s second year. The board’s action rescinded a resolution it had passed at the previous month’s meeting, in favor of one that reflected the current status of negotiations between AATA and Michigan Flyer.

Besides the resolution on AirRide, the only other item requiring a vote was one honoring David Nacht’s decade of service on the board – which covered two full five-year terms. During his brief remarks, Nacht thanked the riders of the AATA’s service, the bus drivers and the mechanics. He also thanked his family – his two sons attended the meeting. In addition, Nacht thanked the Ann Arbor mayor and city council, which make the appointments to the AATA board. At the council’s April 15 meeting, mayor John Hieftje had announced the nomination of Eric Mahler, currently a city planning commissioner, to replace Nacht.

Discussion on non-voting items included the future of public transportation in the broader region – in two significant ways.

First, board members lamented the fact that no U.S. company, and more specifically no Michigan company, had bid on the AATA’s request for proposals to replace battery kits for its hybrid electric buses. But board sentiment was that a larger purchasing consortium for such kits might eventually be achieved through the newly-created southeast Michigan regional transit authority (RTA) – which includes the transit agencies in Washtenaw, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland Counties. And that larger consortium might make it worth the while of a Michigan company that’s a part of the state’s nascent battery industry to invest in the capability to produce bus battery kits.

Second, the board was paid a visit by Ypsilanti city councilmember Pete Murdock, who alerted the board to the likelihood that the city of Ypsilanti would make a formal request to join the AATA. The request would need approval from the AATA board and almost certainly the Ann Arbor city council, and could have implications for board membership. The goal of such a move would be to provide a more stable financial foundation for Ypsilanti bus service.

The city of Ypsilanti itself already levies its constitutional cap of 20 mills of property tax. If the AATA were to ask voters of member jurisdictions to approve a millage – an authority the AATA does not currently exercise – that additional amount would not count against Ypsilanti’s constitutional cap. [Full Story]

AATA OKs AirRide Negotiations

Bus service between downtown Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport could continue for a second year, at a significantly reduced cost to the AATA compared to the current contract. That’s the result of a resolution authorized by the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority at its April 18, 2013 meeting.

Ridership on AATA AirRide Service through April 2013

Ridership on AATA AirRide service through April 2013.

The AATA provides the hourly service by contracting with Michigan Flyer. The current agreement between Michigan Flyer and AATA has a yearly not-to-exceed cost of $700,000 per year, running for two years starting April 1, … [Full Story]

AATA Receives Audit, Preps for Urban Core

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (March 21, 2013): The board’s main business of the evening was a presentation from the audit firm Plante Moran on the result of AATA’s fiscal year 2012 audit.

David Helisek, at the podium, presented highlights of the audit report to the AATA board.

David Helisek, at the podium, presented highlights of the audit report to the AATA board on March 21, 2013. (Photo by the writer.)

About the audit report, Plante Moran’s David Helisek told the board: “Hopefully, you found it somewhat boring.” By that he meant there were no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies to report. And his firm had struggled even to find suggestions for improvement in controls and processes. In the category of a suggestion was a recommendation to formalize a policy on user access to IT systems. And one question was left over from the previous year’s audit – on the legal basis of the AATA’s investment in heating oil futures as a hedge against possible price increases in diesel fuel. The AATA has inquired with the state of Michigan on that issue, but has not received an answer.

At the meeting, the board also rescinded a $119,980 contract it had authorized with PM Environmental – because of a failure on the AATA’s side to go through the standard procedure for bidding out the contract. The contract is for remediation of contaminated soil at the AATA’s headwaters on 2700 S. Industrial Highway. That contract will now be re-bid, and PM Environmental will have an opportunity to participate in that process.

In a final voting item on its agenda, the board authorized a four-month extension to the current pricing agreement the AATA has with Michigan Flyer – to provide AirRide service between downtown Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro airport. The extension will allow negotiations to take place on a new arrangement, which is being considered in the context of at least two factors. Ridership on the service, launched last year in April, has exceeded projections. And Michigan Flyer may be eligible for a federal grant that could increase the number of trips per day. The current service is hourly.

The board also heard a range of updates from its committees and CEO Michael Ford. Among the most significant was about a meeting scheduled for March 28 among representatives of Washtenaw County’s “urban core” communities that have, for the last few months, been engaged in discussions with AATA about expanded transit in a much smaller geographic footprint than the entire county. [Full Story]

AATA Looks to Extend Airport Service

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board has voted to extend for another four months the current pricing agreement it has with Michigan Flyer to provide bus service between downtown Ann Arbor and the Detroit Metro airport.

AirRide Weekly Boardings: April 2012 through March 2013

AirRide Weekly Boardings: April 2012 through March 2013.

The current agreement has a yearly not-to-exceed cost of $700,000 per year, running for two years starting April 1, 2012. As the second year of the agreement is approaching, Michigan Flyer has indicated a willingness to renegotiate the arrangement in the context of a Transportation, Community, and System Preservation (TCSP) grant … [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]

AATA Gets Countywide Task Force Report

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (April 19, 2012): Recently appointed to the board, Sue Gott’s first AATA board meeting was marked by three action items.

Sue Gott University Planner

Sue Gott takes her seat for the first time at the board table of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. (Photos by the writer.)

First was the election of a new board treasurer, David Nacht, in the wake of two relatively recent resignations from the board – former board treasurer Sue McCormick and Rich Robben. Nacht was elected treasurer though he was absent from the meeting; however, based on remarks from board chair Jesse Bernstein, Nacht had agreed in advance to serve in that capacity.

The board also formally received the report from a financial task force on funding for an expanded, countywide governance and service area. The task force is currently “on hold” following its Feb. 29, 2012 meeting, when it made its recommendations to the AATA. A few days after that task force meeting, the Ann Arbor city council ratified its part of a four-party agreement – between the AATA, the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County – that provides a framework for possible transition to a new governance structure for the AATA.

Both the resolution to receive the report, as well as  remarks at the board table during the meeting, made clear that the AATA board isn’t committing to an unconditional acceptance of every recommendation made by the task force. Rather, the task force’s recommendations will inform the board’s decision-making.

Also related to possible countywide expansion, at the April 16 meeting, the announcement was made of a special board meeting set for Thursday, April 26 at AATA headquarters, 2700 South Industrial Highway. The purpose of the meeting will be for the board to vote on adoption of a five-year service plan. The plan would be part of a proposal that is eventually put before the general electorate, who must ratify whatever funding plan is used for an expanded transportation authority.

AATA CEO Michael Ford indicated that the working name for the new transportation authority, if one is formed through the four-party agreement, is “Washtenaw Area Transportation Authority.”

The board also made a decision on an unarmed security guard contract that was impacted by the AATA’s adoption of a living wage standard. The hourly wages in the contract now meet the city of Ann Arbor living wage standard, adopted by the AATA board at its June 16, 2011 meeting. The need to bring the wages up to the living wage standard resulted in an increase that met the threshold requiring the board to approve it.

The board also received its usual range of updates and reports from its CEO and committees. Those included recent ridership numbers, an update on the lawsuit that was filed last year against the AATA over advertising issues, the proposed north-south commuter rail known as WALLY, and the AATA’s response to the auditor’s report.

During the meeting, Ford reported on discussions between AATA and the Ann Arbor Public Schools that have led to a preliminary agreement to replace three high school bus routes with existing AATA service – one route each for Huron, Pioneer and Skyline high schools. According to Ford, the change would allow AAPS and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District – which currently handles bus services for AAPS – to eliminate three buses and reduce costs. [Full Story]

Bus Ridership Gains Continue for AATA

At its April 19, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board received as a part of its regular information packet the performance data on ridership, costs per mile and the like. For regular fixed route service on weekdays, ridership in March 2012 showed a gain of 8% compared to March 2011 – an average of 24,501 passengers for each weekday, compared to 22,639 per weekday in March of 2012.

That continues a trend since October 2011, the start of the current fiscal year for the AATA. Each month the average number of weekday passengers per month has been greater than the corresponding month in the previous year.

For the AATA’s paratransit service (A-Ride), the data from March show a slight decrease in the … [Full Story]

AirRide Ridership: Week One

In response to a Chronicle emailed question – prompted by discussion at an April 11 partnerships committee meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority – the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has given the following ridership numbers for the first week (Monday through Saturday) of its new AirRide service between downtown Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport: 271 eastbound to DTW; 206 westbound from DTW. That’s a total of 477 passengers.

The AirRide service began on April 2. It offers 12 buses each way daily. So in its first week, the service had a bit more than 3.3 passengers per bus [(12*2*6)/477].

The AATA authorized the contract with Indian Trails’ Michigan Flyer service at its Feb. 16, 2012 meeting.