Stories indexed with the term ‘transit millage’

Transit Millage Passes: 70.6% Say Yes

Voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township gave a new 0.7 mill transit tax a clear majority in the May 6, 2014 vote.

The May 6, 2014 tax proposal received clear majority support in all jurisdictions: Ann Arbor (71.4%); Ypsi City (83.4%); Ypsi Twp (61.6%)

The May 6, 2014 tax proposal received clear majority support overall (70.6%) in all jurisdictions: Ann Arbor (71.4%); the city of Ypsilanti (83.4%); and Ypsilanti Township (61.6%).

Overall, the proposal from the AAATA received 70.6% votes in favor. That percentage reflects 13,949 votes in favor and 5,783 against.

The new tax, which can be levied for five years before it again needs approval by voters, is supposed to fund a five-year service improvement plan.

The tax received clear majority support in all jurisdictions: Ann Arbor (71.4%); the city of Ypsilanti (83.4%); and Ypsilanti Township (61.6%).

Across all jurisdictions, the turnout was 12.7% of registered voters. Turnout was helped by sunny weather with high temperatures in the low 60s. By jurisdiction, turnout varied a bit: Ann Arbor (14%); Ypsilanti (12.6%); and Ypsilanti Township (9.5%).

Including all cash reported under late-filing rules, the Partners for Transit millage campaign raised $54,427 in cash. The anti-millage campaign committee, which called itself Better Transit Now, accumulated $17,817 in resources, when $15,037 of in-kind contributions – in ad purchases – by McCullagh Creative are included. [Full Story]

Transit Millage Vote: View from the Bus

Editor’s note: Based on early results, the transit millage appears to have passed.

It’s a Chronicle tradition to spend Election Day on two-wheeled transportation – a bicycle and a scooter – visiting as many precincts as possible and logging vignettes from the polls and points in between.

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, The Ride, AAATA, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

An Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority bus loading near Blake Transit Center.

But today’s vote – in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township – includes way more geographic territory than we’re accustomed to covering.

Instead of trying to visit as many polling places as possible, we’re going to settle for visiting a couple in each jurisdiction. And to cover the distance, we’re going to tap the resources of the organization that’s putting the millage on the ballot – the AAATA fixed route bus system.

So updates today will be light on polling places and heavy on the points in between. We hope readers will help fill in the gaps by leaving comments on this article with their own vignettes from the polls.

Whatever your view on the millage, we hope you’ll mark a ballot today. [Full Story]

Column: More Taxes for Transit? Yes, Please

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. [Full Story]

Old West Side to Newport

During the two-mile commute from my Old West Side home to Forsythe Middle School on Newport Road, where I work, I counted signs for and against the May 6 transit millage proposal. The tally: 3 homes sporting No signs, 15 with Yes signs.

Brooks & Pearl

Mixed marriage. [One yard with signs for and against May 6, 2014 transit millage] [photo]

Transit Board Acts on Policy, Infrastructure

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (April 17, 2014): The board had two voting items on its agenda: a policy on determining disproportionate impacts of fare and service changes on disadvantaged populations; and a contract for small concrete work associated with pads for bus stops, approach walks and ramps. Both items were approved.

Eric Mahler

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board member Eric Mahler was discussing the potential for disparate impacts on different populations as a result of service changes. (Photos by the writer.)

The issue of the May 6 millage vote came up during public commentary. In addition, CEO Michael Ford delivered some prepared remarks meant to dispel what he called myths about the AAATA that are being promoted by opponents of that millage. [.pdf of press release from opposition campaign]

One myth is that the AAATA is inefficient, Ford said, when in fact the AAATA has 17% lower cost per passenger and has 18% fewer employees per passenger than its peers. Another myth, Ford said, is that the AAATA has 52 managers. “It’s just simply not true,” he said. Ford explained that the AAATA has 52 employees who are non-union – 11 of whom are managers. That includes administrative assistants, IT staff, customer service, human resources, safety and security personnel, dispatchers and others, Ford said.

The assertion that the AAATA will use millage revenue to fund a train service is untrue as well, Ford continued. The AAATA had intentionally not put rail service in the ballot language. AAATA has been acknowledged in USA Today, by CNN, and by independent transportation associations as one of the nation’s best-in-class in terms of ridership, operational efficiency, fiscal stability, and technological innovation, Ford said. And that’s why he was hopeful that voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township would say yes when they go to the polls on May 6.

The concrete work contract was awarded to Saladino Construction, for a one-year period and the possibility of four one-year renewals. Board members subjected the item to a relatively lengthy discussion as far as AAATA board discussions go – as they had questions about the amount of future work there would be, how workmanship is verified, and how pedestrian flow at bus stops is maintained during the work period.

Also given a fair amount of discussion was the policy on service equity required under Title VI. Board members had several questions, including one about the action that is required if a disparate impact on low-income riders is found as a result of a fare increase. AAATA staff stressed that there is not currently a fare increase on the table. [Full Story]

First Absent Ballots Sent for May 6 Election

According to Ann Arbor city clerk Jackie Beaudry, the first batch of absentee ballots have been mailed out to those who’ve requested them for the May 6, 2014 election.

On May 6, voters in three jurisdictions – the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township – will be asked to approve a 0.7 mill tax to support improvements to transportation service. The board of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority voted at its Feb. 20, 2014 meeting to place the question on the ballot.

In Ann Arbor, 1,529 absentee ballots were sent out in the first wave.

Of the 1,529 ballots, the initial distribution across Ann Arbor’s five wards appears to be skewed somewhat more heavily toward voters … [Full Story]

Precinct 1-7: Voting on May 6, Aug. 5 at Northwood

Voters in Ann Arbor’s Precinct 1-7 will cast their ballots in two upcoming elections – May 6, 2014 and Aug. 5 2014 – at the Northwood Community Center, which is the polling location for Precinct 2-1. The move is needed because the University of Michigan’s Pierpont Commons will be unavailable due to renovations being undertaken at that facility.

City council action authorizing the relocation of Precinct 1-7 for the August primaries came at its March 17, 2014 meeting. On Aug. 5, the two precincts will operate separately, even though they will be located in the same place.

For the May 6, 2014 transit millage election, the precincts will operate as a consolidated precinct at the Northwood Community Center. The city election … [Full Story]

DDA Might Increase Support for Transit

In the context of an approaching May 6, 2014 transit millage ballot question, the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has approved a resolution that pledges to work toward increasing the DDA’s support for transportation programs.

The 0.7 mill tax was placed on a May 6 ballot by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board on Feb. 20, 2014. The tax would be levied by the AAATA only if it wins a majority of support among voters across its three member jurisdictions: the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township.

The DDA board resolution comes in part as a response to the fact that the DDA will be capturing a portion of the new millage … [Full Story]

AAATA Formalizes Ypsi City Relationship

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board meeting (Oct. 17, 2013): The main business of the board’s meeting was the approval of a funding agreement with the city of Ypsilanti – a new member of the AAATA, and the first jurisdiction to join the authority outside of the city of Ann Arbor.

Old Y Lot from the northwest corner of William and Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor.

Former Y lot from the northwest corner of William and Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor, looking northwest. In the background, the new Blake Transit Center is under construction. The AAATA voted to establish a committee to meet with whatever developer makes a successful purchase offer on the lot. Also announced is that the old BTC building, located on the opposite side of the block, will be demolished in early November, somewhat ahead of the original timing. (Photos by the writer.)

The funding agreement between the AAATA and the city of Ypsilanti formalizes the existing arrangement under which Ypsilanti passes its dedicated transit millage through to the AAATA. The board approved it unanimously. The Ypsilanti city council will consider the agreement on Nov. 5.

In another piece of business that came at the end of the meeting, after a closed session that lasted about an hour and a half, the board voted to establish a subcommittee to meet with whichever developer might make the winning bid on the city-owned property at Fifth and William – known as the old Y lot. That’s an alternative to the AAATA attempting to bid on the property itself, which was listed at $4.2 million. Bids were due by Oct. 18. The city paid $3.5 million for the property 10 years ago and still owes that much on a balloon payment due at the end of this year.

An item that simply authorized the purchase of additional vehicles for the AAATA’s vanpool program had some complex history behind it – involving the federal government shutdown. The shutdown prevented the AAATA from completing its pursuit of a waiver from the Federal Transit Administration for the Buy America requirement. And the Buy America requirements were pointing the AAATA toward purchasing more expensive vehicles (Chevrolet Traverses) that did not fit the needs of passengers as well as the non-qualifying vans (Dodge Caravans). So the board opted to use local millage revenue, and to backfill the operational expenses that the millage money was covering – by using federal preventive maintenance dollars.

In a final routine item, the board authorized the AAATA’s chief executive officer to execute contracts with MDOT that are less than $1 million.

A common thread among public commentary and other board communications was the 5-year service improvement plan the AAATA has developed, and the schedule of public meetings to introduce that plan.

Editor’s note: For the AAATA’s Oct. 17 meeting, The Chronicle hired a CART (Communications Across Real Time) professional to provide a real-time “text” stream of the meeting that was accessible online through The Chronicle. The resulting transcript from that live text stream is available here: [link]. The Chronicle is experimenting with ways to make public meetings more accessible to a broader segment of the community, and to provide archival transcripts of those meetings. [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]