Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Jan. 19, 2012): The AATA board’s meeting consisted of pro forma, ordinary business set against a backdrop of several transitions.
Rich Robben's last meeting as an Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board member was Jan. 19, 2012. (Photos by the writer.)
The board itself is in transition – Thursday was Rich Robben’s last meeting as an AATA board member. And the city’s transportation program manager, Eli Cooper, attended his first meeting since his nomination was confirmed by the Ann Arbor city council on Dec. 19, 2011. He replaces Sue McCormick on the board.
The AATA as an organization is also possibly in transition, as it seeks to establish a new, countywide governance structure under Michigan’s Act 196 of 1986. To provide a framework for that move, AATA is asking three other entities – the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County – to ratify an agreement with the AATA. The Ann Arbor city council postponed action on that agreement at its Jan. 9, 2012 meeting, but is expected to take action on Jan. 23. A public hearing on the four-party agreement is scheduled for that council meeting as well. CEO Michael Ford reported that the text of the four-party agreement is currently being revised, to promote clarity.
And as the AATA works on a possible move to countywide governance of public transit in Washtenaw County, Michigan’s state legislature may also act to establish a regional transit authority (RTA) for southeast Michigan that would add Washtenaw to Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties.
The AATA board got a briefing on possible upcoming RTA legislation from Dusty Fancher, a consultant for the Michigan Public Transit Association (MPTA). Fancher, who’s employed by Midwest Strategy Group, stressed that the RTA legislation – for which no details have yet been released publicly – comes in the context of a larger transportation infrastructure agenda being pushed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. That larger agenda includes a focus on funding for roads.
Like the move to a local countywide governance, the funding for an RTA would probably include a request to voters for additional taxes. If the state’s RTA legislation were passed before the November 2012 election – and if a decision also were made to place a ballot request to Washtenaw County voters to fund more transportation within the county – that would potentially result in two transportation tax initiatives in the same election.
How likely is it that the state’s RTA legislation would be passed before the November 2012 election? Fancher said that if nothing were passed by March 2012, she’d bet money that nothing would happen before November. Also at the AATA board meeting, Clark Harder, executive director of the MPTA, indicated that it’s important to understand that Snyder does not currently have the votes within his own Republican Party to push the RTA package forward.
Against that backdrop of transition and many unknowns, the AATA went about some regular business with quantifiable, known facts. The board authorized the purchase of up to 25 vans to provide van pool service. The board also authorized its capital grant program for the next five years, which allows for an additional $1.5 million of federal and state grant money to go towards the reconstruction of the downtown Ann Arbor Blake Transit Center.
The board also heard its usual range of public commentary and reports from committees. [Full Story]