Five-year transit program approved

Ypsilanti City Council member Peter Murdock described the four-party agreement for a county-wide transit plan as “the only way Ypsilanti will have public transportation in the future.”

City Council approved the four-party agreement, among Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority at its June 5 meeting. The plan will form the foundation for a new entity that will implement the Washtenaw County Transit Master Plan: Five Year Transit Program.

The plan proposes many improvements throughout Washtenaw County including more service to Saline, Dexter, Chelsea and other areas outside the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor cities; more routes, and more frequent runs of buses; new express buses; more affordable fare alternatives for lower income workers; different fares in peak and off peak hours; fares to allow up to two adults and four children to ride for just twice the fare for one adult; more bus shelters; and improvements to existing bus shelters.

Michael Ford, CEO of AATA, made a presentation to the Ypsilanti City Council May 15 which outlined the importance of better transportation to the residents of Ypsilanti.

“Despite Michigan’s uncertain economy and decreasing property values, Ypsilanti’s support for public transit remains strong,” he said. “Almost 80 percent of respondents say public transit is important, and 61 percent support a new 1-mill property tax to fund a countywide public transit agency.”

Ford went on to describe major improvements specific to Ypsilanti:
-Double the number of routes; completely reconfigured routes.
-Faster, more direct service.
-Service every 30 minutes (twice the current frequency).
-Improved weekend service.
-New and improved connections to nearby destinations.

The plan calls for a 25 percent increase in weekday service and a 120 percent increase in weekend service over the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor urban area. According to Ford, this would include service every 15 minutes or less on the following key corridors:

-Route 2 Plymouth Road
-Route 3 Huron River Drive, Washtenaw Community College, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital
-Route 4 Washtenaw Avenue
-Route 5 Packard Road
-Route 6 Ellsworth Road

Ford went on to explain what the four-party agreement would accomplish.

“It sets up process to create a new regional transit authority,” and also “allows transfer of existing millage funding” to the new transit authority. The new authority would have members from various cities and other governmental entities within the county.

The matter of governance, according to the drafted five-year plan, includes the need to provide for both the present situation (in which the AATA is a unit of the city of Ann Arbor) and the future (in which the plan could cover all 28 separate units of government that exist in Washtenaw County).

An interim board of directors, appointed by local governments, had met five times as of April and helped AATA staff to “refine and develop the five year transit plan.” The board members represent the eight districts used in the plan: Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, West (the eight western-most townships plus the villages of Chelsea and Manchester), North Central (village of Dexter and Scio and Webster townships), Northeast (Northfield, Salem, Ann Arbor and Superior townships), South Central (Lodi, York and Saline townships and the village of Saline), Southeast (Ypsilanti and Augusta townships) and Pittsfield Township.

The question of how to pay for these improvements has not been resolved. The April draft plan estimates the new fare structure would generate 16 percent more revenue.

But, the draft plan concludes: “The finance task force withheld a final recommendation on a funding source until the status of currently proposed state legislation becomes clear. The task force has indicated a willingness to revisit this issue and consider issuing a firm recommendation later in 2012.”

The county-wide master transit plan will continue to unfold over the next several months. The plan and more information, including community meetings, can be found at www.movingyouforward.org.


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