Feb. 29, 2012
Business, Community Task Force Issues Funding Recommendations for Countywide Transit
ANN ARBOR – Looking to improve transportation access and meet the long-term needs of Washtenaw County businesses and residents, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s Transit Master Plan Financial Task Force issued its recommendations today for how to prioritize and fund countywide transit services.
The task force, led by McKinley CEO Albert Berriz and former Washtenaw County Administrator Bob Guenzel, endorsed the development of a revised Five-Year Service Implementation Plan that reflects the more modest philosophy of the business-minded group of Washtenaw County leaders.
“The task force is represented by a broad section of community leaders with significant background in private business, non-profit and government funding, including, non-profit, government and private business,” said AATA Board Chair Jesse Bernstein.
The task force’s “Subgroup Report” addresses the $60.8 million funding gap that existed under the original five-year service plan and reduces it to $32.9 million through selective program cuts.
The remaining funding gap would be closed, as proposed in the Subgroup Report, with a combination of revenue equal to a 0.5 mill property tax and an estimated average increase in ridership fares of $0.50. The estimated 0.5 mill property tax would cost the average Washtenaw County household about $4 per month.
“We greatly appreciate the many hours of hard work the task force put into developing a proposal that both meets the transportation needs of our community and also considers the financial constraints of Washtenaw County residents,” AATA CEO Michael Ford said.
“Any discussion of a fare increase is not taken lightly, however, so we will be reviewing these recommendations very carefully.”
To reduce the financial impact of expanding countywide transportation services, the task force eliminated all local dollars for long-term, regional transportation projects, such as rail. Instead, the Task Force recommends that only state, federal or private dollars be used for such services. In addition, the Ann Arbor Connector service was cut from the plan until private dollars can be found to fund it.
Berriz said, “As a task force, we tried to come together to address this crucial need, while also remaining mindful of the cost associated with improving these much-needed services.”
“A great countywide transportation system would be a competitive advantage in building a 21st Century workforce and right now, for me, as a major employer in Washtenaw County, it isn’t yet a big positive. It’s why I support this process and its broad goals. We can say what we want, but, regardless of comparisons to other cities of various sizes, a better connected Washtenaw County would make for a stronger work environment. Bottom line… it’s good for jobs.”
Financial Task Force Co-Chair Bob Guenzel added, “As a result of the task force’s efforts, the goal of countywide transit is increasingly realistic, with the result of enhanced mobility for our citizens, a stronger economy and a healthier environment.”
The Financial Task Force’s recommendations will now be analyzed by AATA staff and given to the current AATA Board of Directors and the unincorporated Act 196 Authority Board (uBoard), which is charged with developing the organizational framework for countywide transit service. Financial Task Force members agreed to reconvene periodically as new information becomes available, so that they may refine their recommendations.
“We welcome public comment and encourage residents to make their voices heard through the Moving You Forward website,” said Ford. “No final decision will be made without thorough public discussion.”
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