Aug. 24, 2011
TheRide Board of Directors Accepts
Transit Master Plan Funding Options Report
Ann Arbor, Mich – The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (TheRide) board of directors accepted a report today that details possible funding strategies to move forward the 30-year countywide Transit Master Plan developed over the past year.
“The Transit Master Plan offers a very clear vision for meeting our county’s transit needs over the next 30 years,” said TheRide CEO Michael Ford. “The funding options included in this report provide us with the next steps toward making that vision a reality.”
The report will now be given to the Transit Master Plan Finance Task Force. The Task Force will be responsible for analyzing the Funding Options Report and recommending a course of action to pay for the service improvements outlined in the Transit Master Plan. The Task Force will make their recommendations to the unincorporated Act 196 Transit Authority (U196 Authority), the body of representatives from throughout Washtenaw County that will be charged with developing the governance, service, and funding framework for a countywide transit system.
The report concludes that current funding levels are sufficient for the existing transit services in Washtenaw County and may even offer some opportunity for limited improvements. However, additional funding is needed to realize the services envisioned in the Transit Master Plan.
“While the Finance Task Force is developing its recommendations, TheRide will be working closely with the U196 board representatives and citizens from across the county to determine which services will be developed and implemented in the first five years of the 30-year Transit Master Plan,” Ford noted.
The funding report explores several near and long term solutions to finance both the plan’s capital and operations costs. Funding options detailed in the report include:
Public private partnerships
Tax increment financing
Local sales taxes
State gas tax
Vehicle licensing fees
Some options, such as increases to the state gas tax and a local sales tax, would require action by the state legislature and a constitutional amendment for sales tax before becoming available as a funding opportunity for the Transit Master Plan.
“It is difficult to predict what funding tools may be available for public transit over the long term,” said TheRide Board Chair Jesse Bernstein. “The report does a very good job of examining what has worked in other parts of the country as well as funding options that can be leveraged right now.”
The Transit Master Plan Finance Task Force is co-chaired by McKinley CEO Albert Berriz and former Washtenaw County Administrator Bob Guenzel. Additional members of the task force will be announced once all members have agreed to participate and will include representatives from both the business and civic community.
“The Finance Task Force has the critical job of finding a way to ensure our region makes the transit investments it needs to compete on a regional and national scale,” said Berriz. “Regions that want to succeed in the new economy must invest in transportation. In an age where people can live and work anywhere, it is assets like a strong transit network that will set the Washtenaw County region apart in the 21st Century.”
“This task force provides an opportunity for business and community leaders to work together to come up with a solid plan to invest in our future,” said Guenzel. “The Transit Master Plan very clearly shows that we must address the growing need for increased access to transportation. Our job as task force members will be to come up with a funding plan that we think all Washtenaw County stakeholders can agree to. Albert and I are up to the challenge.”
The task force is expected to hold its first meeting in September and provide a recommendation to the U196 board in January 2012. It will then be up to the U196 board and the eventual countywide transit authority to act on the task force’s recommendations.
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