Nearly 65 percent of voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township say they are likely to support a less than 1-mill property tax increase in 2014 that would pay for new and improved public transit services if the extra funding is tailored to meet the diverse and growing transportation needs of residents in the three communities.
Those are among the findings of a new survey conducted by CJI Research on behalf of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA), which is discussing efforts to expand services prompted by requests from local government and civic leaders in the three municipalities.
Based on the survey results, AAATA officials say they are considering a recommendation that calls for the AAATA board to approve placing a 0.7-mill, five-year property tax increase proposal on the 2014 ballot for residents in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. The date of the potential election is still to be determined pending the outcome of the AAATA board’s decision.
“Going forward with transit development in the three urban core communities, you have a decidedly optimistic community that supports the goals of public transportation,” said Hugh Clark, president of CJI Research, who analyzed the survey results. “A really solid consensus exists who appreciate public transit and understand it’s a very important service to provide even if it means paying a little more in taxes.”
If approved, the millage for the new transit improvement plan; TheRide Your Way, would generate a total of $4.3 million for new and expanded services annually through 2019. The owner of a typical home with a market value of $100,000 in the millage area of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township would pay $35 per year; the owner of a typical home with a market value of $200,000 would pay approximately $70 annually under the proposal, according to AAATA estimates.
The AAATA, also known as TheRide, will use the additional funding to fulfill residents’ requests for enhanced services in the three communities, including:
- Expanded Dial-A-Ride/Paratransit services for seniors and people with disabilities
- More direct service through redesigned routes
- Extended hours on weekdays and nights
- Extended weekend service on fixed routes (earlier start times, much later end times)
- Improved bus stops
- Increased service frequency on many route.
The AAATA commissioned CJI Research to conduct a random survey of 841 registered voters in the three communities during October–December last year. The results reflect a combination of telephone interview responses and email surveys with online responses to ensure representation of cell-only households.
Voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township say they understand the importance of public transit, and 63 percent said they either probably would or definitely would pay a new tax to expand services. Less than one-third of voters in the three communities – 31 percent – say they probably would or definitely would vote no, while 6 percent were undecided.
The survey allowed respondents to answer “definitely yes,” “probably yes,” “probably no,” and “definitely no” on the millage question. About 57 percent said they or someone in their family in the past had used TheRide service, which Clark called a very high utilization rate compared with 25–30 percent rates in comparable communities. Clark also was impressed that 90 percent of the survey respondents in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township who were familiar with AAATA operations had a somewhat favorable or very favorable opinion of the TheRide.