“Like police and fire protection, public transportation is a valuable community resource that helps power a safe community,” Clayton said. “Supporting expanded and more accessible public transportation is an investment in our residents and the quality of life in Washtenaw County.”
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 May 6, 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. The board’s next public meeting is Feb. 20.
If approved, the new transit improvement plan 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 requests from local residents and elected officials for enhanced services in the three communities, including:
- Expanded Dial-A-Ride 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.
- Improved bus stops.
- Increased service frequency on many routes.
Sheriff Clayton noted driver inattention is a leading factor in most crashes and near-crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
“Expanded public transportation hours can reduce the likelihood of at-risk drivers getting behind the wheel, and endangering themselves and others in our community,” Clayton said.
“Improving and expanding public transportation will also reduce the number of cars on heavily trafficked local thoroughfares, which should result in less gridlock, fewer auto accidents and allow law enforcement officers to focus more of their efforts on reducing crime,” he added. “The result is better focused use of our resources and improved quality of life in the county.”
Clayton said he is a proponent of “root-cause” policing, which focuses on sustainable crime prevention by addressing the underlying causes that contribute to criminal behavior.
“Many law enforcement professionals support quality public transit because we know services like TheRide can be a meaningful tool in our quest to reduce recidivism rates,” the sheriff said.
“One of the reasons offenders don’t comply with probation requirements or ex-convicts violate conditions of parole is because they don’t have transportation to comply with court-ordered appointments such as mandatory counseling, drug and alcohol testing, doctor visits and court dates,” Sheriff Clayton added.
“Putting more people in jail for these types of offenses is not a good use of Washtenaw County taxpayer dollars,” he said. “Public transportation is cost-effective. It’s also good for improving public safety.”
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, which were released Feb. 7, 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.