Voters in the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti as well as Ypsilanti Township on May 6 approved a 0.7-mill property tax increase to fund new and expanded public transit services by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA).
“The election results reflect that the community understands the importance of improving public transportation,” said AAATA Board Chair Charles Griffith. “We’re very grateful for the support AAATA received from residents, elected officials, business and civic leaders, clergy and senior citizens in all three communities throughout this historic campaign.”
The five-year millage election Tuesday marked the first time in the Authority’s history that voters were asked to approve extra funding for public transit services beyond the annual financial support provided through the city charters in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. The Authority’s public transportation improvement plan approved by voters will generate a total of $4.3 million annually through 2019. The owner of a typical home with a market value of $200,000 in the millage area of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township will pay $70 per year under the proposal, according to AAATA estimates.
Planning and education outreach efforts will begin immediately to inform residents about the introduction of new and expanded public transit services that are scheduled to start in August, coinciding with the start of fall semester classes for local K-12 and college students, according to AAATA CEO Michael G. Ford. The AAATA also will move forward with planning to get additional feedback on the next phases of the plan’s implementation.
“The results are a vote of confidence by the community that we had the right plan, and that increased transit will bring many benefits to the community at large,” Ford said. “The winners from this election are senior citizens, people with disabilities, workers, students and their families who rely on effective and affordable public transportation to preserve their independence, attend classes and maintain employment.”
Ford thanked the Partners For Transit (P4T) campaign that advocated for passage of AAATA’s proposal. He praised P4T’s coalition members for their hard work and hailed Tuesday’s outcome as “a great watershed moment for the Ann Arbor region.”
“The AAATA is among the nation’s best-run and most cost-efficient public transit systems,” Ford said. “We’re proud of the quality service we provide and will continue our strong commitment to fiscal stewardship as we implement our public transportation improvement plan.”
According to the 2010 census, at least 10 percent of Washtenaw County's population is aged 65 or older. By 2035, this age group is expected to make up approximately 23 percent of the population. In addition, approximately 29,000 residents of all ages (or 9 percent) in Washtenaw County have a disability involving hearing, vision, cognition, mobility or self-care. Census data shows that this demographic of Washtenaw County’s population more frequently experience difficulties or delays in getting the health care they need compared with the general population, and the lack of transportation is a commonly cited concern that increased transit could alleviate to help ensure better access to medical services.
“Our research showed demand for new and expanded services is overwhelming and that strong support existed from elected officials and residents in all three communities for a proposal that will pay for the additional service,” Griffith said. “I think voters appreciated that AAATA’s services are a tremendous value and that the additional cost of the millage will amount to less than the price of a cup of coffee per week.”
The AAATA, also known as TheRide, will use the additional funding to increase service by 44 percent, including about 57,000 more service hours for Ann Arbor, nearly 8,500 more hours of service for Ypsilanti as well as at least 9,400 hours of new service for Ypsilanti Township citizens.
The proposal will fulfill residents’ requests 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.
Supporters of the AAATA plan also cited research during the campaign that shows improving public transit can help create jobs and boost local economies.
According to economic projection models developed by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) using AAATA data, the economic impact of improved public transit in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti urban core would increase from $62.5 million today to at least $96 million annually if voters approved the millage. MDOT-based projections and AAATA estimates also show the millage’s economic impact from improved public transit in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti urban core would create at least 250 additional jobs and free up as many as 1,000 parking spaces daily in downtown Ann Arbor alone, which is the equivalent of building a new parking structure at a cost of $40 million.