Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (TheRide) (AATA)

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority CEO Michael G. Ford accepts new position at Regional Transit Authority

Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) CEO Michael G. Ford announced Aug. 20 that he will leave the agency in 60 days to become the new CEO of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) of Southeast Michigan.  The RTA was created in 2012 by the Michigan legislature to oversee mass transit operations in metro Detroit including Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. 

Ford, 52, who served as the AAATA’s CEO since 2009, has informed the AAATA Board of his decision to accept his new position at RTA on October 20, 2014, consistent with a 60-day notice requirement in his employment contract. The AAATA board is scheduled to meet on Thursday, August 21, and will outline a process for hiring of a new CEO. 

“It has been a privilege and honor to work with members of the community and employees at AAATA during the past five years,” said Ford, who has offered to meet with the AAATA Board, staff, and local leaders to ensure a smooth transition to a new CEO.

“I’m proud of the accomplishments we achieved together,” Ford said. “The outstanding professionalism and expertise of AAATA's employees place TheRide system among the nation's best public transportation agencies. Now I look forward to taking on new challenges while continuing to serve the residents of Washtenaw County in my role as the CEO of the RTA.” 

AAATA Board Chair Charles Griffith said the board would likely consider during Thursday’s meeting Ford’s recommendation to form an ad hoc search committee that will coordinate the hiring effort to replace him. The ideal candidate should possess senior executive leadership capabilities, deep knowledge of the community and a strong willingness to engage with civic, business and elected officials, Griffith said.

“I am confident our next CEO will be someone who can keep our momentum going and be a forceful advocate for AAATA with the same dedication and excellence as Michael Ford,” Griffith said. “His leadership, work ethic and ability to motivate staff to work at a high level of public service built a strong foundation for future success that will improve our community’s quality of life.” 

The AAATA Board on May 21 praised Ford in a performance review and a public resolution that highlighted his accomplishments, including his direction of a grassroots campaign that spurred approximately 70 percent of voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township to approve a 0.7-mill property tax to help fund the AAATA for the first time in the organization’s history. TheRide will use the additional millage funds to phase-in a 44 percent service increase, which equates to about 57,000 more hours of service for Ann Arbor, nearly 8,500 more in Ypsilanti, and at least 9,400 hours of new service in Ypsilanti Township.  

The board resolution also recognized Ford’s fiscal stewardship in reducing service costs and balancing budgets, as well as citing AAATA’s record-setting growth in overall ridership and the creation of other innovative transit programs.

During Ford’s five-year tenure, he helped:

  • Increase transit ridership to over 6.5 million annual riders in 2013, and the nation’s 4th highest increase in 2012
  • Expand AAATA’s membership to include long-time partners, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township
  • Complete a 30-Year Transit Improvement Plan and complete and fund a new five-year urban core transportation improvement plan
  • Launch AirRide services between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport
  • Launch VanRide services
  • Win positive media coverage from USA Today, CNN, and independent national transportation associations that published reports which included TheRide in Best-of-Class rankings based on ridership, operational efficiency, financial stability and technological innovation
  • Secure a new five-year collective bargaining agreement ratified by the members of the TW Local 171 and approved by the AAATA Board
  • Oversee completion of the new, LEED-Gold eligible $8.1 million Blake Transit Center
  • Launch a new AAATA website with improved rider information, navigation and tools

In 2012, the American Public Works Association Michigan chapter issued its Project of the Year award that promotes excellence in the management and administration of public works projects by recognizing the partnership between AAATA, the University of Michigan, and the consultant/architect/engineer/contractor who completed the $4.5 million Central Campus Transit Center. The transit center, located along North University Avenue in Ann Arbor, was designed to help meet the growing needs for public transportation in the Central Campus area. U-M and AAATA buses serve the facility.