September 5, 2012

Ann Arbor, Mich. five-year plan moves forward

Ridership will increase by 50%, to an estimated 9.6 million passenger trips per year, on a new public transportation system for Michigan’s Washtenaw County residents and visitors, if all the proposed services are implemented under a five-year plan released by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA).

The new transit plan would make a significant impact on the environmental quality, economic affordability and accessibility of all communities within Washtenaw County from 2013-2018, said Michael G. Ford, AATA’s CEO.

The plan proposes an array of improvements throughout Washtenaw County, including:

  • A 56% increase in service hours in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
  • More service for Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Saline and other communities.
  • More frequent service.
  • More routes and fewer transfers.
  • More affordable fare choices.
  • Extended weekend and late-night service.

The new AATA report, officially titled the “Five-Year Transit Program,” includes projected operating and capital expenses of the program that total nearly $223 million over the five-year period. The five-year expenditures would be offset by an estimated $184.2 million in revenue, resulting in a “gap” of $38.8 million. The Five-Year Transit Program also shows the system currently provides six million rides annually, with projected growth of 3.6 million rides by 2018.

To finance these improvements, transit officials plan to seek a countywide levy of 0.584 mills – an amount that would cost about $1 a week for most Washtenaw County taxpayers. The millage may go before voters as soon as May 2013.

Additional funding for countywide mass transit enjoys support from a clear majority of Washtenaw County residents. A March AATA survey, for example, shows 59% of likely voters in Washtenaw County support a new 1-mill property tax that would fund a new countywide public transit agency. The Five-Year Transit Program calls for a new millage that is almost half that amount, which should strengthen support for a 2013 millage request, Ford said.

The new report creates a short-term plan for public transportation in Washtenaw County and creates the blueprint to begin implementing the 30-Year vision previously developed. The vision is a culmination of two years of work in obtaining input from citizens, officials and civic leaders representing local governments from throughout county.

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