In 2014, local voters overwhelmingly approved a supplemental property tax millage of 0.7 mills for five years for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (The Ride) to expand public transit services throughout Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township.
Despite the 70 percent approval vote in 2014, AAATA CEO Matt Carpenter isn’t taking anything for granted with the “renewal and restore” millage request on next month’s ballot. The five-year renewal approved in 2014 comes to an end next year and the AATA is again asking voters for their 0.7 mills to cover the next five years and keep those services rolling on down the road.
“During that time we have been very busy delivering and implementing all of the promises that were made in that millage campaign,” Carpenter said. “We are very proud to say that we have implemented every promise that was made to the voters in 2014. And we are very happy to see the community respond to those changes.”
By “responding,” Carpenter is referring to the fact that more people are using public transit in and around Ann Arbor. Earlier this year, the AAATA announced a 5 percent increase in ridership for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Demand-response services for seniors and people with disabilities increased by 3 percent. These increases demonstrate the continued demand for public transit services in the greater Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area.
“It’s great to see more people utilizing the services,” Carpenter said. “And because of this we are asking for voters to renew that 0.7 mill tax. This will be a five-year millage and will begin after the 2014 one expires in 2019. This will help us keep these new services on the road.”
An approval on Aug. 7 will extend the millage through 2024 and allow the agency to maintain the expanded levels of public transit and paratransit services introduced in recent years.
“Public transit is very important for the community even for people who don’t use it,” Carpenter says. “The main purpose of public transportation is to access the places they need to go to so they can participate fully in life. There are many people in the community who are able to get to work because they have reliable transportation. There are many people who are able to educate themselves and live an independent life.
“Here in Ann Arbor it’s even more important because of the number of schools and universities we have. We have a lot of traffic and a very dense population of students. We don’t have enough parking and that fact alone makes it very important to have good public transportation to get people to those crowded places everyone wants to go.”
Carpenter says AAATA carries the equivalent of an entire parking garage worth of people into downtown Ann Arbor every day. And even though the University of Michigan has its own bus system, AAATA transports thousands of M-card riders every day to and from their various destinations.
The AAATA also transports students to Eastern Michigan and Washtenaw Community College.
In addition to improvements made to fixed routes, seniors and people with disabilities now enjoy improvements to Dial-a-Ride services, such as later weekday service hours, later weekend service hours, and access to destinations like the Pittsfield Branch of the Ann Arbor Public Library, the Ypsilanti District Library, Meijer (Carpenter Road), Kroger (Whittaker Road), Walmart, and Quality 16 Movie Theater.
Total ridership for the 2016-2017 fiscal year was 6,879,996, compared to the previous year’s ridership of 6,572,012. This encompasses riders on all services including fixed-routes, services for seniors and people with disabilities, Express Routes, and airport services.
The ballot language for the Aug. 7 vote is very clear, defining this as a “renewal and restore” millage. Because of the Hedley Amendment, the property-tax rate slowly decreases over time based on a number of factors. The millage rate was “Headleyed” from 0.7 to 0.68 and the new millage request will restore the rate to its original 0.7.
“The difference generates less than $100,000 a year and we are going to use that money to put back into services and specifically to help elevate crowding on Washtenaw Avenue,” Carpenters said. “We actually have crowding problems on Sundays on Washtenaw. We need to help provide some relief to these customers.”
Earlier this month, the Ann Arbor City Council unanimously supported the renewal with an 11-0 vote.
The City Council’s resolution stated: “The AAATA has implemented all aspects of service identified as part of the 2014 plan. Expanded transit service enhances the quality of life for all Ann Arbor residents by reducing pollution, reducing congestion, expanding economic opportunity, and providing crucial mobility benefits for those who cannot, or choose not to, drive, including seniors, the young, and disabled members of our community.”
The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide), a not-for-profit unit of government, operates the local public transit system for the greater Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area. TheRide enables the area’s residents to reach their destinations at reasonable cost, and offers the region efficient, environmentally sound transportation alternatives.