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AAATA plans service expansion after transit tax passes

By Stephanie Shenouda, Summer Managing Editor
Published May 7, 2014

With the results of Tuesday’s special election tallied, the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority’s proposed transit millage passed with 71 percent of voters supporting expanded transit service.

Voters passed the millage in all of the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti precincts, and all but two precincts in Ypsilanti Township. The final vote count was 13,949 to 5,783.

The proposal, which was considered in a special election, involved a .7 mill, which the AAATA would reportedly use to provide the continuation of increased services in those communities, including more night and weekend routes, increased services for the elderly and disabled and more routes within the city of Ypsilanti.

The referendum will cost about $33 per year for residents whose homes are valued at about $100,000.

State Representative Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) is a casual public transit user and has supported the millage since talks began almost five years ago when it was evident that the needs of the area were changing. He said the $4.4 million raised will be an “investment in better quality service” for those that enjoy or rely on the AAATA’s services.

Irwin added that throughout its 30-year history, the AAATA has been able to serve its citizens by constantly evolving to meet their needs. The expansion is another example of doing so with ridership at an all-time high and continuing to increase.

Nancy Schewe, president of the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area, also supported the millage because of the “enormous help” she knew it would provide, especially to those who regularly need transport to local schools, such as the University, Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College.

“Great cities need great public transportation as part of a means for sustainable growth,” Schewe said.

She said increased access to public transportation would be good for the community’s carbon footprint over the long-term as well, though she acknowledges the expansion requires “a little extra money to make it work.”

Though the League itself did not take a formal stance on the issue, the group sponsored a public forum to educate voters the day before the election, where advocates representing both aspects of the tax proposal were invited to share their views. Schewe said she was very pleased with the conversation generated and felt confident the millage would pass, despite the increased funds it would require.

Opponents argued that there are means of funding these new improvements without increasing taxes, including capitalizing on redundancies within the AAATA budget.

Members of the group lobbying against the proposal could not be reached for comment.