Monday night, the Ann Arbor City Council was asked to review selected changes to the Ann Arbor Transport Authority’s articles of incorporation that would expand its services to Ypsilanti.
In an Ypsilanti City Council meeting in late April, council members formally agreed to allow AATA to serve Ypsilanti. As the city of Ypsilanti already levied its maximum property tax allowed on residents, services would allow the city to acquire additional funds for transportation through an alternate tax.
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said he advocated the expansion, as there’s a large population of Ann Arbor residents and Eastern Michigan University students who utilized Routes 5 and 6, which service Ypsilanti, noting that the service was “full both ways.”
The resolution incorporated a clause to add two additional positions to the existing seven-person AATA board, one of which would be held by a person nominated by the Ypsilanti City Council and the other a representative of Ann Arbor.
Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D- Ward 3) said the proposed amendment to the articles of incorporation to add additional seats was “a very small step” compared to the greater logistical obstacles that needed to be overcome. Nevertheless, he co-sponsored the item, as he said he believed it was important for the proposal to move forward.
“I’m not sure that it is best that we do this before the AATA reviews it,” he added, as the AATA board will likely propose additional recommendations that would warrant amendments to the resolution.
While the item only accounted for Ypsilanti’s association with AATA, it remains unclear whether other area townships will want to join the system.
“I have been a staunch proponent of getting Ypsilanti or the other communities (to join) that use the AATA existing system quite extensively,” Kunselman said. “These are the communities that bring in the vast majority of ridership that then brings in federal dollars.”
Council members also discussed possible name changes that would accompany an AATA expansion. The amended articles of incorporation proposed that the corporation be renamed to Ann Arbor Area Transport Authority and be referred to as The Authority.
Councilmember Sally Peterson (D- Ward 2) said calling the public corporation AAATA when the only Ann Arbor area included was Ypsilanti was misleading.
“Changing the name will certainly come around by the public when this makes its way,” Kunselman said.
The council unanimously approved the resolution by a vote of 10-0 to add Ypsilanti to the AATA. However, the resolution did not enforce or ensure a funding mechanism for the expansion.
Jerry Lax, legal counsel for AATA, said he supported the resolution on the grounds that an additional millage charges could be imposed on Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti residents to fund AATA operations — subject to the approval of voters during the Nov. 6 general election.
“This is a first step, it doesn’t by itself create new funding,” he said. “But it does give Ypsilanti a more active role in governance and does create a mechanism where the voters in both jurisdictions can approve of (additional funding through taxes).”