Representatives from the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority appeared before the Ann Arbor City Council at its meeting last night to encourage approval of a plan for a new countywide public transportation authority.

The proposed agreement would expand the AATA’s bus services beyond Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti and other neighboring cities as part of a collaboration between AATA, the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County. Throughout the meeting, council members debated the specifics of the plan and how it would be financed throughout the night, before ultimately determining to table the resolution for a later meeting. Council also voted to host a public hearing on the agreement at its next meeting on Jan. 23.

AATA CEO Michael Ford spoke throughout the meeting to address any questions about the plan and delivered a presentation explaining the preliminary details of the program.

“We don’t have all the exact details right now, but we’re asking you to support a framework so we can work within,” Ford said. “We’re not asking you to approve a millage or anything like that. Everything will go out to the people—we’ll be transparent from the service plan to funding.”

Councilmember Jane Lumm (D–Ward 2) repeatedly insisted that council was rushing into major reforms.

“We are being asked to consider a fundamental restructuring of our public transportation system,” Lumm said. “Obviously, it’s a major-league decision … I would like to postpone until we have (more) material, it would be a logical way to proceed.”

Ford reiterated to Lumm that he was only presenting a framework, rather than definite plans. He stressed to council that he was at the meeting to ensure transparency from the AATA.

Mayor John Hieftje backed Ford, adding that Lumm may not have understood the amount of work that went into the agreement as she was recently elected to City Council.

“Councilmember Lumm is relatively new to council and may not have been aware of the exhausting meetings that (council has) had — and I’ve been to several of them — and several other councilmembers have been as well,” Hieftje said.

In response, Lumm told Hieftje that she believed she had prepared sufficiently for the agenda item.

“I understand that, and I’ve been trying to do my homework, but I feel that was a little bit patronizing, Mr. Mayor,” Lumm said, as a person attending the meeting shouted out in her support.

Hieftje later apologized to Lumm, assuring her that he did not intend to sound condescending.

In the public commentary section of the meeting, Ann Arbor resident Alan Haber questioned why council had not previously hosted a public hearing on the issue.

“Why no public hearing?” Haber asked. “Why not hear from all the people who have concerns with this before you sign on to some agreement that’s taking you down some course that has consequences that aren’t really laid out?”

Ann Arbor resident Robert Thomas told council that expanding transportation services would enhance the community.

“It’s like the town I love suddenly grew to be four times its size,” Thomas said. “Like that part in ‘Harry Potter’ when they touch the brick and Diagon Alley opens up.”

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