At its meeting last night, members of the Ann Arbor City Council once again convened before Ann Arbor residents and Ann Arbor Transportation Authority CEO Michael Ford to discuss a countywide public transportation agreement.

At the meeting, council members motioned to postpone the decision on whether Ann Arbor would sign the four-party agreement between Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and AATA to March 5, as requested by Ford.

Councilmembers Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) and Jane Lumm (D–Ward 2) proposed to further postpone the decision to a March 19 meeting, before the group eventually settled on the March 5 date. Council also passed an amendment that automatically postpones a decision on the agreement to March 19 if AATA fails to present the findings of its countywide financial task force.

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said the amendment would allow AATA to be more thorough in its work on the agreement.

“I understand the magnitude of the task Mr. Ford has in trying to get four parties to agree to something like this, but I also see no problem whatsoever that if that information isn’t ready for us, we could somehow postpone,” Hieftje said.

Councilmember Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3) said while he would support a delay, the four-party agreement is just a preliminary plan rather than a binding law.

“I’m willing to support a postponement,” Taylor said. “But I think it’s important to note this is not law we are making here, this is an agreement that is one party itself only. According to its terms it does nothing more.”

Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) said he was concerned that Ann Arbor had to pay more than other jurisdictions in the agreement.

“To be honest I don’t understand why we have Ypsilanti even in this agreement,” Kunselman said. “I mean we’ve got $9 million on the table, they’ve got $280,000, and they don’t even have to opt in the new millage.”

Kunselman proceeded to ask Ford why Ypsilanti was a part of the agreement, but during his response Ford was cut off by Hieftje, who redirected the discussion back to postponement of the agreement.

In an interview after the meeting, Anglin said he thought the fiscal details of the agreement need to be ironed out before Ann Arbor commits to the expanded public transit system.

“If we approve the things at council simply on a recommendation from attorney language, the public would be confused as to what are their obligations to this new procedure, and since they are the taxpayers and they’re the ones paying this bill, it’s important that they understand this clearly as possible.”

Anglin said signing the agreement without fully analyzing the financial responsibilities would be more of a commitment than he is ready for.

“Although this is given as just a bargaining document, it has something that will ultimately commit us to move forward,” Anglin said. “I think this is important for us, it gives everybody a chance to look at the documents further.”

Anglin added that he thinks AATA has provided sufficient financial information, and questions why the University has not been more involved in discussions.

“The one who’s not at the table — (and is) confusing to me — is the University of Michigan, a major player here in Ann Arbor” Anglin said. “I have no idea (why they haven’t signed on) because they have their own transportation system but they will participate in ours, they use ours right now, they use AATA a great deal.”

Anglin said students in particular stand to benefit from the agreement to increase transportation convenience and efficiency. Currently, University students and employees can ride AATA buses for free with an Mcard.

“As student housing moves further and further from main campus, there’s going to be a need for more and more students to commute and we would like them to use AATA of course, because that’s essential … that’s what we’re trying to do, that’s sustainability in transportation and the environment.”

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