The debate continues over the expansion of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.
The future of the AATA’s services is hinged on a proposed $700,000 millage that will appear on the May 6 ballot in three Washtenaw County communities. While the “More Buses” campaign champions connecting people and better serving Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, the opposing campaign, “Better Transit Now,” questions whether expanding the current system of transit is best when there may be other — and potentially better —alternatives.
State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5) support the referendum while other councilmembers remain undecided in the matter. The referendum boasts a 44-percent increase in transit services at the cost of $33 per year for residents whose homes at valued at $100,000. This transit plan would include extending both evening hours and weekend hours, as well as services for the elderly or people with disabilities.
The opposing “Better Transit Now” campaign, which supports the expansion of and investment in Ann Arbor transit, claims the city is acting without considering other transportation options that would better meet the needs of residents.
Lou Glorie, an Ann Arbor resident, said the “Better Transit Now” campaign is a group of concerned residents who see flaws in the five-year AATA plan. The two main issues they cite are the unfair distribution of taxation on Ann Arbor residents while residents of surrounding townships don’t contribute equally but benefit, and concerns about the effectiveness of the pulse model of transit for Ann Arbor.
“I think that since we pay for this system, we should be paying for a system that works for us, right?” Glorie said. “So I would prefer to see a modification, not a complete abandonment of the hub system, there is some logic to it, but there are certain nonsensical gaps in our service that are caused by a foolish consistency in adhering to the hub system almost religiously.”
“I think of them as ‘Better Transit Never,’” Warpehoski, a supporter of the plan, said. “The way to have better transit is to have more buses, more places, more often. The only way we can get better transit is to fund it, and this is the plan to fund it.”
In March 2013, AAATA found the current model of transportation services, a hub-and-spoke system, is best suited to meet the needs of Ann Arbor and surrounding residents.
The Urban Core Campaign, an advocacy organization working on transit issues, concluded that this type of transit system works best for U.S. cities with fewer than 500,000 residents.
“It distributes trips efficiently. It makes it possible for a person to get from nearly anywhere in Ann Arbor to anywhere else in Ann Arbor with a travel time of no more than 45 minutes,” the report stated.
Referencing a 2007 study conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff for the AATA, staff and representatives determined the hub and spoke model was best suited for Ann Arbor since roads are not set up in a grid-structure — a requirement for alternative systems.
But with two months until a vote, the debate will likely continue.