AAATA asks voters to renew and restore.
From the August, 2018 issue
When voters overwhelmingly approved a five-year millage expanding bus service to Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township in 2014, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority became the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. The five years are up in 2020, and the AAATA is asking voters to renew and restore the 0.7 mill tax on the August 7 ballot.
"Everything we've promised we've put out on the street," says AAATA CEO Matt Carpenter. "The last little bit, the cherry on top, went in in January: an express route between Ypsilanti Township across from the Marriot south of 94 on Huron into Ann Arbor, the hospital, and downtown."
Though nationally transit ridership is declining due to low fuel prices, a hot economy, and ride-share services like Uber and Lyft, Carpenter reports that locally "all ridership is up and breaking records. It's up five percent on the fixed-route services in the last year. It took a little bit of a dip, but now it's at an all-time high: 6.8 million rides" annually.
Renewing a tax is one thing. Restoring one to its original level is another. Because the state's Headlee Amendment limits property tax revenue increases, over the last five years the original 0.7 millage has edged down to 0.686.
"Renewing the millage allows us to continue the services that we brought in over the last five years," explains Carpenter. "Restoring it on top of the renewal [means the] very small amount of money that's additional will be put back into services."
Most likely one particular service. "We have crowding on Sundays on Route 4 between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti," says Carpenter. Restoring the full millage would bring in about $95,000 a year--enough, says Carpenter, "to pay for one more trip every seven days."
The AAATA can share information about the millage, but can't directly advocate for passage. As it did in 2014, a group called Washtenaw Partners for Transit is running the campaign. So far there's no opposition
Why is the renewal on the August ballot
instead of November? Carpenter says the timing was chosen in part because earlier this year, there was an effort to bring back some version of the Regional Transit Authority tax proposal that was defeated in 2016. The RTA would create a unified system serving Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, and "we wanted to put some space between us and give them a clear field," Carpenter says. Suburban opposition killed the RTA revival--but by then, the AAATA was already on the summer ballot.
[Originally published in August, 2018.]
On July 30, 2018, Peter Fink wrote:
Re your article on Transit Vote: Millage RATE seems beside the point.
The tax dollars generated and spent is what counts. Check out budget line "Local Property Taxes" in the financials. That line has gone up 50%(!) in four years: $10.4mm in '14 to $15.6mm '18 budget. Reason for Aug vote is BS too - who's kidding who? Put it in Aug so it will slide in with almost no one voting but interested parties. Had some lame reason for last "off season" vote too.
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