Just imagine how awesome of a wall we’d have around Ann Arbor if, of the past 40 years, we’d invested in bricks instead of the AATA

I should know better than to try to make sense of the arguments being offered by the rag tag band anti-tax activists who have come together to fight the AAATA millage we’ll be voting on next month, but, when I heard that they’d launched a website, I thought that I’d check it out, and see if maybe they’d figured out a way, in the time since we last discussed this, to better articulate their concerns.

What I found, though, was an absolute mess… an intellectually inconsistent barrage of unsubstantiated nonsense.

Instead of focusing on facts, sharing the successful practices of other similarly-sized communities, and drawing on the recent findings of professionals who study mass transit, they’ve apparently decided, to tailor their campaign to the newly-literate. Between now and the vote on May 6, their plan is to share 26 meandering rants, each structured around a letter of the alphabet, beginning with “A”. Sadly, I don’t have time to go into depth on the first two entries in the series, which have already been posted, but I did want to share a small clip from “A is for Area,” along with four questions that occurred to me while reading it.


Oh, and I know that I should have probably focused on their suggestion that the AAATA plan is some sort of scheme to take money from the upstanding tax-payers of Ann Arbor and hand it over to the evil “poor of Ypsilanti.” Every time I tried to write about it, though, I found myself coming dangerously close to suggesting a hint of racism, and I didn’t want to do that, even though it meant that I couldn’t use my “I can’t wait to see what word they use when the get to N” line, which I really, really liked.

Judging from this piece alone, I’d say that it’s pretty clear what their major concern is. Sure, they’ve worked in a mention of “luxury” buses in Canton, whatever that means, but the real issue here, which is plainly evident, is their concern that they’re subsidizing an undesirable element making its way into Ann Arbor from Ypsilanti. This, of course, is untrue, as Ypsilanti City and Township tax payers will be paying for any increases in service outside of Ann Arbor, but, as I noted above, these folks don’t tend to get bogged down with things like facts.

I’d been hopeful that in a town built around one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning that we could have a conversation based in reality. Apparently, though, that’s not the case. Apparently, it’s enough to hint at “the poor” who use the buses without acknowledging the reality of the situation, which is that many of these people have jobs in Ann Arbor which don’t pay enough to make an Ann Arbor address possible. These people they refer to collectively as the “poor of Ypsilanti,” are the people who prepare their food, watch their children, and clean their houses, among other things. They aren’t an army of drug dealers coming to corrupt the promising youth of Annarbour… Speaking of which, here’s another inconvenient fact that often gets ignored in conversations like this: Drug dealers can afford cars of their own.

I should point out that not everyone on the anti-millage side agrees when it comes to why they don’t want this to happen. While some people clearly don’t want “the poor” coming into their idyllic little city, others, it would seem, like the plan being put forward by the AAATA, but just don’t want to pay for it. And you can see that divide in the video of last week’s debate, in which anti-millage spokesman Ted Annis says, “We’re completely in support” of the proposed routes, as the woman beside him, clearly in agony, whimpers. “We want the AAATA to do it,” he says. He then goes on to say that he just doesn’t want to pay for it with a tax increase… My sense, reading their website, is that perhaps not everyone on his team agrees.

And you really should watch the video of the debate, if you haven’t already. It’s one of the stranger things I’ve seen in my life. It’s like something out of a Christopher Guest mocumentary.

Vote yes on Buses come May 6… Or face the realization that you’re one of these folks.

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  1. Posted April 14, 2014 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t have an opportunity to look into it, but my guess would be that more buses will be running to Briarwood under this newly proposed schedule, which, if so, would disprove their theory that the AAATA doesn’t care about the suffering of the mall worker who lives in the city.

  2. Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure someone will tell me if I’m wrong, but I also think it’s intellectually dishonest of them to bring up buses serving Canton, as that has nothing to do with the millage. Canton, as I understand it, contracts with the AAATA for whatever service they receive.

  3. Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    The bus haters are bitter people.

  4. Glen S.
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    A yes vote on May 6 will result in extended service (earlier and later) hours, expanded routes, and more frequent service on many of the the most popular routes.

    It will strengthen an important lifeline that many of our neighbors who are seniors, or disabled, or both — as well as those who can’t afford to own or operate a private automobile — depend on every day.

    It will save energy, and result in less traffic, less congestion, less pollution, and less wear-and-tear on our roads.

    It will help many many low- and middle-income workers afford their commute to work, and will help make Ypsilanti an even more attractive place to live for commuters who work in Ann Arbor.

    And, a “yes” vote on May 6 will affirm the decision made by Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township officials to join Ann Arbor as official members of AAATA — thereby providing a needed boost to future efforts to foster regional cooperation, planning, and resource-sharing.

    As we’ve done before, I’m confident that City of Ypsilanti residents will vote to support this important measure on May 6, and I hope that Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Township residents will do the same.

  5. EOS
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 4:28 am | Permalink


  6. John Galt
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Our tax dollars should be spent keeping poor ethnic types out of Ann Arbor not making it easier for them to get in.

  7. Taco Farts
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    It should be the outlying communities’ responsibility to entice Ann Arborites, so that they want to add bus service. Riders arriving to an outlying district from Ann Arbor should be greeted with a lei, have their feet washed by the first daughters of property holders in the district, and travel about the area in a sedan chair carried on an exclusive pathway built above the already existing roads and sidewalks. It wouldn’t hurt for the aaata to run an ad campaign showcasing its exciting new ‘daytrip safari’ service, perhaps printing up a guidebook with information about how to trade with natives and what type of body armor is suggested at each bus stop.

  8. anonymous
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    It’s an interesting question. How big of a wall could we have had if we’d invested every dollar spent on AATA in constructing one? Could we have sufficiently fortified Ann Arbor by now?

  9. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I would like to see an outer loop route put in. A loop that would run fuller-Huron parkway-washtenaw-stadium-miller-main-depot- back to fuller would help people maneuver within the city much better and people would be able to transfer without going all the way into town and then back out to their destination which seems very time consuming to me. Maybe some of the anti bus tax folks are feeling that some specific routes should be added instead of others. I don’t know. An outer loop seems like an obvious choice for a route and would benefit those maneuvering within and those coming in from outside Ann Arbor. If the people paying the tax feel underrepresented in terms of routes compared to park and ride customers then that seems like a valid complaint. I would like to hear from anti bus tax people on the specific issue of feeling like aata has decided their mission is to not help people within the city maneuver better and instead the aata has made it their mission to help people from the outside to get in. And mark, I am not sure if I am reading your post correctly but yes I think it is good idea to not make it a racial issue and it would be better to not insinuate there is a racial component that you have by some conscious effort chosen to not talk about…Tricks of the trade, tricks of the trade. For the record I will absolutely vote for more buses, but come on man, don’t cheapen your arguments in such a thinly veiled way.

  10. Brainless
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    The hokey picture at the top aside, the Better Transit Now flyer brings up a huge point that nobody here has addressed (at least not on this thread): Their management burden seems truly and startlingly ridiculous. I was really for this until I studied the org chart. Now, I’m not so sure. What the heck do all those people DO, ’cause they sure as hell aren’t driving buses. I don’t want to pay all those salaries. I want bus routes. Sorry guys, but this shit economy has me sensitive to management helping themselves pretty much everywhere lately. I can’t be alone in that. This doesn’t look very good for them. Anyone have a better perspective on this?

  11. Eel
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    It’s not race. It’s class. I like how they boil ridership down to “the poor of Ypsilanti.” They can’t accept that buses are for everyone, and not just the poor. Most of the buses I ride are full of nurses coming back to Ypsi after working shifts at the hospital. They aren’t poor. They just don’t want to drive and park in Ann Arbor. That’s a good thing.

  12. Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I don’t really know how to judge whether AAATA is management heavy or not, at least objectively. We can compare to the AAATA to the Lansing Area’s CATA though.

    The AAATA’s employment breakdown is: 52 administrative (of which 11 or so are managers), 133 drivers, and 36 other hourly employees.

    CATA’s breakdown is: 70 administrative, 200 drivers, and 30 other hourly employees.

    Both systems have similar proportions of administrative employees. CATA has fewer “other hourly” workers, but the numbers they present on their website are approximate so it’s hard to tell.

    I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I don’t think AAATA has a bloated management structure. I think it’s good they have people like accountants and planners.

    You can find data on CATA on their website: http://cata.org/

  13. Gillian
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    So, to answer one of your questions, yes, service to Briarwood will expand as part of this plan. Briarwood is served by routes 6 and 7, both of which will have more frequent weekday service and later hours on weekends, which is something that Briarwood employers have been asking for for their staff.

    Briarwood will also be a transit transfer station and have a new route “route Q” which will depart from Briarwood and serve Pittsfield Township.

    Also, Frosted Flakes–that “outer loop” route came up quite a few times in the 2,000+ public comments that were collected as part of this plan, and one of BTN’s favorite arguments is that routes force you to go downtown and there is no neighborhood-to-neighborhood service that would allow you to connect the routes. This is actually not true, as those “outer connector routes” have actually been incorporated into the plan.

    Route “G” connects the west side of A2 along Maple/Stadium, which will provide much more convenient service if, say, you live in the Pauline/Stadium area and want to get to Westgate or Plum Market shopping centers. Route 22 connects the east side of A2, serving Huron Parkway & Washtenaw Ave and connecting a lot of routes on that side of town, and route “O” does the same for the east side of Ypsi, connecting West Willow/Michigan Ave Kroger/Gault Village/Grove Road area.

    There’s a lot that goes into deciding exactly where these routes go, and a lot of people won’t understand how helpful these routes are until they’re implemented. These “cross-route” connectors are part of what will allow this plan to have much shorter connections and convenient routes for everyone, not just people who are going to and from downtown.

    Route map for A2:

    Route time details: http://www.theride.org/Portals/0/Documents/5AboutUs/Moving%20You%20Forward/Service_Improvement_Schedule_Chart.pdf

  14. MS
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I have not been paying close attention, and I could be mistaken, but my assessment of the opposition is this –

    In the last few years, AATA spearheaded an expensive campaign to create a regional transit authority, but nobody but Ann Arbor & Ypsi wanted in. Rather than own up to the waste of those funds, AATA’s (very highly compensated) management decided to ask for a millage increase to fund what are in effect “regional” bus routes (mostly A2- Ypsi). At the same time, bus service within the city stinks and there has been little effort to improve it. (Try to get from North Main to Meijers on Jackson Rd. – multiple buses, etc.) So the anti millage folks are not necessarily anti-bus, nor anti-Ypsi. They see this millage as a money grab under a faux message of more transit – while more inner-city buses are needed just as badly. In addition, they don’t trust AATA to manage these additional funds any better than they do existing funds. I don’t know if there are restrictions on what AATA can spend the increase on. My guess is there are few restrictions and a lot of the money may end up going to marketing, management, etc. Passage will definitely bring in more money – but does passage also mandate the service increases at the level that they are campaigning on?

    I know a lot of these folks against the millage increase and most are good people with deep concern for fairness. They follow these things in detail and are wary of lies and mismanagement. I don’t know of a single tea party type among them. The message they have been able to convey is muddled and confusing, I agree. And I am not sure they are right on this one. I feel that adding service for any riders is a good thing, so I will vote for it. But I don’t like to see people who vote otherwise characterized as dumb or elitist or whatever (fill in your slur).

  15. Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    @ Brainless —

    1. “What all these people do” is keep the transit agency running. Obviously, an organization with a $33 million annual budget, 6-7 million annual riders, and 200 employees is going to have CEO, COO, HR, finance, communications, procurement, maintenance, etc people — I don’t know that there’s any possible question about most of those functions. Others deal with the administrative and legal requirements that come along with having 1/3 of their budget come from the state and Feds — unavoidable compliance costs. A few run the getDowntown program, which brings in a chunk of contract revenue and generates ridership, which brings in other revenues. Some deal with the regular service audits and updates that TheRide does to ensure they’re meeting needs, and the public engagement processes they go through around these. Sure, it would probably be possible to put together a “frostbite budget” that lops off a lot of these positions, but it would almost definitely involve a loss of ridership and revenue, and a stagnation in services — not an increase in services, because you’d be cutting out the staff actually responsible for defining and implementing those services.

    2. Since these functions are fairly fixed costs, they scale well. The proposed millage would expand services by 44% — but wouldn’t require TheRide to duplicate most of these positions. (This is perhaps why BTN only tells us how much the millage rate would increase; it’s not a compelling argument to say “The millage will go up by 34%, and we’ll only get 44% more service from it!”)

    3. Even if TheRide entirely eliminated every single position listed by BTN, from CEO down, without replacement, and magically still had capacity to apply those funds to route expansions, the cuts would total only about 1/3 of what the millage would bring in directly, and would not provide access to the matching funds from the state or feds. Rough ballpark — TheRide could implement perhaps 10% of their proposed service expansions if they entirely eliminated every single administrative position listed. That’s a far cry from BTN’s “these additional
    services can be delivered now without a tax increase”.

  16. Gillian
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I’d also like to note that of the “52 administrators” that keep being cited by BTN include people like accountants, IT, human resources, and direct customer service. The staffing levels and pay scales are very much in line with similarly-sized organizations.

    I also agree with Ben that we do need analysts and planners–creating efficient routes and adapting service as the population changes and expands is not an easy task–but I should also note that many of our planning staff are funded by grants rather than by taxpayer dollars.

  17. Mr. X
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    So, to recap on the four questions posed.

    1) The buses in Canton, regardless of how luxurious they may be, will not be paid for by this millage. They are paid for by Canton. And, as that’s the case, they have nothing to do with this discussion.

    2) The buses do carry people from “point A to point B,” and they do so according to schedules which are easily accessible to everyone in the community. So, do not be afraid. They will not pick you up at point A and take you against your will to point 7.

    3) The AATA has considered those suffering Briarwood Mall employees who live downtown. There are two routes going to the mall already, and service will be expanded should the millage pass.

    4) The buses don’t just bring people into the city, as they claim. They actually take people back to where they came from as well. (The buses run both ways.)

  18. Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    “their concern that they’re subsidizing an undesirable element making its way into Ann Arbor from Ypsilanti.”

    The discussions of the Water Street housing development proved that there are residents of Ypsilanti also hate the poor and are willing to use or thwart policy to prevent their entry. I would say that this discussion shouldn’t be restricted to Ann Arbor but rather to specific groups of people who live throughout the region.

  19. Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    @ Frosted Flakes —

    Here’s a good “transit first principles” piece on the question of central transfers vs. more direct service.

    Summary: for most riders, focusing resources on a high-frequency central-connection network will actually provide faster total trips than a network that applies those same resources towards more direct routes, like an outer loop would.

    As that piece notes, this isn’t an all-or-nothing consideration, and, as Gillian points out above, TheRide *is* proposing more of those non-downtown-hub routes, but it is a real trade-off in resource allocation, rather than the “duh” point critics would like to make it into.

  20. Dan
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    So what happens if/when one of the communities votes no and the other 2 vote yes? I would guess Ypsi Twp votes no, as the vast majority of the higher valued homes in the south of the twp are not serviced by the buses, and really do not want to be served by them.

    So is this an “all in” type vote, or will the AAATA re-design the improvement plan based on getting two of the communities to raise their taxes?

  21. Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Re (3), importantly for those mall workers, the millage would allow expanded hours on the #6 and #7, which serve Briarwood, extending weekend and evening hours on those routes. (Which are, you know, important for people who work at the mall and don’t go home at 5pm.)

  22. Posted April 15, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    hmm, my link above didn’t go anywhere. Here’s teh article i tried to link: http://www.humantransit.org/2009/04/why-transferring-is-good-for-you-and-good-for-your-city.html

  23. Posted April 15, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    @ MS: AATA spearheaded an expensive campaign to create a regional transit authority, but nobody but Ann Arbor & Ypsi wanted in.

    That’s not terribly accurate. Actually, AATA’s planning for county-wide service options was driven by the fact that *lots* of other communities “wanted in” — Pittsfield, Saline, Scio, Dexter, A2 Township, Superior were all at the table until very recently, with clear statements that they want to see expanded transit service in their communities, and they want to pay for it.

    The hitch is that the funding tools available to transit agencies in Michigan work well for communities like A2 and Ypsi / Y-Town, but not as well for a low-population community like A2 Township, or for a community which only needs/wants transit service in a small area, like Scio or Superior.

    Therefore, AAATA is working with A2/Ypsi/Y-Town to give those areas the service they said they wanted through this millage question, but they’ll have to continue working with the other communities through one-off, year-by-year contracts that provide a lot less stability to transit riders in those communities.

    The idea that nobody wanted the county-wide planning effort, or that it was wasted money, though? Sadly, those are just campaign talking points.

  24. Posted April 15, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Brainless, I can kind of answer your question. My boyfriend works in “management” and his salary is on there (one of the smallest salaries, trust me). But he is NOT management. He is an office worker. He is responsible for mapping (trust me, many many nights at the TeacherPatti-BusKen home are spent with him studying map after map after map) the routes, responding to community/consumer issues, helping to plan routes, helping with projects that his higher-ups delegate, going to events, and so on. But he does manage anyone else so to call him management is, to me, disingenuous (and trust me, he is not paid like management).

  25. Posted April 15, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I understand Brainless’ sentiment though…I cringe when I look at the AAPS website (on those sad occasions when I apply for a job, only to be passed over for some less qualified but “connected”…but I digress) and see many many “executive directors” and supervisors and other jobs that you don’t quite know what all they do.

  26. EOS
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    The majority of the Township can vote against the millage and they can still be outvoted by the two cities and be forced to pay. The Township also has a seat on the board, but they will be outvoted by the cities by a margin something like 9:1. The new plan has increased service to the two cities, but no buses run south of Textile in the township. Anyone in the two cities can hop on a bus in their neighborhood and ride to the library on Whitaker. Most in the Township will have to walk 3 – 5 miles. It is not economically feasible to have buses run through low density neighborhoods. So people in the Township get to pay the taxes, but the majority will get no service. It is very important that everyone in the township shows up for this election and rejects the new tax by a wide margin.

  27. Andy Cameron
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Mark, you should interview Libby Hunter, and publish her anti-transit reply in song.



  28. Dan
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    So EOS, this is a combined populace vote?

    That hardly seems legitimate. The city of Ann arbor can control the outcome of the vote, regardless of the other two communities.

  29. EOS
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Yes. That’s the deal the Township board got us into. Time for a change.

  30. Gillian
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with the idea that of township residents, “the majority get no service.” The vast majority of Township residents live in the northern half of the township in areas that will be well-served by transit under the new plan. The current routes that serve Ypsilanti Township have the highest ridership in the entire system.

    It is unfortunate, though, that most of the township residents who use the service do not vote: http://www.annarbor.com/vielmetti/with-maps-voter-turnout-percentages-in-the-august-2010-primary/

  31. Dan
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink


    I said that the vast majority of the higher valued homes in the twp get no service, and that is true. The majority of the estimated $800k in taxes from the twp will come from areas with little to no bus service.

    I’m not necessarily against this, as it’s not really a lot of tax increase. I’m still undecided. But I REALLY don’t like the idea of this being a combined populace vote. It makes no sense that AA’s population can totally control the vote in either direction.

  32. EOS
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    More than 50,000 in the Township, the vast majority having no desire to ride a bus to Ann Arbor for any reason.

  33. BK
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I do not own a car and yet my taxes go toward road maintenance. I don’t get bent out of shape about it, though, because I’m an adult and I understand that we live in a society, and that infrastructure is important. I’m sorry that some people who live in Township McMansions don’t have bus service to their individual homes. I suspect, however, they knew that when they chose to live where they did.

  34. EOS
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I willingly chose to live in a community that did not take money from its residents to fund an expensive transit system in nearby cities.

  35. MS
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink


    Thanks for your response. The townships came to the table, sure, but when they learned that they would have to pay for it, they dropped out. Do you feel the money and effort spent on trying to form the regional authority was well spent? Or was the outcome a given beforehand? Not arguing with you – I want to know what you think and why.

  36. Dan
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Exactly BK. Most of the south township has no desire for bus service. Frankly, I would find them more annoying to me personally, as most roads are one lane each way, and they will slow down traffic.

    But again, I’m not going to get bent out of shape about a modest tax increase. I just dont like how the logistics of the vote are happening

    also, btw, you use those roads, whether or not you personally drive a motorized vehicle on them

  37. Glen S.
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I think an important and under-appreciated aspect of this election is that it may cause some voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township — perhaps for the first time — to think of themselves as belonging to something (AAATA) that is broader than their own particular municipality, and to consider the impact their individual and collective votes on May 6 may have on on neighboring communities, and on our entire region. In this regard perhaps, finally, people are beginning to see public transit as something that works best when it is planned, organized (and paid for) on a regional, rather than a local basis.

    In this regard, I think there is an interesting parallel to the way a recent series of high-profile crimes in our area exposed the inefficiency (and ineffectiveness) of thinking about law enforcement as something that involves chasing criminals from one community (on one side of the street) to another (on the other side). Instead, there seems to be a growing awareness that these kinds of issues (like law enforcement) may be best examined — and addressed — on a regional, rather than mostly local, basis.

    Given the highly irregular nature of municipal boundaries in our area; the highly fluid nature of living, working, shopping, patterns in our region; and shrinking municipal budgets across the board — I think it is inevitable that people are beginning to look at problems (and searching for solutions) in a much more regional, rather than local, way.

    In this regard, I think having Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township working together (and voting together) as partners in support of improving regional public transit opportunities in our region is a big step forward — and one that might lead to other mutually-beneficial possibilities.

  38. Mr. X
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    You’re right, Glen. If this works, it’s a big step in the right direction in that it might signal a greater willingness to collaborate in the future. I don’t think we should market it as such though, given the overwhelmingly negative response we got from the Township when we broached the subject of shared police and fire services.

  39. EOS
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    We pay, you benefit. It’s not mutual. Neither is any shared arrangement between the City and Township.

  40. Denise
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    [Math?? Are you fucking kidding me??]

    Oh. Right. So I need to step in for a sweet second and note that there are people I know and love and have worked with on righteous lefty campaigns who oppose the millage. After some discussion and analysis and argument, it is clear to me that the part of the opposition I know and love see this as part of a larger nefarious scheme to fuck up Ann Arbor and environs. They are probably correct, but I’m taking the road that says, get the money and then step the fuck up (not my beloveds, but the moneyed interests they’ve [maybe] unwittingly joined with) and hold the Powers That Be accountable and responsive to the arguments you’ve put forward thus far. I know exactly who will step up and they don’t have the money, but they do have the vision.

  41. dan
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Correction: drug dealers do not in fact tend to own cars. They use their customer base as a constant source of borrowed cars. In-kind trade, in the same way that bottles of Tide are as good as cash in some circles.

  42. Posted April 15, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Just found out:
    Express services are not part of the millage and this includes Canton.

  43. Bethray
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    If you really have any question about how the opposition feels about the people of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Twp, just look at their voter information page. It only includes Ann Arbor.


  44. wobblie
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    MS writes, “At the same time, bus service within the city stinks and there has been little effort to improve it. (Try to get from North Main to Meijers on Jackson Rd. – multiple buses, etc.) ” This statement demonstrates much of the confusion people have. MS complains about bus service in the city, and then uses an example of going to a business in Scio township several miles out of the city.

  45. wobblie
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    to EOS, it seems that s/he does not believe that the part of Y-town north of I-94 exist. For example this article about the “Jewel” of the township is interesting.

    This complex house several hundred township residents, mostly seniors who directly benefit from having accessible mass transit. Currently serviced 16 times a day. They only have to walk outside to catch the bus–not “3 to 5” miles. Given the difference in population density between Y-town north of I-94 and south of I-94 , the greater part of Y-towns population will get much better service, and actually be able to take a bus to the main District library south of I-94 for example.

  46. wobblie
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    just did a trip schedule on AATA web site. Currently that senior living in the “Jewel” of the Township can only get within about 3 miles of the Main District Library. People like EOS should never have moved to Y-town. They really should be living in one of the townships that have decided to maintain their rural character. Y-town is incorporated and has been embarked on an urbanization campaign for years. The urban infrastructure they have built up south of I-94 requires low income workers. EOS should have moved to Superior, Salem, or Freedom townships. Saline has also opted for greater urbanization.

  47. EOS
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Maybe it would have a better chance of passing if they paid for the buses as a special assessment in only those neighborhoods that actually get service. That would eliminate the tax in about 50% of the township,but would probably result in about 70% less revenue for AAATA.

    For a significantly lower cost, the Township could contract with a private bus company to run a dozen or more routes reaching all the neighborhoods throughout the entire township. Then 100% of our taxes would pay for service in our community and not subsidize the cities costs.

  48. Brainless
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Good debate here. Thanks for the responses. I’m still not 100% convinced that we can benchmark anything based on the comparison to a single other transit group. Who knows? We might be comparing the most bloated to the 2nd most bloated and telling old #2 how great thou art.

    I’m totally for buses and agree that the riders really are a cross-section of just about everybody. I’m just wary of this organization. This is a tough call.

  49. Meta
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    We aren’t the only ones having to deal with this form of insanity. The following is from Wired.

    Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor a bill that bans the construction of bus rapid transit (BRT) anywhere in the state.

    The impetus for the vote was a proposal to build a $174 million BRT system in Nashville called The Amp, which would’ve ran on a 7.1 mile route and served rapidly growing neighborhoods across the city. There’s a more detailed summary of the project over at The Tennessean.

    Although BRT has been shown to revitalize economies and reduce congestion, opponents of The Amp voiced concerns about the safety of unloading bus passengers along roadways and whether private land would be used to build dedicated bus lanes.

    After the vote, Amp opponents revealed that the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, founded with the support of brothers Charles and David Koch, had lobbied in favor of the bus ban.

    The legislation is startlingly specific: Senate Bill 2243 forbids “constructing, maintaining or operating any bus rapid transit system.”

    The Senate version of the BRT ban also forbids buses from “loading or discharging passengers at any point within the boundary lines of a state highway or state highway right-of-way not adjacent to the right-hand, lateral curb line.” Though the House struck that provision and sent revised legislation back to the Senate, it would still require special approval from the Tennessee Department of Transportation and local government bodies.

    It’s a hard line, and an unusual one.

    Normally, the easiest way to kill a public transit project is to pull its funding. Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii and Utah all forbid state funding for public transit systems, for instance, but even that isn’t foolproof: Utah’s taken on some major commuter rail expansions lately, and Phoenix uses county tax revenues to pay for its transit system.

    Voters in Arlington, TX famously voted against public transit funding for decades, and an acrimonious debate in Cincinnati almost derailed a streetcar project, but both those cities now have service.

    A formal ban on BRT is about the only way that Tennessee could ensure that The Amp didn’t get built as intended. Already, the project seems to be watered down. Nashville’s mayor—a proponent of the project—has ordered a study that would redesign the system to avoid using dedicated lanes (PDF).

    Now, drivers in Nashville can look forward to increased traffic and longer commutes. But at least those pesky buses won’t be in the way.

    Read more:


  50. EOS
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink


    Most of the bus riders are certainly not nurses. Most nurses work rotating shifts, 7 days a week including holidays, with significant overtime. They couldn’t use AATA most of the time.

  51. Eel
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    If they’re not nurses, who are all of the women getting on the bus at the hospital wearing scrubs?

  52. EOS
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Ward clerks, technicians, housekeeping, cafeteria workers (servers), etc.

  53. Mr. Y
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    The presidents of all our local universities and colleges are on board:

    The presidents of the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, and Washtenaw Community College, the higher education learning institutions in Washtenaw County, have personally endorsed the May 6 ballot proposal to improve public transportation in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township.

    U-M President Mary Sue Coleman expressed her support for the millage at a breakfast hosted by the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber today (April 16). “I formally personally endorse the May 6 transit millage,” Coleman said. “I value the transportation system and all it does for our community. I am happy to join with other major employers, institutions, and leaders in supporting this effort to expand transit options in the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township communities, as I believe this effort will help reduce traffic congestion and improve the environment.”

  54. site admin
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Concentrate has picked up the baton.


  55. Posted April 16, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    “Ward clerks, technicians, housekeeping, cafeteria workers (servers), etc.”

    Yes, people working for low wages to take care of people with money who add insult to injury by refusing to help pay for public transportation.

  56. Lynne
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Whenever I hear the arguments about people in rural areas who go on and on about how inefficient it is to provide bus service to their area, I have to wonder how many other services are being provided to those in rural areas which are inefficient and which I must pay for. You know, things like utilities and roads and plowing and whatnot. Do we really want to go down this “I shouldn’t have to pay for what I don’t use” road? (and yes, people with cars use the roads way more than people without cars)

  57. Demetrius
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    @ Lynn

    I think a lot of people who who grew up/live in the suburbs (or exurbs), and who are neither elderly nor handicapped, and are fortunate to be able to afford to buy and maintain a private automobile, etc., are so used to jumping in their car to virtually everything — work, shop, appointments, leisure activities, etc. — that they can’t imagine there are other people who are not like them. I think this is especially true in Southeast Michigan, where the automobile has been idolized, and car ownership considered a birthright.

    I’m also guessing that many of these same people just take as a given the tremendous environmental destruction caused by dependence on fossil fuels, the tremendous cost of maintaining the military-industrial complex that is needed to protect America’s “interests” around the world, the obscene tax subsidies that oil companies receive to keep gasoline flowing to local stations, and the tens of billions of dollars it takes each year to build and maintain roads.

    Yet, let someone suggest that we all pay a few dollars more to help improve public transit options in our region, and (some) people in our community lose their minds … resulting in a really unfortunate kind of reverse class-warfare combined with thinly-veiled racism.

  58. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    I am absolutely voting for more busses.

    However, the insinuation that the Anti bus tax people are racist is weak.

  59. Taco Farts
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    I’ll point out that AAATA does provide service at night and on holidays:


    It’s actually pretty amazing that anyone with such a comprehensive understanding of every bus-riding demographic wouldn’t know about this service. But I guess one can only hold so much knowledge within any given container.

  60. EOS
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    The Holiday/Late night service is rarely able to meet the demand. Not a reliable way to get to a job if you need to be on time. You can make an appointment 24 hours in advance and then when you call an hour in advance to confirm, you are told that it isn’t going to happen. You need to be prepared to pay for a full fare cab on a frequent basis.

    I think the large buses on the road throughout the day with just a few passengers are far more destructive to the roads and environment than a few small cars.

  61. Posted April 17, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    If I could vote, I would vote for more buses and expanded regional transportation options.

    I will tell everyone I know who can vote to vote for more buses.

  62. EOS
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    That’s great. Your endorsement will send votes to the side for making AAATA be better stewards of the monies they already receive.

    Why can’t you vote? Felon?

  63. EOS
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    AAATA can do a better job and should do some housekeeping before they ask for more money. They currently have 52 managers, 37 support staff, and 133 bus drivers. We pay for 2 CEO’s and 7 people in community relations. They spend $1.1 million dollars on PR each year and another $577,000 on community relations. The buses cost 35% more to operate than those that run in Grand Rapids. Kalamazoo has 18 managers where we have 52. The former treasurer of AATA is one of its biggest critics. He continually brought up great ideas for reducing expenditures without sacrificing service and was routinely ignored.

    A “No” vote will send a message to AATA that the trough is not bottomless. Make them spend current revenues on buses and eliminate the pork.

  64. EOS
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    $8.1 million dollars for a new transit center in AA that is essentially the same as the old one.

  65. Jeff Irwin
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Fortunately, the AADL has posted the entire transit forum on their website and it is well indexed: http://www.aadl.org/aadl_events_20140407-transportation_millage

    By watching this video, anybody can see and hear for themselves what kind of, “great ideas for reducing expenditures,” the anti-bus millage group has offered. You can even skip ahead to the juiciest parts, and try to find those specific ideas for reductions.

    Examples of easy reductions are hard to identify because the AAATA is a well run system with service that runs 17% above the average efficiency of similarly sized systems. For me, the most interesting part of the forum was that the anti bus millage group wanted to focus on how efficiently AAATA moves buses (that’s the statistic they keep comparing against the GR system). Proponents such as myself want to focus on how efficiently the system moves people. When judged that way, AAATA is quite efficient (because fuller buses take more time and money to operate).

    So, which is the proper metric? Do we want to judge AAATA on how efficiently they move buses or people?

  66. EOS
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    The numbers I cited came from the forum. That’s the forum where the former treasurer stated that he could provide all the proposed new routes without increasing the milage. His experience leaves him well qualified to evaluate the costs. Why won’t you consider these cost saving measures? Why can’t you even consider an option that doesn’t grow the bureaucracy more than necesaary?

  67. Posted April 17, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    “Why can’t you vote? Felon?”

    That’s very Christian of you.

    I don’t live in any of the localities voting on the measure, but I can encourage people to vote.

  68. Jeff Irwin
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Eos, my sense of the event was that, when pressed for details, Mr Annis could not produce meaningful examples of the profligate spending he alleges. You may come to another conclusion; but, as Murph points out above, we can’t fund these improvements even if we completely eliminate HR, finance, dispatch, customer service, route planning and the 10-12 people who might normally be called “managers.” The numbers don’t add up and that’s why you never hear Mr Annis make a detailed pitch about what to cut. So, I’d be happy to consider an alternate plan to fund the service enhancements. But, there isn’t a alternative plan to consider, just assertions that there’s plenty of money.

    Having said that, we all pay quite a bit of tax and I can see how people would react with the feeling that we’re taxed enough already. However, when I look at AAATA, I see an agency that is moving 17% more people per dollar than comparable transit agencies. Should we maintain vigilance to minimize overhead? Yes! Nonetheless, our communities have an opportunity to serve our growing transit needs through an agency that has demonstrated their efficient use of public funds. I think we should take this opportunity.

  69. Eel
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    EOS doesn’t need facts. He feels things in his heart.

  70. Meta
    Posted April 18, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    AAATA CEO Michael Ford responded to the lies of the anti-bus group last night.

    From The Ann Arbor News:

    But the AAATA continues to face sharp criticism from an opposition group calling itself Better Transit Now. The group argues the AAATA could improve local bus services simply by cutting staff and other costs and operating more efficiently.

    Ford fired back at Thursday night’s meeting, saying it’s unfortunate that opponents have chosen to misinterpret data and mislead the public.

    “I would like to address some of the myths that are being communicated,” he said. “One myth is that AAATA is inefficient, when in fact we have 17 percent lower costs per passenger and have 18 percent fewer employees per passenger than our peers.”

    Ford was citing figures from a recent comparison of the AAATA to 20 of its national peers, based on data taken from the National Transit Database.

    The same study showed the AAATA’s cost per service hour is 17.8 percent higher than the peer median, though it also carries 49.6 percent more passengers per hour.

    The opposition group criticizes the agency’s $115 cost per service hour, comparing it to an $84 cost per service hour for the Grand Rapids bus system. AAATA leaders say the group’s analysis is flawed because they’re not comparable transit systems.

    Ford said another myth is that the AAATA is top-heavy. Though the agency lists salaries for 52 employees under “management wages,” Ford said they’re not all managers, and it’s false for the opposition to claim there are 52 managers.

    “That’s just not true. It is just simply not true,” he said. “We have 52 employees who are nonunion — 11 are managers.”

    He added, “This includes administrative assistants, IT folks, customer service, human resources, safety and security personnel, dispatchers and others.”

    The AAATA also has more than 130 bus drivers, plus a few dozen support staff positions.

    Ford said the opposition’s assertion that the AAATA might turn around and use the millage money to fund train services also is untrue. He said the AAATA intentionally left train services out of the ballot language.

    The ballot language specifically states the funds will be used “to improve public bus, van, and paratransit services — including expanded service hours, routes, destinations, and services for seniors and people who have disabilities.”

    Kathy Griswold, one of the leaders of the opposition group, said she’s proud of the campaign her group is running and doesn’t think it’s misleading, and she still worries some of the money might be used to fund train services.

    Better Transit Now is being led by some of the same people, including Griswold, who have opposed other tax proposals in recent history, such as a 2012 proposal for a new downtown library and a 2009 school enhancement millage.

    Read more:

  71. Posted May 1, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this detailed coverage.

    I just wanted to weigh in as a person who has lived and worked in AA/Ypsi area for about 35 years, using the buses much of that time as primary transportation to & from low-paid jobs. I think AAATA has gotten better and better through the years. Yesterday, I arrived at the downtown Ypsi transit center and it was the first time in MONTHS that I didn’t get off my original bus and walk directly onto the #4 — in other words, I had to WAIT. (OMG.) It made me realize how incredibly improved and efficient the buses are now, as opposed to when I used them as a single mother and waitress, or even when I lived here but worked at UM. The buses are a great example of a public service that improves our community for everyone, including non-riders.

    Everyone benefits from fewer cars on the road, more efficient use of energy, a more accessible and just community, less emissions, more options. I’m voting for it and I really look forward to more evening & weekend service! AND the bus to the Whitakker Road Library — we’ve waited so long for that service to be restored! VOTE YES.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] borders, mount campaigns to stop attempts at regional cooperation, as we recently saw play out in the battle over the AATA’s expanded role in providing bus service within Washtenaw County. Many people in Ann Arbor cried out that they didn’t want their tax dollars going to fund the […]

  2. […] however, my sense is that they’re an increasingly small and quite minority. Sure, the recent ballot initiative concerning the funding of a multi-district public transportation progra… went the right way, and more folks voted for the measure than against it, but it shouldn’t […]

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