|© Mark Bialek|
by Natalie Burg
The proposed countywide transit authority made its final stop in November.
The public vote on the Ann Arbor District Library bond drew more heat, but financially the stakes on the transit plan were far higher: as much as $465 million to build "multimodal" bus and rail systems plus $52 million a year to run them.
In March, Ann Arbor City Council voted seven to four to move forward with the plan. In November, it voted unanimously to back out. Why the abrupt reversal?
"Everybody else opted out," explains councilmember and transit supporter Sabra Briere. With twenty-three of twenty-eight Washtenaw County municipalities choosing not to take part, council felt it had little choice but to follow suit.
So why the chilly reception elsewhere? "I suspect," says Briere, "the townships felt really pressured to make a decision quickly. There were some missteps here and there about communication."
Briere refers to two sets of letters sent to the county's townships in October, one from the AATA and the other from the county, each setting a different opt-out deadline. Additionally, the AATA, which had long planned to move its current board members to the new countywide authority, had recently learned that, legally, new board members would need to be appointed--leaving current AATA members without a position.
The plan's sharpest critic, councilmember Stephen Kunselman, thinks "misstep" is too polite a word for the demise of a project that's consumed three years and $700,000 in federal planning grants. "It's called incompetence," Kunselman says. "This shows how mismanaged and incompetent the AATA administration was in trying to promote countywide transit. They didn't know what they were doing."
Whatever they're called, though, the confusing communications don't appear to be responsible for the plan's sudden death. Out-county leaders say they rejected the plan because they didn't see enough value in the five-year, $281-million first phase to justify the cost.
"When it came down to it, the amount of service it provided to Ann Arbor Township did not justify the millage request," says township
Government, business, environment, the U-M, and more.>> Blogs