In any case, the u196 board won’t be in the shadows much longer. It could drop its “u” as early as this summer, when it files the paperwork to become a legal entity under Michigan Act 196, which authorizes public transportation authorities. And it’s sure to be in the spotlight once it starts to build and finance a planned countywide transit system. The five-year first phase, announced in April, includes more frequent buses and longer hours in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, especially on weekends; more door-to-door service for seniors and people with disabilities; and more park-and-ride lots and express bus service for the rest of the county.
The price tag: an estimated $218 million. While most capital and operating expenses are projected to be covered from the existing AATA millage, federal and state grants, and rider fares, the current draft shows a $33 million shortfall. Filling that gap will almost certainly require new local taxes or fees.