Ecology Center taking lead in enhancing public transit in Washtenaw County

Collaborating with coalition of community organizations

The Ecology Center has begun taking a leadership role in the campaign to build support for enhanced and expanded public transportation options in Washtenaw County.

Over the past several years, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has explored ways to extend its service and build a countywide system.  An extensive planning process, involving input from community leaders and the public resulted in a 30-year vision and plan for significantly expanding transit options throughout the region.  A proposal for funding the initial phase of the plan will likely be put to voters early next year.

aata“The expanded system will be able to deliver better services to some people who have been left out of public transit, including those with disabilities and minorities,” according to Alexis Blizman, legislative and policy director at the Ecology Center. “Our goal is to educate the general public and mobilize broad community support for the proposal.”

The Ecology Center is working with a broad coalition of social service, social justice, and business organizations to build support for the enhanced system, including:

•    The Center for Independent Living, which provides individualized counseling, advocacy efforts, skill-building classes, recreation and arts programming, and more to help individuals with disabilities build their skills, advocate for what they need, find friends, and feel at home.
•    The Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, an Ann Arbor-based non-profit education/social action organization that brings together people of various faiths to act on moral and religious values and promote social, political, and economic justice.
•    NAACP Ypsilanti/Willow Run branch, which works to advance racial and social justice and address economic problems that disproportionately affect communities of color. Their geographic focus includes the eastern portion of Washtenaw County, especially Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, communities for which the expansion of countywide transit would be especially beneficial.

“Our project partners are based in the faith, disabled and low income communities of the county, and in particular, have a broad network of constituents throughout Ypsilanti and eastern Washtenaw County,” Blizman said. “Engaging these constituencies will be vital to implementation of a robust county transit system.”

The Ecology Center, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, has a long history of partnership with non-traditional groups on energy, environmental health, and environmental justice issues, according to director Michael Garfield.

“We have built public support for numerous other initiatives in Washtenaw County and southeast Michigan over the last 40 years, and played a role in the development of this transit plan,” he said. “Our collaboration with the CIL, the ICPJ and the NAACP is a natural extension of our commitment to environmental stewardship that will make our region a better place to live, work and play.”

The Ecology Center’s energy and climate program director, Charles Griffith, serves on the AATA’s board of directors.  For more information about AATA’s transit plan, see  http://www.theride.org/AboutUs/MovingYouForward.

EcoLink — July 2012
An online publication of the Ecology Center

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