Ecology Center playing key role in building support for transit plan in Washtenaw County

New authority seeks to expand service across the county

Communities across Washtenaw County are poised to take bold measures to enhance public transportation across the county, and the Ecology Center is playing a key role in building the citizens' coalition supporting the proposal.

Earlier this month, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board voted to begin the process of launching a new authority to operate transit service in participating communities throughout the county.

“The best part is that after more than a decade of incredibly complex and difficult intergovernmental negotiations, all of the largest municipalities in Washtenaw County have finally reached an agreement about how to expand transit service and regionalize Ann Arbor's local bus authority,” according to Michael Garfield, director of the Ecology Center.

“We have built public support for numerous other initiatives in Washtenaw County and southeast Michigan over the last 40 years, and now we are playing a role in the development of this new regional transit plan. Supporting the expansion of public transportation is a natural extension of our commitment to environmental stewardship.”

Filing the articles of incorporation is only the first step though. Now each community in the county has to consider whether to engage in the governance of the new authority. Participating communities will share in board representation, new and expanded services, and an authority-wide funding mechanism if approved by voters.

Charles Griffith, director of the Ecology Center’s climate and energy programs, has served on the AATA’s board for six years and was elected chair last month.

In addition to other efforts, the Ecology Center began working earlier this year 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, the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice and the NAACP Ypsilanti/Willow Run branch.

“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, and engaging these constituencies will be vital to implementation of a robust county transit system,” according to Alexis Blizman, legislative and policy director at the Ecology Center.

Some of the expanded services under consideration include more frequent service on expanded routes, additional routes to and within new participating communities, county-wide dial-a-ride service, real-time travel information apps, and better park-and-ride options. For more details about the proposed service plans, see http://www.theride.org/AboutUs/MovingYouForward.

EcoLink — October 2012 Ecolink
An online publication of the Ecology Center

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