If you live in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, or Ypsilanti Township, the Ecology Center urges you to vote YES to support transit in the August 7 election.
Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township ballots include a proposal for voters to renew a millage that maintains the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority’s current public transit and paratransit services through 2024. In 2014, voters approved the 0.7 millage to strengthen funding for AAATA (TheRide) to expand service for five years. Without voter renewal, that millage could expire in 2019, forcing TheRide to roll back years of dramatic service improvements that Washtenaw county residents depend on. The funding represents 11% of TheRide’s current operating budget.
Robust public transit is good for people and good for the planet. It enables independent living and access for many, enhances the region’s economic vitality and equity, and promotes a cleaner and healthier environment. Our buses allow our community to get to work, to school, to the doctor, to the store, to see friends and family, and more—regardless of access and ability to drive a car—and to do so with a lower carbon footprint.
The service is particularly important to provide equitable access to work, health, and recreation for citizens across a spectrum of physical ability and household income. Transit enables independent living for people with disabilities and for seniors, who might otherwise struggle to reach essential medical appointments, for example. It’s also vital to people’s livelihoods and socioeconomic advancement. A majority of those surveyed on TheRide indicated that the primary purpose of their trip was to go to work, and three-quarters said that they were riding primarily to reach either work or school. Sixty-nine percent of riders lacked access to a vehicle, and 39% did not have a driver’s license.
In addition to creating equity in mobility, our buses make better places for all. Transporting more people in fewer vehicles reduces fossil fuel consumption and emissions, and AAATA further enhances its positive environmental impact by running 100% of buses on biodiesel fuel, with 56% of buses also hybrid-electric. These technologies keep our air clean locally and help mitigate climate change globally. For drivers, walkers, and cyclists, too, buses ease traffic and make for less congested urban areas. TheRide’s services make 1,000 downtown Ann Arbor parking spaces available each day.
TheRide has kept its promises and achieved impressive results with its enhanced resources since the millage’s initial approval. Improved convenience of high-quality service has encouraged new ridership and greater use of service since 2014. Even as public transit use has declined in the rest of Michigan and across the country, AAATA has seen a 3% ridership increase, reaching a record high of 6.9 million rides last year. 2017 saw a 5% increase. That’s 300,000 more bus trips than the previous year. Changes were especially dramatic in areas where service was expanded, with 29% more rides taken after 8 pm and 31% on weekends. In Ypsilanti, transit ridership doubled. Annually, TheRide now provides over 22 million passenger miles of transportation, and riders are overwhelmingly satisfied with the service.
What should you look for on your ballot if you live in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township? Below is the full text of the official proposal:
Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority Public Transportation Millage
To maintain the expanded levels of public transit and paratransit services—including services for seniors and people who have disabilities—shall the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) renew and restore an annual tax of 0.7000 mills ($0.7000 per $1000 of taxable value) on all taxable property within the City of Ann Arbor, the City of Ypsilanti, and the Charter Township of Ypsilanti for the years 2019-2023 inclusive? An annual tax of 0.7000 mills was first approved in 2014. This millage has been reduced to 0.6860 mills under the Headlee Amendment. This proposal would renew the millage and restore it to the originally approved 0.7000 mill amount. The estimate of revenue if this millage is approved is $4,849,066 for 2019. This revenue will be disbursed to TheRide and, as required by law, a portion may be subject to capture by the downtown development authorities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, and the local development finance authority of the Charter Township of Ypsilanti.
For more detail about the service expansions and rider satisfaction, TheRide Citizen Report summarizes survey results and performance metrics. For more information and to support the campaign visit morebuses.org and follow the Facebook page.
On August 7, go vote, and vote YES for transit—for our buses, our places, and our community.
Published on July 23, 2018