League Of Women Voters Public Forum On The Transportation Millage Proposal

Media Player

April 7, 2014 at the Downtown Library

What do you know about the upcoming Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority's millage proposal? Did you know it's going to be on the ballot on Tuesday, May 6? Did you know there was going to be a referendum at the polls in May? The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area (LVW-AAA) host this public forum on the upcoming proposal.

The focus is on the proposal, which asks Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township voters to approve a millage of 0.7 mills for five years. The increase would generate a total of $4.3 million annually through 2019. Representatives from both More Buses (proponents of the proposal) and Better Transit Now (opposing the proposal) speak.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Rights Held By: 
Ann Arbor District Library
Length: 
01:33:24

Transcript:

  • [00:00:19.02] SPEAKER 1: Good evening. On behalf of the League of Women Voters, I wanted to welcome you to tonight's forum on the public transportation improvement millage. The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens and government. It works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
  • [00:00:51.52] In keeping with these goals, we bring you tonight's program, where you can hear arguments both for and against the millage proposal and form your own opinions. I want to thank the hardworking people from More Buses and Better Transit Now for agreeing to be with us tonight. We have Gillian Ream Gainsley and Jeff Irwin speaking for More Buses and LuAnne Bullington and Ted Annis for Better Transit Now.
  • [00:01:26.09] To begin the program, I'd like to read to you exactly what the proposal says. Sorry it might be a little boring, but I will read it. You can find the text on the League's Voter guide at vote411.org or on the county clerk's website. So here is the wording.
  • [00:01:48.58] Public transportation improvement millage-- to improve public bus, van, and paratransit services, including expanded service hours, routes, destinations, and services for seniors, and people who have disabilities. Shall the Ann Arbor area Transportation Authority levy a new tax of 0.7 mills, which is $0.70 per $1,000 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 2014 through 2018 inclusive.
  • [00:02:39.70] The estimate of revenue if this millage is approved is $4,368,847 for 2014. This revenue will be dispersed to the Ann Arbor area Transportation Authority, and as required by law, a portion may be subject to capture by the downtown development authorities of the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, and the local development finance authority of the charter township of Ypsilanti.
  • [00:03:22.15] I now turn the program over to our moderator, League member Judy [? Mish ?], who will explain how the forum will be conducted and we will be on our way, so to speak.
  • [00:03:40.08] JUDY:Thank you all. I'll assume that was for me. A warm welcome to our audience this evening. The forum tonight is conducted by the League of Women Voters to inform the voters of the area about the transit millage proposal, which will be on the election ballot Tuesday, May the 6th. Voter approval of the public transit improvement millage proposal will add an additional tax to all property owners within the areas. Rejection would leave the current millage and the current taxing in place, but add no more.
  • [00:04:17.18] Our program today is going to be divided into four segments. In the first, much like a school debate, we're going to meet and hear from the two opposing groups-- More Buses, which favors the millage, and Better Transit Now, who opposed the millage. The second segment will focus on questions from the League, with each side-- More Buses and Better Transit Now-- having equal and alternating opportunities to speak.
  • [00:04:47.58] Part three, we'll field questions from you, the audience. And we will have roving mics and roving speakers here. We will alternate questions directed to the two groups. We will take each question at its own value, and we will alternate. Each group will have an opportunity to answer it, but we'll be rotating. Oh well, this is getting more confusing to me than it might be to you. But finally, we're to the end. Each side will present their closing arguments. An earlier drawing determined that the pro-millage group, the More Buses, would go first in the closing statement. And the concluding group would be the con, or against the millage, Better Transit Now. Now you've heard the whole set.
  • [00:05:42.84] Our League [? timers ?] seated up in front, Sally Allen and Susan Greenberg, and our Mike Marshall, [? Zoe Behnke, ?] as well as those from the library staff will try to remember and enforce these rules. We have shared them with all the participants. Please catch me if I make a mistake. It's not intentional. It's just a little confusing trying really hard to be fair. So you clapped before, let's do it again please now. Thank them for all for coming. We appreciate them.
  • [00:06:18.55] Now, this first segment is going to work from the podium. So I will step aside as we call people up. This is the debate part. And the reason we're doing it is to allow visuals to be presented on the screen here. Then we'll all [? hide ?] ourselves except for me up to behind the screen. No secrets there, no ladies, no tigers. But I'll go back there and they will be allowed to sit down and to answer your questions. So let's begin.
  • [00:06:48.87] We are going to start with the pro-millage group, the people for the millage who've named themselves More Buses. They are Jeff Irwin and Gillian Ream Gainsley. Is it Gillian or Jillian? I'm hearing both ways. Pardon me?
  • [00:07:05.42] GILLIAN GAINSLEY: Gillian.
  • [00:07:05.72] JUDY: Gillian, thank you. We got it right. OK, this group will have 10 minutes to come up-- and I can see Jeff's on his way-- to introduce the issue on the proposal as they see it. They can use their time as they see fit. 10 minuters, are you over there? Timers, would you wave here so they can see you? And they will tell you what's going on. So are you starting? Come on up.
  • [00:07:41.01] GILLIAN GAINSLEY: Good evening, everyone. Thank you so much for being here. And thank you to the League of Super Women Voters. I love your shirts. And also to the Ann Arbor District Library for hosting this event. My name is Gillian Ream Gainsley. I grew up in Ann Arbor. I am a board member on the Ann Arbor area Transit Authority, where I represent the city of Ypsilanti, which is where I live. And I work in Ypsilanti township. So I've got a fair amount of experience in all areas that will be covered by this millage.
  • [00:08:10.60] JEFF IRWIN: And my name is Jeff Irwin. I'm the state representative from Ann Arbor. I've been a long time transit advocate. And before I had to work in Lansing, a frequent bus rider. And one of the things I consistently heard when I was out there in the community is that we need more buses, we need later service, we need more weekend service.
  • [00:08:26.60] So about five years ago, I started working on this issue a little more intensely. And I'm really happy that we are where we are today where we can present to the voters a really strong plan to make sure we have more buses going more places more often, because we certainly need better transit now, or not later. Next slide.
  • [00:08:46.46] GILLIAN GAINSLEY: So I want to talk a little bit about the plan that's actually before us. The plan that the inner area Transit Authority has put together has come together over four years. There were 187 public meetings, we had over 800 people participate, and took in 2000 plus comments.
  • [00:09:03.11] This is a plan that people really want, that people have been asking for for years, and I know that I personally have heard many, many times if the bus could just be a little later, I'd be able to get home from work. If the bus could run on Sunday, I'd be able to go grocery shopping.
  • [00:09:18.33] There are a lot of really important reasons that this additional transit service is important to individuals in our community. One of the other things that is included, the main focus of this is going to be more later service on weekdays, additional hours, as well as more weekend service. Again, both of these things are things that have been requested many, many times.
  • [00:09:40.28] In addition to this, we'll have some more routes. The route M in Ypsilanti will serve the Ypsilanti District Library, which is something incredibly important public resource. I'm biased, I worked there. But it's an important public resource. And it's a place that people have been requesting service to.
  • [00:09:56.45] Also, on the west side of Ann Arbor and on the east side of Ypsilanti, there are some big loop routes. So if you get on on one side of a loop and you're trying to go downtown, you've got to ride all the way around the loop. And so those routes are going to be reconfigured to make it shorter travel times, make those routes go out and back, and make it a lot more convenient for people.
  • [00:10:14.61] We'll also have some connectors, some neighborhood to neighborhood service, that will make it easier along Maple Road for people to connect to locations out there. Another thing that I wanted to point out is that as we increase the footprint of our fixed route service, we're also increasing the footprint of our A-Ride, which is a service that serves seniors and people with disabilities.
  • [00:10:39.16] And that's really a big part of the focus of this millage. We have a huge number of seniors in our community. And demographic trends show us that that's only going up. We have a huge number of young people who would love to stay here and don't prefer to have a car-- would like to be in a place where they have options, where they have the freedom to take transit or to ride a bike or to use a car as they will. So I personally think this is an incredibly good plan. I'm proud of it. And I can't wait to see it happen.
  • [00:11:12.07] JEFF IRWIN: And this is something that we've heard about from community members across Washtenaw County. My involvement with this started when we started Partners for Transit about seven years ago. And Terri Blackmore, the leader of the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study, and I went around and met with community leaders all over the county. And what we heard from community leaders all over the county is that Washtenaw County has changed in the last 30 or 40 years since AATA's millage was set.
  • [00:11:34.30] More and more people in the City of Ann Arbor want to get to places outside of Ann Arbor. More and more people outside of Ann Arbor want to get to Ann Arbor, and vice versa. The connections between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti township have grown tighter. And there's more and more activity, both economic and cultural and recreation, going across these boundaries.
  • [00:11:50.92] So we were hearing from community leaders across the county that we needed to improve these services and make the services work for citizens regardless of the boundaries on the map. So we started to develop in concert with AATA a series of community meetings. And you heard we had 187 community meetings with over 800 citizens over the course of several years, coming in to talk about what they needed-- what kind of service that they need, what kind of job that they have that they might need a later ride home.
  • [00:12:19.26] And out of all of that work, we didn't only get these nice comments from these people, but we got hundreds of comments from folks that are saying we need more buses go more places more often. And that's what led to the development of the plan that's on the ballot this year.
  • [00:12:36.02] GILLIAN GAINSLEY: So I do want to talk a little bit more about the Dial-a-Ride service. That service is really essential for people in this community. And we had a comment that I just thought was a really poignant example. Someone came up to us at the farmer's market and said, I really hope that this passes, because that service is the difference between me being able to stay in my home and me having to move into assisted living.
  • [00:12:57.81] That kind of freedom is really incredible and it's important. It's not an option. It's not a game. It's something that's incredibly important for people and really improves the quality of life for individuals in our community. In addition to that, we have some other services that we've been exploring. The ride is constantly looking for ways to find new partnerships that bring in new resources into our community.
  • [00:13:21.68] One of the great examples of this is Air Ride. Five years ago, I think, it started up. And it seemed like, at the time, that a regular route, a 12 trips a day route, to the airport that would really be able to get you reliably to and from the airport was going to be out of reach, that it was going to cost 3/4 of a million dollars.
  • [00:13:40.89] And we tried this, we implemented the service, and the more people that ride it, the lower the cost gets. And so next year's contract that we just approved, we're going to be spending $100,000 on that service instead of the $700,000 that it was supposed to cost.
  • [00:13:53.20] So this is an incredible service to our community, and it's something that supports people who are organizing conferences here. People who want to be able to visit our community, they don't have to rent a car anymore, because we have this Air Ride service and some community ways to get around town.
  • [00:14:07.53] JEFF IRWIN: Yeah, and anyone who's ever park at McNamara knows that parking at McNamara for a weekend, at least if you park near the airport, is going to cost you a pretty penny, nearly as much as certainly a whole year's worth of bus service and Air Ride here through this millage proposal.
  • [00:14:23.79] GILLIAN GAINSLEY: A little more than the $12 it cost you to take Air Ride.
  • [00:14:27.37] JEFF IRWIN: So this is just giving us an idea of some of the changes we've seen in the growth and ridership at AATA. This is one of the reasons why AATA is one of the most efficiently run bus systems in the nation and competes very, very favorably with its peers in terms of efficiency, because we have so many riders. And we've seen more and more people, for economic reasons but also for other reasons, environmental and cultural, decide they want to take the bus. And we've had tremendous growth in ridership over the past 10 years.
  • [00:14:52.41] GILLIAN GAINSLEY: And I just add to that that I was asked today, why do we need to add more buses when we already have one of the highest riderships in the country? And my answer to that is that we need more buses because we have the highest ridership in the country, because there are so many people taking the bus, and because we haven't really expanded our footprint in about 40 years.
  • [00:15:14.64] We've been making improvements, we've been adding additional service in as many places as we possibly can. But we haven't raised the tax rate in Ann Arbor. We haven't had this ability in 40 years to expand the footprint and be able to really include a lot more people into that tent. And as Jeff mentioned, the county looks a lot different than it did 40 years ago. And we need to serve all of those people.
  • [00:15:41.66] JEFF IRWIN: All right, so we'll just go all the way through, yeah. You heard me a moment ago say that Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority has one of the most efficient services in the nation. And this is the graph that really shows it. And what you see here is that in the numerator there, the top part of that ratio, our operating cost per service hour is actually higher than the peer median.
  • [00:16:05.63] But if you look at the denominator in that fraction, it shows you that our passenger trip per service hour is actually 50% higher than the peer median. So what that tells you is that our buses are very, very well used. It does our community no good to run buses very efficiently if they're empty.
  • [00:16:23.05] But it does the community a tremendous amount of good if we can run a very efficient service where we actually have a 17% lower cost per passenger trip than our peer averages. That's the number that we really need to focus on, because that's the number that reflects whether or not we're accomplishing our goal.
  • [00:16:41.14] Our goal is to move as many people around town as efficiently as possible. And this number says that we're doing better than our competitors, you could say, or the peer transfer providers in the nation. We're doing 17% better in terms of efficiency, because we're moving more people around at a lower cost per person.
  • [00:17:00.86] And that's one of the reasons why we need to improve and beef up our service, because some of our routes are so efficient that they're leaving people behind at stops, that we need more buses to be able to pick up the burgeoning number of people who want to ride the bus. And I think it's really, really great that we're able to run a service where even though our buses aren't traveling maybe as far as they are in Lansing or Grand Rapids, they're carrying more people.
  • [00:17:26.01] GILLIAN GAINSLEY: So just to close up, we have a huge amount of support and large number of community groups, businesses, we've talked to business leaders, community organizations, community leaders-- there a lot of people behind this campaign. They know that it's the right thing to do for this community.
  • [00:17:41.55] JEFF IRWIN: Yep. And I hear some more community leaders and elected officials and others who've been supportive of this millage. We need more buses going more places more often. Our community has changed and it's time for the Ann Arbor Transit Authority to grow and change with the community.
  • [00:17:56.04] GILLIAN GAINSLEY: Thank you.
  • [00:18:06.68] JUDY: Impressive. We will now turn to the team members opposing the additional millage. This is what we're calling the con group. They've named themselves Better Transit Now. And I'd like to introduce LuAnne Bullington and Ted Annis. They have 10 minutes. And our timers are over here. Ted and LuAnne, they will show you when you have 30 seconds left. So it's all yours.
  • [00:18:40.66] TED ANNIS: Hi. Let me thank the League of Women Voters for permitting us to speak. My name is Ted Annis. I'm a retired businessman. I was a board member of the AATA for five years and I was its treasurer for three years. I know the organization pretty well. I'd like to introduce LuAnne Bullington, who has been a user of the AATA bus service and the paratransit server for 22 years. LuAnne knows the bus system inside out. She is a staunch supporter of Better Transit Now. And as we get into our presentation, I think you'll understand why. So smile.
  • [00:19:31.04] OK, so let's get to work. Let us begin. And we support Better Transit Now. We support our bus transit system. And we seek to maintain an improvement, but without a 34% transit tax increase. And that's where we differ. I like what I just heard from the pro side. The AATA has finally identified and acknowledged the increase service, the increase in buses required, the later service.
  • [00:20:16.34] We're completely in support of that. We want the AATA to do it. And we're very sure it can be done without a tax increase. So let me get to the next slide. How do I get to the next slide? Where? Ah. LuAnne's got it covered up.
  • [00:20:45.58] So our position on this matter is this. The best way to improve our bus system is to reject the bid in the special May 6 election to raise our taxes by 34%. Here is why we urge you to vote no. The bus transportation package is a Trojan horse for nonessential projects, such as trains and parking garages, which have been going on for years now for attempts of those.
  • [00:21:13.64] The additional bus service hours recommended by the AATA are fine with us. And I think I just said that. I'll say it again. I like what I heard from what can be added. This is long overdue. We're all about that. We want it. But it can be delivered without a tax increase.
  • [00:21:34.14] How? How can that be done is the obvious question. By refocusing on core services. The AATA does not need 52 managers to manage 133 bus drivers and 37 support staff. Oh, thank you. Nor is it necessary to spend $577,000 on community outreach or $1.1 million on lavish public relations campaigns. The AATA, with clear direction from our city leaders, can design an effective bus system with its current ample tax revenues.
  • [00:22:26.46] Better Transit Now values the professionalism and courtesy of our excellent bus drivers. Our plan calls for no reduction in bus drivers or their pay and benefits. This regressive tax places an unnecessary additional burden on property owners and renters. And here's what the proposed hike would cost homeowners.
  • [00:22:52.43] Now you've seen this before. Everyone has this chart, both the pro and the con side. This is what I call the bologna salami chart. They sell you a slice of baloney and they want a slice of salami. It's called additional 0.7 mills. That's what's going on here this. This is what we objective to. Even with the whopping proposed tax increase.
  • [00:00:00.00]
  • [00:23:23.49] TED ANNIS: AATA's board refuses to direct the organization to redesign the hub system. The hub system forces riders to waste time traveling into downtown before transferring to reach destinations. That's not true of the commuters from Ypsilanti, by the way. They pretty much come from Ypsilanti directly to where they need to go, which is University or downtown Ann Arbor.
  • [00:23:48.89] Number eight. And here's where I greatly disagree with what I just heard from Jeff, whom I've known for a long time. The AAATA spends $115 per bus service hours where Grand Rapids bus managers manage their operation by spending only $84 a bus service hour. With the AAATA's 200,000 annual bus service hours, it is easy to see that greater efficiency would generate the same or more funds than the proposed tax.
  • [00:24:23.41] And I really refrained from putting up here the operating efficiency of the University of Michigan bus system, which is so stunningly dramatically good, you wouldn't believe it if I put it up here. The AAATA intentionally confuses comparisons of a service efficiency with that of Michigan cities, like Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids. Instead of using the US government's operating efficiency metric, which is called service efficiency, they use service effectiveness.
  • [00:25:02.98] Why? To conceal the fact that our buses cost 35% more to operate than those in Grand Rapids, or that Kalamazoo has 18 managers where Ann Arbor has 52. The AAATA board needs community members who are oriented to operating an efficient and responsive bus system, rather than lavishing our money on marketing for a millage or feeding a Trojan horse, to create a rail system or other resume building applications.
  • [00:25:49.28] In conclusion, we want to keep Ann Arbor affordable for young singles, families, and grandparents. We can deliver the additional bus service improvements that have just been identified by the group that wants the tax millage. We want those, and those can be delivered. And they can be delivered without the tax millage. It's pretty straightforward arithmetic. It's pretty straightforward business analysis. Thank you.
  • [00:26:26.75] LUANNE BULLINGTON: I'm LuAnne Bullington, and as you can see, I use their ADA services. I've used it for 22 years. I have been a local advisory committee member for AATA, and boy do I know the ADA. So when I got this card in the mail about seniors and people with disabilities and that we need a millage for this, I had to scratch my head saying, really? Really?
  • [00:26:54.81] Under the ADA, we don't need a millage for the ADA. Under the ADA, if you have a disability and you live within three quarters of a mile of any bus stop, they are required by law to come get you door to door. So if they run more buses into more places, a lot of those places are going to be covered already.
  • [00:27:16.23] If you have a disability that prevents you from taking a bus, go down to Industrial and pick up this flyer. And in this flyer, there is a map on the back. And it shows the surface area. And the surface area not covered Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti township, it also covers Pittsfield and several other places. And we're doing that now without a millage increase.
  • [00:27:46.21] On top of that, a lot of this money to get paid for this ADA service is not covered by your taxes. That's picked up by state and federal funds. Most of the money to cover these services are paid through the feds and state funding. So we don't need a millage to get better service for people with disabilities.
  • [00:28:06.03] The other program, and that's called a green card program. OK. The other one is the gold card program. This is for seniors. Now, if you're 65 and older, go to AATA, they'll issue you a card, and you can ride any bus on the service for free. And you can get door to door service within the city limits of Ann Arbor right now, today, without increasing any millage for $3 if you call in advance. So we don't need to pander to people with disabilities and seniors. We have it already.
  • [00:28:51.41] JUDY: OK, now we're coming to a five minute response time from each side. You may use it however you will-- reiterate points, answer, sock it to them, whatever comes to mind. So we will go first please to the More Buses team, the pro-millage people. Five minutes, and we will go back to you folks for five minutes. Then we will ascend to the upper chamber.
  • [00:29:22.24] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: Thanks everyone. And I appreciate the points that Better Transit Now has brought up, because I think that there are some pieces of misinformation that we have an opportunity to respond to.
  • [00:29:34.78] The first thing I would like to point out is the first line of our millage, which says to improve public bus, van, and para-transit services. Legally, we are obligated to use the funds from this millage to improve public bus, van, and para-transit services. We can't use it for trains. We can't use it for parking garages.
  • [00:29:57.16] And every dollar that's coming from state and federal funds that is matched is part of this millage. For every dollar that we're paying in taxes, we're actually getting $2 in matching funds. And every dime of that is part of this transit plan. That plan has been reviewed by third party commissions. And they know this is all a matter of public record. This is all on our board. But these buses is exactly where all of this money is going.
  • [00:30:23.67] The second claim that's been out there is that there are 52 managers at the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority. What that actually comes from, there are 52 nonunion staff members. So that includes people like maintenance, that includes the people who sell tickets at the Lake Transit Center, some of the folks who are in our IT department, it includes people who do human resources, and of course, our dispatchers.
  • [00:30:50.78] So these people, I wouldn't call any of those positions nonessential. All of those people are really important to making sure that our buses run the right way. Furthermore, the people who are managers, there's 11 of them out of about 200 employees. They are incredibly competent people, who've been here for 20 plus years. I wouldn't have anyone else in place of them. And so I think we actually have a very efficient management system.
  • [00:31:17.27] And additionally, the Air Ride service that I mentioned earlier, as well as some of the A-Ride, those are all services where the drivers are not actually part of AATA. We contract those services. And so there are additional drivers that are not showing up on our payroll. We have a manager who markets those services and manages them. But there are additional drivers. So it's not all of the service.
  • [00:31:42.63] I'd like to address the ADA service comment. We do pay for ADA service two to one. It's under the same rubric that we pay for everything else. And we do get federal matching funds, just like we do for buses. We very much support that service.
  • [00:32:00.06] And finally, I think that our marketing is really important. The reason that Air Ride has been so successful, that reason that that service is costing the taxpayers less and less and less every single year, is because it's been part of a successful marketing campaign.
  • [00:32:14.77] When you pay that $12 to get on that bus, instead of the $75 that you would pay a cab driver, you're contributing to the cost of that service. And so that's a real success story for us. And the fact that we do pay for some marketing, we're getting an excellent return on investment out of those dollars. Do you have anything to add, Jeff?
  • [00:32:32.06] JEFF IRWIN: Yeah, just a couple of things. One, we've talked a little about leveraging of dollars that are state and federal dollars that are matched when we invest here locally. I just want to make the point that we can't get the two to one match if we don't put up the one. And this is about putting up the one. So we can bring twice as much more money back to our community. Yep. And that money filters around our community, it's spent in our community, and that's really, really important.
  • [00:32:53.32] Another thing, I hear this a lot in Lansing that maybe we can do more with less. We hear all the time about our schools. They just need to be more efficient, right? And I'm just here to say that if there were wasteful programs at AATA that could be cut to deploy more service, I don't know where they are. I've looked in the organization.
  • [00:33:13.04] I would love to see some specifics about that, because I can tell you that what I've noticed in this community through my 10 plus years at the county and through watching the leaders at the AATA over the years, if there's a wasteful program, that gets cut. But when they were routes several years ago that were very low efficiency routes, those routes were cut. And when those routes were cut, there was an outcry from folks about that.
  • [00:33:38.06] So what we're talking about here is how can we run the best possible service? And I think that the AATA board and the leadership of the AATA has shown that they can do that. It's not like they're deploying a bunch of wasteful, non-productive routes, because if they were, the numbers wouldn't be what they are. The numbers wouldn't show that we have buses with more people on them per average than other communities.
  • [00:33:58.29] So when you hear about complaints about empty buses, remember that our buses are 17% more full, because our goal here is to make sure that our service is well utilized. And that's why those marketing dollars are important.
  • [00:34:09.08] So when you hear marketing dollars, think about that time when you go to the bus stop and you pull up your mobile app to see if the bus is coming or not. That's marketing dollars. When you pick up that ride guide and it tells you when the bus is coming where and it shows you the little maps of where they're at, that's marketing dollars. So when you hear marketing dollars, this isn't like advertisements on TV primarily. This is service for customers.
  • [00:34:41.41] JUDY: Good timing. Five minutes now to those of you who are opposing the millage as it is. The Better Transit Now.
  • [00:34:53.34] LUANNE BULLINGTON: You want to go first?
  • [00:34:54.27] TED ANNIS: Yeah, let me go first. Well Jeff, I heard some things that just don't make any sense. Some do, some do not. And there's so many things that didn't make sense that I don't know quite where to start. But let me talk about that particular line that you used about if you see empty buses, just remember that they're 18% more full. I don't get that one. But that was a bit confusing.
  • [00:35:22.63] But what Jeff has done and what the pro people have done is that they have, again, camouflaged the efficiency issue with the service effectiveness issue. We're not talking here about service effectiveness. The service is reasonably effective. That's not the issue. It's the efficiency. And the efficiency is when you add up all of the people in the AATA organization which are not essential, you can reduce your operating costs per hour substantially by millions of dollars.
  • [00:36:02.45] And so we talked about, I heard something about you have an app on your mobile phone and you need community relations and marketing to do that? I don't think so. That comes out of the IT department, OK? Now, just let me run through the management overhead. This is the AATA's own list, which I have here.
  • [00:36:27.47] I went through this list. I know the organization pretty well. I determined that between 30 and 32 people that work there are nonessential. And for example, do we need two CEOs? Do we need seven people in community relations? Do we need four people in service development? I don't think, I know this is camouflage for get out there and market a tax increase. It's disappointing to me that people wanted to come out and take more money from you when they don't need it. It's really, really disappointing to me. LuAnne would like to say a couple things.
  • [00:37:13.45] LUANNE BULLINGTON: Yeah. First of all, I want to talk about AATA. These guys are incredible. Chris White is absolutely amazing. If there was a route that could have enough people to sustain it, we would have it today. We talked about the librarian in Ypsilanti. For two years, they ran a bus out there, but it wasn't sustainable and not enough people used it. So they dropped it.
  • [00:37:35.92] AATA offered to EMU to do the same type of thing they're doing with U of M. Do you know that U of M faculty, staff, and students ride that bus for free? They made that same offer to EMU. EMU turned it down. Why? I don't know. Did they need it? Probably not.
  • [00:37:50.91] If you are 65 and older, you can go to AATA on Industrial and get a gold card and ride any bus on the system for free. If you act right now, today, if you have a green card, you can go to AATA and get a green card and ride any bus in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti Township, Ypsilanti, Pittsfield, going into Superior, we do that now. Yes, we do it with federal matching funds.
  • [00:38:17.30] AUDIENCE: What is you're not 65?
  • [00:38:20.70] LUANNE BULLINGTON: If you're low income, they have a Medicare/Medicaid program. Well, then you got to pay the buck 50. But the rest of us ride for free.
  • [00:38:37.12] TED ANNIS: So I think our five minutes is up. And this could be a lively debate later with Jeff over a beer somewhere. And I look forward to doing it. But I'm a Democrat that does not appreciate pork. And basically what we have is an organization so full of pork, it's not good. And that is the accounting game that's going on here. Thank you. Bye.
  • [00:39:04.77] JUDY: OK, question number one. These come from League members and from the community. It's on the question of fairness of the millage and probably fairness of the AAATA. Some of the objections to the proposed millage lie in the sense that it does not fairly assess or tax each community. Does the total millage revenue paid by an area support the level of service received by that community? Any comments you'd like to make to this would be appreciated. You have two minutes from each side.
  • [00:39:44.38] MALE SPEAKER: Who's first?
  • [00:39:46.72] JUDY: You're first. The con. Mr. Annis, Miss Bullington.
  • [00:39:52.33] TED ANNIS: Yeah, I'm on the con side of this millage. And that's a very complex question, because if this millage were to pass-- and I hope it is not, it should not pass-- the other communities do not pay a proportionate share like Ann Arbor does. In our con position, our position of opposition to the millage, we didn't bring that up.
  • [00:40:26.49] That is another complex issue, which has not been fully addressed by the politicians, by the AATA, by the pro groups at all. We decided not to tackle that one. So that's where I'm going to leave that one.
  • [00:40:46.75] LUANNE BULLINGTON: OK, do we still have time?
  • [00:40:49.08] TED ANNIS: Yeah, go ahead.
  • [00:40:50.12] LUANNE BULLINGTON: OK. I've actually been attending AATA and transit meetings for a long time. And several years ago, Pam Burns had a meeting at WCC on this very subject. She brought in professionals who deal with mass transit. And they took a look at how this millage should be handled between different groups. And they had something called the layer cake, where what we're doing now, we're just layering taxes and layering taxes.
  • [00:41:19.24] You're now paying, if you live in Ann Arbor, 2.056. You're going to add another 7. They did not think layering was that good of an idea, because now you have people like Ypsilanti Township, they're only going to be paying 0.7. And Ypsilanti is going to be paying a little more.
  • [00:41:35.65] Jack Eaton, a city council member, said we don't divvy up in our wards. I'm only going to pay this much for fire because I don't use it and I'm only going to pay this much for police because I don't use it. We shouldn't be doing that with millage. What they recommended at WCC is something they called donut hole. Don't increase Ann Arbor, increase the surrounding areas.
  • [00:41:57.47] JUDY: OK, thank you very much. Same question, question about millage paid versus services received, roughly speaking. The pro people.
  • [00:42:07.04] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: Sure. I actually spend a lot of quality time with that particular spreadsheet this afternoon. And it's not actually terribly complicated. You can add up the number of service hours that Ann Arbor will have after this millage passes. And they have 90% of the service hours. You can add up the number of dollars that Ann Arbor will be spending in total on taxes after this millage passes. They paid 90% of the dollars.
  • [00:42:33.66] So Ypsilanti Township is not going to have the kind of service that Ann Arbor has, where in just about any neighborhood in the city, you can be within five minutes of a transit line. They're going to have a select few lines that they desperately want. They really can't wait to have this there.
  • [00:42:52.27] They have been, up until now, paying for their service out of their general fund. The library line that was brought up, that actually was funded through grant money. It wasn't shut down because it had low ridership, it was shut down because the grant ended. And part of the reason that they are very enthusiastic about this millage is that they want to be able to spend the money that they're bringing in on bringing those lines and bring back the things that their constituents really want.
  • [00:43:18.72] JEFF IRWIN: Yeah. And Mr. Annis mentioned the politicians. I can speak from personal experience having worked with the politicians in Ypsilanti Township and the city of Ypsilanti, one of the number one things they're concerned about, maybe second behind serving their residents with good transit service, is making sure that their residents get value for the dollars that they're putting in.
  • [00:43:36.55] And the same is true of our city council and our mayor. That was the number one thing they wanted to know when they were considering this proposal. They wanted to know are my residents going to get $1's worth of service for $1's worth of input? And as Gillian just explained, that's exactly what this plan does.
  • [00:43:50.28] The numbers are public, you can examine them yourselves, and it's not difficult to do a simple ratio with the service hours and to see that AAATA has done an excellent job of designing this enhancement so that communities get service roughly in proportion to the money that they're putting in.
  • [00:44:08.13] JUDY: Thank you. Second question will start with the pro people over here, More Buses. This question or statement is the budget assumes an increase in state and federal funding if the millage passes. What assurance do we have that if the millage passes, the expected increase in state and federal funding will be approved and received locally?
  • [00:44:34.81] JEFF IRWIN: Right. The simplest answer to that question is that the funding that is being relied upon in this plan is what's called formula funding. And in the federal and state transportation bills, there is provided for formula funding, so that when communities are putting up service, there's a certain match level.
  • [00:44:55.70] And at the federal level and at the state level as well, those match levels have been very consistent for a number of years. Certainly one of the things that I've been trying to do in Lansing is to try and enhance the amount of money that goes towards supporting these kinds of services. But the funds that are being considered in the plan and the funds that we're talking about matching federal and state are formula funds, and those have in place for decades.
  • [00:45:19.63] Could things change? I mean, of course. There's no guarantees in this world. Congress could all of a sudden have a consensus on an issue finally. But I think that's pretty unlikely. And I think this is one of these sources of funding that is more rather than less bankable at the state and federal level.
  • [00:45:37.88] JUDY: That's it? Thank you. How about you folks against the millage. Any thoughts on that?
  • [00:45:44.95] TED ANNIS: Here are my thoughts. I'm very familiar with formula funding. If you deliver the additional service hours, which we support, you will get those formula funds. They don't match our taxes. They give it to us based on the service we deliver. So Better Transit Now wants those services and knows that the AATA can deliver those services.
  • [00:46:14.97] And when they deliver those services, yes indeed, they will receive, with some modest degree of uncertainty, that the state and federal matching funds will be available. One of the disingenuous parts of the pro people is that they say, hey, if you pay this millage.
  • [00:46:44.68] We will get matching state and federal funds. That isn't how it works. It has to do with the services. So as long as they increase the services, yes, you can get those matching funds. And by the way, they're called, among other things, Federal 5307 funds. And the AATA and I have a long history of those funds together. Thank you.
  • [00:47:04.29] JUDY: OK.
  • [00:47:05.09] TED ANNIS: Wait a minute, excuse me. Are we done?
  • [00:47:07.34] JUDY: No.
  • [00:47:07.53] TED ANNIS: LuAnne would like to say something.
  • [00:47:08.51] JUDY: I think we still have time. Yes? If you'd like to speak, LuAnne.
  • [00:47:11.35] LUANNE BULLINGTON: I do. I want to go back to talk about how this millage is getting divvied up. I have been attending AATA meetings for 22 years. And I knew when Greg Cook was there, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township and Superior and Pittsfield did not want to pay POSA. And so they would just tell AAATA we're not going to spend this money. We're not going to do it.
  • [00:47:34.31] And Greg Cook said OK, we're going to stop at Gulf Side. And the board said no, we're going to use Ann Arbor money and DDA funds, their TIF funds, to help fund Ypsilanti's transportation. So we're paying for that already. I think it's time that Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township start helping us pay for their transportation, because they use it here in Ann Arbor, not just where they live. They come here and they use our transportation here.
  • [00:48:04.98] JUDY: Thank you. Time has elapsed on that. And you guys get to talk first, so keep those thoughts in mind here. Third question. Ridership growth. What if any ridership growth is anticipated under the proposed new program, how much and what times or areas. And if not, why not? Better Transit Now.
  • [00:48:32.79] TED ANNIS: I don't understand the question exactly. Would you--
  • [00:48:34.78] JUDY: Well, we've been told in some ways that routes are determined by the amount of ridership and that new routes come because ridership increases and a balance between those things.
  • [00:48:49.84] TED ANNIS: OK, let me go ahead and comment.
  • [00:48:51.81] LUANNE BULLINGTON: This is near and dear to my heart, because they cut the 14 on me.
  • [00:48:54.63] TED ANNIS: OK, hang on. Hang on. Ridership has virtually nothing to do with cost efficiency of the system. You can run buses, and think of it this way. You can run buses that carry no passengers or you can run buses that carry lots of passengers. The cost to operate that bus is virtually identical in either scenario.
  • [00:49:24.01] So Better Transit Now is looking at the cost efficiencies side of the equation. We're not talking about ridership. We're talking about operating the buses cost efficiently so you can reduce some of this amazing amount of redundant staff at the AATA and fund the service increases without a millage increase.
  • [00:49:55.18] LUANNE BULLINGTON: I own a home here in Ann Arbor and I'm paying that 2.056 mill, which they want to jump up to 2.756 mills. And I live off the 14. And I got working with a lady who lives off the 14, and that goes back into Gettys and that area back in there. There's no sidewalks. The streets are real narrow.
  • [00:50:15.59] There's a woman in there who has a son who's legally blind. They pulled that stop out during the day. They'll run it a couple times in the morning, they'll run it a couple times at night, they don't run it midday. Why? According to Michael Ford, the houses are too far apart and they need that bus for busier routes.
  • [00:50:32.00] When they start these new buses and they take a look at used to be 125 passenger hours would keep a bus going, then they up it to 135. They start these new routes and there's not enough people on it, you're going to be paying for routes that they're going to cut on you, like what happened to me. I live in Ann Arbor, my 14 was cut, and people have to walk sometimes a mile to get to a bus stop in the city of Ann Arbor, paying 2.056 mills, and they want to add another 7.
  • [00:51:01.32] JUDY: OK, thank you very much. Question of ridership and the millage. More Buses.
  • [00:51:08.12] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: Thank you. I believe that route number 14 was actually cut by recommendation of Mr. Annis's committee at the time. I was not on the board then.
  • [00:51:17.11] LUANNE BULLINGTON: No it wasn't. No it wasn't. That is not true.
  • [00:51:22.49] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: However--
  • [00:51:23.07] LUANNE BULLINGTON: That is not true.
  • [00:51:25.47] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: Thanks.
  • [00:51:25.75] JUDY: It's her time. She used it.
  • [00:51:29.22] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: Thank you. Ridership actually does have to do with our cost numbers. The formula funding that we're talking about, a big part of that formula is how many people are on the bus. So the more people are on the bus, the more money we get.
  • [00:51:41.99] I live on the east side of Ypsilanti. I ride the number 10. That number 10 is full. It is our most productive route in the entire system. It is full all the time. If we're able to make that route more efficient and make it more convenient for people, I guarantee you that we are going to get more people on that route. And those are people who really, really need this bus service. Thanks.
  • [00:52:05.98] We've been seeing these trends for a long time. And I would also somewhat disagree, it does cost the same amount to ride a bus that's full. But it means more tickets to sell, more customer service, that's what our community relations department does. They answer the phone when you call and have a question about your route, they help make sure that people have ride guides and things like that.
  • [00:52:27.99] And so that's a really important part of our service is making sure that each one of our customers, each one of our riders, is communicated with effectively. And I think that that's really important. And we want more people to be able to use the bus.
  • [00:52:39.47] JEFF IRWIN: Yeah, I would just add that there's been a lot of talk about which numbers to use, which is the right metric. And one side want to use the number that deals with how well we're moving buses around town. Our side wants to deal the number that deals with how well we're moving people around town, because we know it's more expensive to run a bus that's full.
  • [00:52:55.94] We know it's more expensive to run a bus that has to stop and all of those stops where people are waiting to ride the bus. And we know that the goal our community has is to move people to places, where they're going to work or going to the doctor or whatever. Just one number, because I don't have a good number on the projections. Ridership 10 years ago, 4.3 million. Ridership today, 6.7 million. 53% increase.
  • [00:53:16.84] JUDY: OK, thank you much. This last one is a thought question or a premise or a story problem. So I'll be willing to give you a little extra time, if you want some, on this. If you're nice, of course. This is about area transit 2025. What type or types of public transit do you envision for the Ann Arbor area 10 years down the road?
  • [00:53:45.44] And is there one person or agency that oversees and integrates the big regional transportation question or picture? I think a lot of this would help us understand the big picture, and we're asking you to look at that, so pro people.
  • [00:54:04.54] JEFF IRWIN: I'll just jump to this and say that at the end of 2012, the state legislature did pass a bill creating a regional transit authority across southeast Michigan. That authority is charged with the responsibility of deploying regional services.
  • [00:54:16.25] So to the extent that there might be some sort of bus rapid transit or commuter rail or some other option getting people from Ann Arbor to downtown Detroit or Oakland County, that is the responsibility of the Regional Transit Authority. And that board has been impaneled and they're responsible to try and deploy those services and propose any of those services to our community.
  • [00:54:34.66] Anything that happens in that regard will have to be voted on by this community. And I can tell you from bird-dogging this process aggressively that they are not ready to deploy any additional transit services in Southeast Michigan anytime soon. They haven't hired an executive director. They're still trying to get their legs underneath them.
  • [00:54:52.96] So I think that that leads us to the conclusion that if we want better transit in Washtenaw County, if we want to connect Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township in a way that's better for our economy and that serves our people better, we have to seize our own destiny here in Washtenaw County. And we can do that.
  • [00:55:09.75] We did that back in the '70s when this city instituted a millage for AATA. And we have another opportunity to expand and improve upon that decision now almost 40 years later with a 0.7 mill increase that we're going to vote on on May 6. So I would urge everyone to go out there and to respect the work that AATA's been doing for decades and to give them the authority to take the next step to improve this service and make it better for all our communities.
  • [00:55:37.46] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: I love that question, because I envision all the time what our transit system could look like. I moved back from Toronto back to Ann Arbor in 2007. And a big factor in that decision was the fact that I could move here without a car, which meant that I could afford graduate school. We're about to buy a house in Ypsilanti.
  • [00:55:55.80] I cannot wait to invest in this community. And the reason that this community is so worth investing in is because we have an incredible transit system. AATA has had a similar size budget for a long time.
  • [00:56:08.79] JUDY: Excuse me, you can talk a little longer, if you'd like.
  • [00:56:11.08] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: Sure, thank you. The tax rate in Ann Arbor has not gone up in 40 years. And with that, this system has continuously expanded, we've been able to service more riders, and we've been able to really build the community that we want to live in. And now, I think that is a possibility for our region. I want to keep moving in that direction. And that's exactly why I'm supporting this proposal. Thanks for asking.
  • [00:56:33.80] JUDY: Thank you. That was excessive time, which I allowed. And likewise, you may excessively use yours if you wish.
  • [00:56:42.22] TED ANNIS: You know, I was going around and round listening to the answers. So I'm going to have to ask you to repeat the question, please.
  • [00:56:48.98] JUDY: Oh my. Find the question. It's called the big picture question here. What we're trying to do is what type or types of public transit do you envision for the Ann Arbor area 10 years down the road? Is there one person or agency that oversees and integrates the big regional transportation picture? Or speculate, as you will, what you see might be happening here in 10 years.
  • [00:57:16.27] TED ANNIS: OK, I think your question has to do with, if you will, the organizational structure as opposed to whether we're talking about trains or buses. Do I understand that question?
  • [00:57:27.68] JUDY: You can take it as you wish.
  • [00:57:29.00] TED ANNIS: Any way I want. OK.
  • [00:57:30.52] JUDY: It's your question.
  • [00:57:32.69] TED ANNIS: Let me handle trains versus buses. I'm very familiar with that. It's hard to get something more efficient than a bus. Trains are, because of the track requirements and all the things you have to go through, very, very expensive. I've looked at it when I was on the AATA, and it's just mind-numbing expensive. So I see buses with us for a long time to come.
  • [00:57:59.04] Now, let's talk about the organizational structure that we would see. I think we have the organization structure right now that we would see in 10 years. I don't understand, at this point, the value add that a regional transportation authority would bring, other than more taxes. I just don't see it.
  • [00:58:30.66] When the AAATA was the AATA and when it had what are called POSA, it was purchase of service agreements, with Ypsilanti Township, Pittsfield, City of Ypsilanti, the AATA serviced 2/3 of the county's population just with that. And the remaining 1/3 of the county's population didn't want to pay for any transit service. In spite of that, the AAATA went out and tried to sell them on a transit system. And you might remember the big flop that was. So I think we've got enough in place right now to cover the future.
  • [00:59:24.01] JUDY: Miss Bullington, anything to that?
  • [00:59:25.74] LUANNE BULLINGTON: Yes, definitely. Last year, the legislature put Washtenaw Country in the Southeastern Michigan Regional Transportation Authority or the RTA. Jeff referred to that. They are getting well organized. Larry Krieg, who's represents Ypsilanti Township on the AAATA, has just been a leader in organizing the Washtenaw Citizens Advisory Council, which I also sit on.
  • [00:59:52.54] They are heavily organized. They had the meeting here in Washtenaw County to figure out how we can interface Washtenaw County with Oakland County, Macomb, Wayne, and Detroit. So they have been really busy. Yes, they have not hired anybody yet, because the legislature has not given them the funds to hire anybody to do this. But the RTA board has gone ahead and they're working on this anyway.
  • [01:00:21.73] I have been working on regional transportation in this area since 1994. This is something that is near and dear to my heart. That's why I'm sitting on the Citizens Advisory Council. Now, you're going to be layering taxes. If you live in Ann Arbor, you are going to be paying, if this millage passes, 2.7156 mills. Then the RTA is going to come in, probably in 2016, and they are going to either put a mill on top of that or you're going to be paying vehicle fees on top of that.
  • [01:00:59.54] I am not against this millage. I think this timing right now is really, really poor. I would like to see AATA wait until after the RTA is done deciding how they're going to fund it. We will then know how to interface.
  • [01:01:16.91] TED ANNIS: We're done.
  • [01:01:19.34] LUANNE BULLINGTON: I can go longer.
  • [01:01:19.96] JUDY: Was that a period or a question mark? OK, I think we--
  • [01:01:24.63] LUANNE BULLINGTON: But they got extra time and not--
  • [01:01:26.57] JUDY: Oh, but you've already gotten quite a bit. If you want to finish your sentence, yes.
  • [01:01:30.98] LUANNE BULLINGTON: Just wait on this millage.
  • [01:01:32.79] JUDY: OK, thank you very much. Now guys, it's yours time. Where are our microphone people? We are going to have someone come to you. Let me just say first, hold on a second. We will limit your time asking a question. In other words, no long statements please. Hold on, I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to everybody. You look wonderful.
  • [01:01:59.09] The first question will go to our pro people. You guys, OK? The question will be a one minute max question. Mother may I here. Two minutes, two minutes, and then we'll go to the next question. Thanks.
  • [01:02:18.78] AUDIENCE: I just have a statement about this millage. I own a $200,000 home. And it'll cost me $5.83 per month to pass this millage. That's not much. No. It's two cups of coffee at Starbucks or something. That's all. This is about economic opportunity for folks, it's about the environment, there'll be less cars on the road.
  • [01:02:44.37] I'm the manager of a restaurant downtown. And there'll be probably 20 less folks driving downtown. They'll be taking the bus, because the buses will be running much later. That's all I want to say. No question. Vote yes May 6.
  • [01:03:07.98] JUDY: Would you like to speak to that, either of you? You have two minutes, if you'd like to. First of all, according to the rules, two minutes, two minutes.
  • [01:03:18.68] JEFF IRWIN: I would just say that the comment puts in perspective what sort of investment we're talking about making. In other words, if this additional bus service allows you to avoid putting another maybe gallon, gallon and a half in your tank per month, that'd be another way to look at it.
  • [01:03:34.25] We're talking about investing in our community in a way that will work, not just for the people who are already regular transit riders, but maybe for people who work downtown and who work a little bit later than the bus services. Extending those hours later into the evening is going to make this service much more effective for those types of citizens, and as was mentioned by the gentleman, is going to reduce the congestion downtown.
  • [01:03:57.27] Now congestion downtown is a kind of problem you want to have in a city, as opposed to the kind of problem you don't want to have, which would be a vacant downtown that no one's interested in going to. We have the problem of having a vibrant downtown that everybody wants to go to.
  • [01:04:08.50] And if we can take 1,000 cars off the road, which is what this millage is projected to do, and that would mean that we don't have to build another parking structure a little bit sooner, that's one more lot downtown that can used for a business or a park or some other productive use for the citizens.
  • [01:04:25.98] JUDY: Yes, please. The Better Transit Now, two minutes.
  • [01:04:29.33] TED ANNIS: Thank you. Yes. I'm all about that. I'm on board with that. I'm on board with that. Come on, let's hear some applause. I'm on board with that. I obviously have not made Better Transit Now's point very well. We want all that. We applaud all that. We support all that. You just don't need a millage to bring it about. That is the point. I heard how.
  • [01:04:55.28] JUDY: That can be a question. You've still got time. Go.
  • [01:04:58.75] TED ANNIS: I've still got time. You don't need 52 managers. You don't need to spend $1,000,000 a year on PR campaigns. You could cut back on that. And before you know it, you are at $4 million a year in savings. Look at the Grand Rapids bus system. And if you really want to learn how to save money, look at the University of Michigan bus system. It's astonishingly efficient. Astonishingly. OK, I'm done.
  • [01:05:27.66] LUANNE BULLINGTON: Another way they can do it is have Ypsilanti Township--
  • [01:05:30.11] JUDY: Excuse me. If you'd like to make a statement, raise your hand and be recognized. But we still have time on this two minutes. Miss Bullington. For a few seconds.
  • [01:05:40.94] LUANNE BULLINGTON: I heard how. Have Ypsilanti Township and the City of Ypsilanti pay their fair share. Ann Arbor's paying a huge amount. The DDA is supplementing Ypsilanti Township. That's Ann Arbor's tax money. Let's have Ypsilanti Township, who's paying 0.7, pay the same rate as Ann Arbor, 2.056. Let's have the city of Ypsilanti pay the same amount, 2.056. Let's be fair about that. And then man, will we be rolling in dough.
  • [01:06:07.68] JUDY: OK, thank you very much. Next question.
  • [01:06:10.25] MALE SPEAKER: Question here.
  • [01:06:12.06] AUDIENCE: Hi. John Watermen. I advocate for people with disabilities in transportation. ADA services is regulated by the federal law. And it is within 3/4 miles of the fixed route transportation. That is the minimum ADA has to provide by law. If we increase our routes, increase our time, won't that be increasing the ADA services?
  • [01:06:37.56] Also, other services like travel training and expansion beyond that three mile route are tied into this and moving forward. Is that something that the Ride is looking at to enhance transportation for people with disabilities and not just keeping it the same?
  • [01:06:51.30] JUDY: Thank you. Better Transit Now, you begin. Two minutes to answer his question.
  • [01:06:59.41] TED ANNIS: Good question. I don't know what the Ride is looking at now. But what I want to tell you is I hope they're looking at that. And if they are looking at it and talking about supplementing it, we are all for it. It's just that you don't need a millage to pay for it. You can pay for it by actually operating efficiently. LuAnne.
  • [01:07:20.84] LUANNE BULLINGTON: Yeah, the minimum the ADA requires is you draw a circle 3/4 a mile around any bus stop, and that trans system is required by law to provide door to door service. If we go up to a mile and a half around any bus stop, boy, we're covering just about everything.
  • [01:07:39.89] Here in Ann Arbor and in this area, if you have a green card for an ADA, you can ride any bus for free right now. If you're 65 and older and have a gold card, you can ride the bus for free, any bus right now. EMU students, faculty, staff ride the bus for free. Commuters with gold passes come in, park at AATA's park and ride dots, ride the bus for free. No wonder the ridership is up this high. EMU was offered the same type of deal U of M had. They turned it down.
  • [01:08:11.92] So yes, we've got a lot of buses. Now we've got talking about we need the fare. 17% of your buck and a half goes towards funding that bus. The rest of it is paid by taxes. A lot of it's state and federal and Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor's millage pays 40% of AATA's bill.
  • [01:08:32.35] JUDY: Thank you. OK, the pro people, would you like to speak to that, or would you please?
  • [01:08:38.20] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: Sure. Thanks so much, Mr. Watermen, for your question. Yes, we do intend to expand ADA service. The Ride has always done everything that we possibly can to not just meet ADA requirements but exceed them. And especially on the east side of our service area in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, we have a huge amount more coverage.
  • [01:09:01.35] And there are new stops that weren't there before. And so all of the people who live near those stops, many of them are in very low income areas, are now going to be served by A-Ride. We're also working on improving the efficiency of A-Ride. We're constantly looking at making that a better service.
  • [01:09:16.20] One of the things that we're hoping to be able to do is start having caregivers be able to ride for free along with people with disabilities that are using the service. So we're constantly trying to make that a better service. And we have a lot of people that support it.
  • [01:09:30.77] I do quickly want to address the idea that there are all these people who are riding the bus for free. The DDA, every single time that someone who uses a Go Pass-- and I love the Go Pass, I have one for 10 years-- every single time that someone swipes a Go Pass, that does actually get paid for by the Ann Arbor DDA. We count how many trips are used by U of M students, and U of M does pay for those trips.
  • [01:10:00.36] We're working on developing partnerships. We know that if we get a free card in someone's hand, they are more likely to ride the bus and more. We're likely to try it for the first time. I had to Go Pass for 10 years, and now I can't live without the bus. And I am happy to pay the full fare now that I'm on the board. But yeah, I think that we are always looking for ways to operate more efficiently and to find those partnerships.
  • [01:10:22.60] JUDY: A few seconds. You're set. Next question, please.
  • [01:10:26.52] AUDIENCE: Yes, Brian Casey, Ypsilanti Township democratic delegate. You call yourself Better Transit Now. What's your plan? AATA has planned and laid it out. What's yours, because the presentation you did didn't make any sense. It had no substance. And the Democratic party I belong to believe in advancement and support the millage. So could you tell me what is your plan? I mean, you cannot ride back off their plan. Let's see and hear your plan.
  • [01:11:02.11] JUDY: Thank you very much. In the interest of fairness, we are going to start with the pro people so you can stand up for your plan if you'd like. And then we will ask in the other two minutes that con, for them to talk out. They can put their heads together for a plan. Two minutes here.
  • [01:11:21.17] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: I thought the gentleman did a very good job of addressing our question. Thank you.
  • [01:11:27.58] JUDY: All right, you use your two minutes briefly and very efficiently. Thank you. The Better Transit Now people. He's asked about what is your plan?
  • [01:11:39.20] TED ANNIS: Interesting question. we're not proposing a plan. The AAATA has a plan. We think it's a pretty good plan. Our objection is to funding the plan. We have the same plan. The pro and the con have the same plan. We don't think that a millage is needed to fund the plan. I'm hoping you can understand what I'm saying.
  • [01:12:12.68] So there's a plan, and then you have to pay for it. And we're saying we do not need a millage to pay for it. You can pay for it by basically operating more efficiently within the organization. I'm hope I am expressing it to you. I'm not? Well then, if you don't get it now, then I'm not going to be able to help you anymore. I tried.
  • [01:12:37.48] JUDY: Thank you.
  • [01:12:38.03] LUANNE BULLINGTON: The AATA has a plan, but it's not in stone. If you go to any other talks, these are suggested plans. And if it doesn't work, they're not going to run the bus there. So you're going to have people moving to certain areas only to find out their bus has been cut like mine was.
  • [01:12:52.36] TED ANNIS: Let it go.
  • [01:12:54.83] JUDY: All right, next question please. And this will go first to the Better Transit Now, the con millage, and back to the pro.
  • [01:13:02.70] MALE SPEAKER: We have a question here. Right here.
  • [01:13:05.87] JUDY: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm not looking the right direction.
  • [01:13:10.13] AUDIENCE: This question is really specifically for the More Buses people.
  • [01:13:16.00] JUDY: Everybody will answer it.
  • [01:13:17.02] AUDIENCE: Yeah, I mean, that's fine. But I actually have two yes or no questions. I don't think they're going to--
  • [01:13:24.86] JUDY: You have one minute to speak.
  • [01:13:26.67] AUDIENCE: OK. The first one is how much staff, meaning FTEs is used for-- this is on the AAATA-- Wally, Fuller Park station, and other train commuter rail initiatives? I just wanted a number. And the other question is the AAATA has three board members who are employed by the U of M.
  • [01:13:50.74] And U of M has one of the most cost efficient bus systems in the state. Have these particular board members facilitated collaboration with U of M so AAATA can learn about their cost control methodologies. And a yes or no would be fine, but whatever.
  • [01:14:10.30] JUDY: I think, catch me if I'm wrong, we go to Better Transit Now with that one.
  • [01:14:14.11] TED ANNIS: We'll defer. I appreciate the questions, and I'd like to hear the answers.
  • [01:14:19.35] JUDY: Fair enough. We can do this. Everybody's in agreement.
  • [01:14:23.25] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: So in response to the number of our staff members that work on what we call research and development projects, so things like Wally, the connector, the east/west rail, all of those are grant funded. So that's stuff that's not coming out of this tax rule. Every dollar that goes into those projects are grant dollars. And again, those are not part of this proposal. We don't have extra dollars that we could be putting into bus service. If we had them, we would be putting it into bus service. The second question?
  • [01:14:54.27] JEFF IRWIN: I would speak a little bit to the efficiency of the U of M system. I think we know exactly why the U of M system is so efficient, and it's not complicated at all. It's because they go from one place to one other place. And they go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.
  • [01:15:08.31] TED ANNIS: All bus system do that, Jeff.
  • [01:15:10.03] JEFF IRWIN: Yeah, yeah, but it's just one line. They go campus to north campus. And they've got 35,000 captive customers. And the other reason that they're so efficient is because they don't have any ticket takers, they don't even assess whether people who are getting on the bus have paid fares or not, because no one pays fares.
  • [01:15:26.39] And one of the nice things that the citizens of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township and the whole community really, even visitors from Toronto get to enjoy is that because of the partnership at AAATA has made with U of M, city riders or Township riders or anyone can jump on a University of Michigan bus and go up to North Campus or go back down to central campus. So we know why they're so efficient, because they run an incredibly high intensity single line. And they don't even bother to take tickets. And that helps reduce their administrative overhead as well.
  • [01:15:57.26] JUDY: OK, would you like to speak? You deferred, do you want your time back?
  • [01:16:01.68] TED ANNIS: Yeah, I do.
  • [01:16:03.85] JUDY: Two minutes please.
  • [01:16:04.73] TED ANNIS: I'd like to make a point here. The single line argument is interesting, but not valid. When I was treasurer on the AATA. And when I started looking at these comparisons, I looked at the U of M versus the AATA, and I damn near fell out of my chair, they were so cost effective.
  • [01:16:26.04] And so I went to the staff at the AATA and not the board, because the board doesn't manage the place, but I said, how in the world can they be so efficient? And I got some answers. And it wasn't single line. I got some answers. They have certain advantages and they have a different mix of employees, et cetera and so forth.
  • [01:16:48.53] And then I asked them, I said well look, on an apples to apples basis, the University of Michigan bus system has a $9 million a year cost advantage over the AATA. So those little nit picking excuses that you gave cannot possibly add up to $9 million a year in a cost differential to operate essentially similar buses.
  • [01:17:20.35] And also in response to Jeff, buses go from point a to point b to point c. That has nothing to do, or almost nothing to do, with operating efficiency. There's something to be learned here. When I delivered my treasurer's report, staff went ballistic. They did not like that idea at all. I could not get staff, for the most part, to go over and sit down with the University of Michigan bus system.
  • [01:17:52.45] Now that there are three University of Michigan employees on the AATA board, I would hope that they would force a little information transfer so that the AAATA can learn how to operate efficiently. Thank you.
  • [01:18:10.56] JUDY: Thank you. I think we're going to try to do two more questions. So you've got one, please. And I think technically it goes to the pro people. Let's hear it.
  • [01:18:23.92] AUDIENCE: I've got a couple of points to make. One is this is Ann Arbor having a discussion and fair representation of different points of view, and we really need to applaud everyone involved. I thought our panelists were the best people that could have possibly been chosen to make their case. I'm a former AATA board member. And so I really appreciate the level of interest on the part of the community and the people that are involved in providing transit services.
  • [01:18:57.25] Ted, I wanted to say a comment about Ted. Ted took my seat on the board when I left. And he represented the city extremely well. I don't think there was a sharper mind or more fiscally hawkish person that I served with or that I got to know. So he deserves a lot of credit in terms of his past performance.
  • [01:19:21.05] Now my question is to the League of Women Voters. What tonight a city council meeting in Ann Arbor?
  • [01:19:28.61] JUDY: Yes. Your time is up.
  • [01:19:31.70] AUDIENCE: Oh, it is?
  • [01:19:32.47] JUDY: Yeah, one minute.
  • [01:19:33.12] AUDIENCE: Why did you hold it on this night?
  • [01:19:36.28] JUDY: It's also spring vacation, and I imagine there's some good TV on tonight too, like basketball. But here we go. One more question please.
  • [01:19:53.75] AUDIENCE: Thank you. I have a very brief question and a comment. Particularly in order to get around this rhetoric issue, it would be very, very useful if the AATA published their annual report and the operating report on the website so you can actually find it. Oh no, let me just explain. So that the average person can actually find it quite easily, so then everybody can look at the numbers on their own and make their own conclusions and be done with it.
  • [01:20:23.01] Second, and this is really been bothering me, why is the election on May 6 with a single agenda item? Why not in November?
  • [01:20:34.89] JUDY: OK, comments. I'm not sure where we are. Let's go to Mr. Annis and the Better Transit Now. Two minutes and then we'll go two minutes.
  • [01:20:45.45] TED ANNIS: Let me comment about the financials. Yeah, it does take a while to find them. I've spent a lot of time poking around. They are on the website. And you've got to poke around to find them. But they are there. And the answer to your second question is that's a really good question. I don't know why they decided to do it that way. It's an extra $100,000 they have to pay to do that. I'm done.
  • [01:21:21.11] JUDY: You're done? Miss Bullington, we have some minutes left there.
  • [01:21:25.47] LUANNE BULLINGTON: I want to get back to the RTA. They're going to be leveraging a millage. And 85% of that millage or the car fees is coming back to AATA. So if you vote for that 0.7, and then in '06 when they're going to be either coming with their millage or with a license fee, 85% of that money is going to be going to AATA.
  • [01:21:48.44] So you add up the 2.056, the 0.7, and maybe even a one mill, you're starting to talk some real money that AATA is going to have. So why this millage May? Why not wait and work with the RTA when they do their millage, then to see how much extra they're going to need to fund county wide transportation, not just Ypsilanti Township and Ypsilanti.
  • [01:22:16.78] JUDY: The pro people, More Buses, two minutes.
  • [01:22:22.10] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: So in regards to the May 6, the reason that we voted to put it on the ballot for May 6, everyone knows there are only four dates you can choose from. And August and November were the other two options. No one wants to have an election in February.
  • [01:22:39.40] But the reason that it's on May 6 is because that makes it possible for us to implement this service in August. We can't wait. I don't want to wait to have a way to get to work. I don't want to keep having to take cabs if my car breaks down. There are a lot of people that really depend on this service, and we have our August service change every year.
  • [01:23:00.44] And so if we can pass this millage in May, we can implement it in 2014. We've been talking about this for four years. I think that everyone in Ann Arbor is really tired of waiting. And they can't wait any longer to see this happen. So that's why May 6.
  • [01:23:17.82] JUDY: OK, thank you. Did we use our time? You got a minute left. Sorry, thank you. Did you wish to speak?
  • [01:23:32.46] JEFF IRWIN: I was just saying if we've got time for more question, I'd rather hear from the community than hear me.
  • [01:23:35.51] JUDY: We don't really, because we've got so many--
  • [01:23:38.05] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:23:52.47] AUDIENCE: What is the value to the community in waiting? I still haven't heard an explanation for that.
  • [01:23:58.34] JUDY: OK, thank you. That's a clear question. So thank you very much. And who wants to start at it? OK, Better Transit Now. This is our last question, then we will have concluding statements from each side.
  • [01:24:14.25] LUANNE BULLINGTON: I used to live in Northville.
  • [01:24:16.15] TED ANNIS: Hang on, excuse me. Sorry. So the question is what is the value in waiting. Probably none. We recommend that you don't wait at all to implement the plan. But we recommend that you fund the plan through internal efficiencies, not through an additional tax.
  • [01:24:40.33] So I believe that if the AAATA were to stop spending the amazing amounts of money that I've identified on my slide presentation. And if they would reduce the excess staff, there'd be enough additional funds to start implementing that plan right now. Thank you.
  • [01:25:03.57] JUDY: Miss Bullington? Anything? How much time is left? One minute.
  • [01:25:09.35] LUANNE BULLINGTON: The reason why I suggest waiting is the RTA may leverage a one mill millage, and that may cover everything you're doing now. We can't opt out of the RTA. If they leverage a 1 mill, we have to pay it. We don't have any say so. Washtenaw County can totally vote down the RTA millage. But if Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, and Detroit vote for it, we're going to be stuck with it.
  • [01:25:31.83] So in a very short period of time, taxpayers are not going to be paying 0.7 extra, the $5 that gentleman talked that he's going to be doing on a cup of coffee-- which is a lot of money to a senior or somebody on disability on a little bit income-- they're going to be paying 1.7 mills possibly. That's a lot of money.
  • [01:25:50.93] JUDY: Thank you. The pros. More Buses.
  • [01:25:53.60] JEFF IRWIN: We've heard a little bit recently about the RTA. We've had an RTA in Southeast Michigan for decades and decades called the Regional Transit Coordinating Council. And it's true that two years ago, the state government created the new RTA, called the RTA. And between that and between RTCC and RTA, there was DARTA. So I think the bottom line here is that there have been fits and starts in trying to do something with transit in Southeast Michigan for decades, longer than I've been alive.
  • [01:26:19.90] And Wayne, Oakland, Macomb have had a really hard time getting along for a lot of reasons, right? And the idea that they're going to get their act together and put a millage together without our help is, I think, unlikely based on the political history. And I think it also ignores the fact that in order for a tax to be put on the ballot by the RTA, our Washtenaw County delegates at RTA have to vote to put that on the ballot.
  • [01:26:43.51] If our Washtenaw County delegate to the RTA don't vote for it, it doesn't go on the ballot. So it's not true that Wayne, Oakland, Macomb can drag us along kicking and screaming. That's not how the law works. I was there when it was passed. And I've been watching this for a long time too. And I appreciate LuAnne's long involvement. We've been on the same side of a lot of transit fights. We want more transit.
  • [01:27:05.00] But the idea that the region is going to get its act together and we should wait for the region to get its act together, I think, is really missing the history of our region. Our region has been fumbling and bumbling with transit for a long, long time. And we can't wait for them. We can't wait for them to reflect the differences in our community that have sprung up in the last 40 years.
  • [01:27:24.34] The fact that our community has changed and these jurisdictional boundaries have become less important to our citizens. And more and more of our citizens are doing business in Pittsfield and Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. And more of those people are working and doing business here in Ann Arbor. So we need to connect our communities. We have the obligation and the ability to do it through our own power. And this millage on May 6 is the route.
  • [01:27:54.26] JUDY: In conclusion, she says finally, each team will have a final two minutes to summarize their arguments. A previous, very fair, supervised by me drawing determined that the pro team would go first, More Buses. They have two minutes to say whatever they like to pull together their case, tell you why to vote for the millage on May 6. Having heard them for two minutes, we'll move to the Better Transit Now team.
  • [01:28:26.90] GILLIAN REAM GAINSLEY: Thank you. I've heard a lot from the Better Transit Now team about efficiency. And I think that actually Mr. Annis, when he was on the board, did push the AATA to be more efficient, found ways to tightened belts, tighten up the budget. But at this point, I've also spent a lot of time looking at those budget numbers. And I can tell you that there's no magical money pot hiding anywhere in it. We can't fund this additional service without an additional millage.
  • [01:28:56.39] As we've said, that millage is pretty small. I would pay about $35 a year, because houses are cheap in Ypsilanti. And that one round trip cab ride to work, if I don't rent a car one time, that millage is paid for. And that's an option that I really want to have. It's an option that is incredibly valuable to me and that is incredibly valuable to every single member of our community. Every person who's in this room is here because you want better transit. We know this is needed, and this is the way to get there.
  • [01:29:28.10] JEFF IRWIN: Thank you, Gillian, and thank you everyone for coming today. It's great to see so much interest in this issue. This is a real opportunity for our community. And if we want more buses more places more often, we have to vote yes. And I can tell you that when we had those 100 plus community meetings with hundreds of people attending, that's what we heard from people.
  • [01:29:44.89] They said they wanted later hours, they said they wanted more weekend service, they said that there were areas in the east side of our county that were very under served-- under served for people who need to get to work, under served for people who are transit dependent because their on disabilities. And what happened as a result of all that community interest is that the board of the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority changed their formulation and prepared a plan to meet those needs.
  • [01:30:10.73] And now we have an opportunity to consider that plan. And I think if you look hard at it, if you look at the details, you find out that communities are paying for the service they're getting. Nobody's subsidizing anyone. Service is being deployed later, more often, and more on the weekends. That's exactly what the citizens said they wanted, and that's exactly what AAATA is proposing.
  • [01:30:29.99] JUDY: OK, thank you very much. Consider that for you as well. Now, you have two minutes, please, to summarize your case, why voters should vote no.
  • [01:30:47.27] TED ANNIS: Yes, thank you. Better Transit Now also wants more buses more places more often, and all the service enhancements that have been identified. We are all about that. We are all about that. We want that. I think it's great that it's finally been planned. What?
  • [01:31:11.57] LUANNE BULLINGTON: Go to one of the meetings.
  • [01:31:14.95] TED ANNIS: We're all about that. We support that. We are not commenting or objecting to the plan. We think the plan is dandy. So what the pro people have done is said look, we're not going to give you the plan unless you give us the millage. And I have a big objection to that, because I can demonstrate financially that they can give us the plan without a millage.
  • [01:31:45.84] But they have to cut a fair amount of pork out of their annual budget. And you can see that inefficiency comparisons. You can see that with comparisons to the U of M, for example. So we want it. We don't think that the community should be taxed for it. We think they can find a way to do it within their budget. And it's very easy to demonstrate that.
  • [01:32:14.54] That is where I come out on this thing. We want it. Give it to us, but don't tax us for it. And one of the big reasons is that we don't want to tax our young people, our families, and our seniors out of the community. Thank you.
  • [01:32:32.50] LUANNE BULLINGTON: And I want to say something about what Jeff was talking about. A few years ago, Jeff was all for the Wally. When he was sitting on the county commissioner, he gave a hundred and some thousand of county money to finance Wally.
  • [01:32:43.28] JEFF IRWIN: Zero.
  • [01:32:43.77] LUANNE BULLINGTON: He was all really big on the 196. And all of a sudden now, he's not for regional transportation.
  • [01:32:51.64] TED ANNIS: Got to stop.
  • [01:32:52.40] LUANNE BULLINGTON: I'll just leave it at that.
  • [01:32:53.76] JUDY: We all agree the plan is dandy.
  • [01:32:58.32] TED ANNIS: The plan is dandy, it's how you pay for it.
  • [01:33:01.09] JUDY: A big hand, please, for these people.