Ann Arbor City Council asks legislature to amend RTA bills

Ann Arbor City Council asks legislature to amend RTA bills

PHOTO: Detroit News

ANN ARBOR — Ann Arbor's Mayor and City Council unanimously passed a resolution Dec. 10 urging Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature to amend legislation that would establish a regional transit authority (RTA) in Michigan.

The original resolution would have asked Gov. Snyder to veto the legislation, but councilmembers voted to revise the language. 

Councilmembers said Senate Bill 909, as passed by the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives, still included Washtenaw County in the Authority even though the County Commission withdrew their support days before the House approved the bill. Commissioners and Councilmembers said taxpayers in Washtenaw County should decide for themselves is they should be part of the RTA with Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties. 

Mayor John Hieftje also said the existing Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) is structurally and fiscally sound and millions in funds would have to now pass through the additional Authority under the existing legislation.

The legislation outlines the formation of the RTA, which is comprised of two members appointed by the Washtenaw County Commission, two members from each county appointed by Oakland, Wayne and Macomb county executives, one member appointed by the Mayor of Detroit and a non-voting member appointed by the Governor. 

Commissioners also said the the appointment system is problematic because of the nature of the commission's rotating chair position, which changes every two years.

Many councilmembers did say they wanted to see the legislation pass, but that Washtenaw County was too far out from the region for bus rapid transit (BRT) to make an impact in the county. "[It's important,] but the notion that this RTA would have some great transportation options for Ann Arbor and the BRT is somehow going to meet some need is the problem," Hieftje said.

In the resoultion, however, councilmembers included a clause stating their support for a provision in the bill package that would allow Washtenaw County to join the RTA at a later date. 

Legislators approved Senate Bills 909 and 911 Dec. 6, but other bills in the package, SB 912, 445 and 967, were derailed by the controversial 'right-to-work' legislation. The Senate will likely send the House-approved legislation to the governor sometime this week. It is unclear whether or not the House will take up the remaining bills tied to RTA before the New Year.