What's this RTA thing I'm suddenly hearing about, and what does it mean for Washtenaw?

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Edited to add, Jan 7, 2013: The original framing of this post was inflammatory -- unnecessarily so -- towards the Ann Arbor City Council. I saw them on the brink of taking an action that I perceived to be itself pretty inflammatory towards some of our regional partners, potentially hurting our (Washtenaw County transit supporters') interests, whether the action had its intended effect or not. City Council, to their great credit, did modify their stance to more clearly focus on their actual interest and ask, and I specifically thank Mayor Hieftje and Councilman Warpehoski for their leadership here.

In turn, I'd like to turn off my flamethrower, and acknowledge that we are all in fact on the same side here: we're champions of our transit system, AATA, and want to see it continue to grow its ability to serve our residents; we want to see better connections into the rest of metro Detroit, especially in the form of the proposed commuter rail connecting Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti to Dearborn, DTW, and Detroit; and we want to make sure that the transit system meeting our train on the far end is adequate to get our riders to their ultimate destinations.

We have had some differences on the best ways to reach those goals, but I'm looking forward to finding agreement on our shared interests that we can work together on. Specifically, I have been named as one of Washtenaw County's appointees to the RTA Board since I originally wrote this post, and am committed to using my background and knowledge of the situation to ensure the RTA is advancing, rather than hindering, our interests. I've struck-through the original, hostile framing text below, but leave it readable for the historical record.

This past week, the Michigan legislature passed bills to create a Regional Transit Authority for metro Detroit—Oakland, Wayne, Macomb and Washtenaw Counties. This long-overdue legislation has been under discussion and in the news for over a year, and received statewide, bipartisan support. While it’s not perfect, it will address many of the thorny issues that have held back transit in metro Detroit for years and years—and the remaining issues are generally best addressed by the communities sitting down at the table together, not mandated from Lansing.

As somebody who’s been working on this legislation for the past year and talking to all of the players involved, I’m hoping I can answer a few questions:

Traveling in the height of c. 1910 luxury!

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We've been hoping to take a trip to Montana in the next couple of months, once Cara is free of classes for more than a week at a time. Plane tickets don't seem to be getting below about $550/ea, though, and, since N'western is just about the only way to get there, there's no guarantee our flight would actually go anyways.

So I decided to look into Amtrak. I've taken Amtrak to MT and back before, and it's not a bad trip - really, more relaxing than the same trip by car, and much more comfortable than flying (the fact that it takes 32 hours by train, compared to 8-10 flying, makes the two modes about equal in my book, assuming I'm planning a decent vacation). One Amtrak trip was, in fact, where I met my friend Kenzi - nothing like sharing a seat for the 8 hour Mini-no-place to Chicago stretch with someone to get a feel for whether or not they are a psycho killer. (My vote: not, hence my first foray into blogging activism, five years ago now.)

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