Blog: Jesse Bernstein

Jesse Bernstein currently sits on the Board  of Directors of Ann Arbor's Transportation Authority (AATA). He is the former CEO and President of the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce (2006-2009). Before that he was the President of Strategic Performance Planners, LLC.

At the core, Jesse is one who serves. He received his M.S.W. in Social Work, from the University of Michigan in 1970 and worked in community mental health for several years. But Jesse is also keenly aware of the need to manage with effectiveness. With his entrepreneurial and managerial expertise, Jesse founded and managed Employee Assistance Associates, Inc. and Western Wayne Counseling Associates, Inc. He has consulted with and assisted hundreds of supervisors, managers and executives on issues related to performance and policy development. He has served and continues to serve on many nonprofit Boards.

Jesse Bernstein - Most Recent Posts:

Jesse Bernstein - Post 3: The Future Is Ours

WOW!!! I can’t believe how many of you logged on to the website. It almost overloaded the circuits.

There are three pieces in this visioning process:

  • understand the entire transit system, public, semi-public, and private as it exists today
  • understand the options for public transit in the future, the impact each one has on economic development, the cost, the environmental impact and much more
  • discuss the options for the future and come up with a vision.
I think we can do this by the end of the year.

AATA has already discussed this plan with a number of elected officials and government staff. We are ready to start the process with the general public – check the website for starters at

Let me know if you want talk about my vision for 2040.  I’ll give you a clue – Scotty is in charge.

Jesse Bernstein - Post 2: Let's Not Get Ahead Of Ourselves

If we do not know where we are going, we will never get there.

"But there is no money for any kind of public transit."

Before we start finding objections, we need to know what we are objecting to and we do not have a vision.

We worked hard to convince several important local officials that we are not ready to present a financing plan. WE ARE NOT ASKING FOR A MILLAGE VOTE.

Sure, we may in the future, but only if we have a shared vision of what we want. That has to come first.

As President of the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce, a number of developers, both local and nationwide talked with me about major projects in the area. One element that ran through these discussions was the need for public transit, whether the population to be served was young professionals or our mature citizens. And these developers were willing to talk about incorporating stations and other capital expenses for transit in their development plans. With public transit available, the projects could be larger and include more uses if centered around a transit stop.

This is called transit oriented development. We will look at the experiences of other communities who have initiated transit improvements.

I ask that we all look at what we want before we decide that we can’t do it. 

Spiro Agnew once used the term, “…nattering nabobs of negativity…” (I can’t believe I am quoting Spiro Agnew – a former Vice President under Nixon and convicted felon) to denigrate his opponents. Well, let’s for once try this vision thing and see if it helps us move forward, even if we make adjustments along the way.

Check us out at

And let me know what you think.

Jesse Bernstein - Post 1: Where Are We Going?

If we do not know where we are going, we will never get there.

Sounds like a quote from the great Yogi Berra, but it sums up one of, if not THE, major problem we face in our community.

We do not have a shared vision of anything and we do not even discuss our dreams of the future. Without a vision, that is often years away, our daily activities are focused on short-term, arbitrary, disconnected goals.

I greatly appreciate my appointment to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) Board by the Mayor and City Council, and it is an honor to help guide a service as vital to our daily lives as public transit. And, it is truly an exciting time to be a Board member. At the start of my tenure we selected a new CEO. We are currently investigating AATA’s organizational constraints that limit the development of additional transit services to a broader reach of people.

AATA public transit services are supported by a City of Ann Arbor millage.  Other communities that wish to provide public transit for their residents must contract separately with AATA for service. This is an untenable financial structure as it means that public transit services are only provided to those communities that can afford it, which has lead to a piecemeal system of public transit.

The Board realizes that if we do not develop a vision for public transit thirty years from now, we will never get there. This vision MUST be a consensus vision of our community.

This year, the AATA Board and Staff began a process to create a Transit Master Plan for all the communities in our area. It is an enormous process and will require that we work together as a community to create a shared vision of our transit future.  

Between now and September, we are reaching out to all stakeholders to start the conversation. We want to make sure everyone knows what AATA is currently providing, the potential services we could provide and their impact on economic development, land use, affordable housing, and many other quality of life variables. Then we will listen to each community’s vision and plans for the future and discuss how transit services can support a successful future.

In the fall, we will use the input from our stakeholders to draft a vision for discussion. This will include legal structures and financing options, as well as service plans. By the end of 2010, we hope to reach consensus on a transit vision that will guide a series of 3-5 year strategic plans over the next 30 years to achieve this vision.

We know the strategies will change and shift, but the transit vision will be our guide. Finally, we will know where we are going.

If you are interested in adding your voice to this process and helping to shape this vision, log on to for some introductory information.  

Let me know what you think.