Blog: Jesse Bernstein

Jesse Bernstein says he feels half his age. Maybe that's why he's so invested in the idea of developing a vision of the future for Ann Arbor's Transportation Authority. The former president of A2's Chamber of Commerce believes that it is imperative we develop a comprehensive vision of what mass transit will look like a decade from now, and beyond. More than reading his blog, he wants you to weigh in on what the future of Washtenaw County's public transit should look like.

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.