I have an animation of a long object that's more visible the closer to the camera it becomes. Would it be easier to handle the transparency in Maya with something like fog (it has a white background) from a light or maybe it would be easier to handle the transparency in after effects with a z-depth render from Maya? I haven't used either very much (ie. not familiar with what kind of idiosyncrasies AE has with Maya z-depth renders) at all and this project has a short deadline.
This is coming a bit late for your deadline but, I would render out a Zdepth pass if the shot is simple enough and do this in AE. That's the easiest but of course there are other elegant solutions such as keying the colormaps alphagain for instance and connecting this to your Maya Camera to give you no contrast or what ever your after if the objects far away and full contrast and brightness when closer. The distances can be regulated via a multiply divide node.