AATA OKs Ann Arbor-Detroit Metro Service

At its Feb. 16, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board approved two resolutions that together establish service between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metropolitan Airport. It’s expected to begin in April.

One resolution set the fares for the service (basic one-way fare is $15), while the other approved the contract with Indian Trails (Michigan Flyer) to provide the service based on a per-service-mile dollar cost. The service will be branded as “AirRide,” and given the route number 787, which is a change from a previous designation.

Details on cost to riders include a one-way fare of $12 for advance reservation (and limited refundability) or $15 with re-fundability up to time of departure. Round trip fare would be $22 for advance reservation (and limited refundability) or $30 with refundability up to time of departure. Volume discounts also may be available for groups of up to eight people traveling together. [.pdf of resolution establishing fare structure]

AATA CEO Michael Ford has previously described the intent of the service to provide 12 daily trips each way, with a very limited number of stops, in order to achieve a trip time of around 40-45 minutes. At its Oct. 20, 2011 meeting, the board had authorized the negotiation of the contract with Indian Trails. A resolution separate from the one setting fares establishes a two-year contract with Indian Trails at a cost of $2.56 per service mile, with the total cost for the contract not more than $700,000 per year.

Plans call for service to pick up passengers from the Fourth Avenue and William Street parking structure across from the AATA’s Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor. Parking at that structure will cost riders just $2 for as long as a two-week stay, through an arrangement with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. The route will include a stop near Briarwood Mall. At Detroit Metro Airport, passengers will be picked up and dropped off at both the McNamara Terminal and the North Terminal.Including stops, the AATA is planning for an airport route of around 60 miles round trip. At the lower end of the regular fare offered on a 60-mile round trip, the service would need to average around eight seven passengers per bus to cover the cost of the Indian Trails contract on fares alone. [(60*2.56)/22 = 6.98] [.pdf of board information packet]

In the first year of the service, the AATA is planning to support it with up to $302,000 from the unrestricted fund balance, which is part of the $1 million of fund balance that the board is planning to spend for this year’s budget.

Marketing and promotional efforts are expected to be shared by the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau and the University of Michigan. Signage directing airport passengers to the service will be placed by the Detroit Metro Airport. The resolution approved by the AATA board also provides for an introductory promotional offer of $10 one-way and $20 round trip. At the AATA board’s planning and development committee meeting on Feb. 7, 2012 board member David Nacht characterized the airport service as part of “the world class development of a community called Ann Arbor.”

Service to Detroit Metro has been actively a part of the AATA’s work plan at least since a board retreat held on Aug. 10, 2010. And the board’s deliberations at its Feb. 18, 2009 board meeting included the fact that conversations between the AATA and Detroit Metro date back to the early 2000s.

Results of a recent survey, conducted towards the end of 2011, showed that 75% of registered voters throughout Washtenaw County said that hourly express service to Detroit Metro Airport was either very or somewhat important.

This brief was filed from the fourth-floor boardroom of the downtown Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]