Transit Connector Study: Initial Analysis

Preliminary result confirms UM as focus of activity and trips

Last summer, the final piece was put in place for a four-way partnership to fund a transportation feasibility study of the corridor from Plymouth Road down to South State Street. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board gave approval for its $320,000 share of the study’s $640,00 price tag.

The "boomerang map" showing the Ann Arbor corridors being studied for higher quality transit options like bus rapid transit, streetcars, and monorail. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

Some early results of the “Ann Arbor Connector Feasibility Study” were presented last Tuesday evening at the Ann Arbor District Library in an open-house style format with boards and easels, complemented by a presentation from the consultant hired to perform the study, project manager Rick Nau of URS Corporation.

Nau reported that the study is currently in the needs analysis phase – traffic congestion was a phrase Nau sprinkled through his remarks during the evening. The initial needs analysis shows that the majority of the travel demand in the Plymouth-State corridors is accounted for by trips between different parts of the University of Michigan campus.

The study has not reached the point of drawing lines on maps for possible transportation routes. Instead, the representation of the area of study is a “boomerang map” stretching from US-23 near Plymouth Road to Briarwood Mall. The boomerang includes two of four “signature transit corridors” identified in the city of Ann Arbor’s Transportation Plan Update – Plymouth/Fuller roads and State Street.

Prompted by an audience question, Nau made clear that the study has not yet reached the dollars-and-cents analysis phase that will eventually come. The study is expected to be completed by December 2010 with the preliminary recommendations to be publicly presented in the fall.

Nau’s presentation focused on establishing the need for higher quality transit along the corridor and the range of technology choices available to meet that need. Those technology choices range from larger buses running along the regular roadway to elevated monorail trains.

Transit Technology Choices

The choices Nau laid out to the audience broke down into five categories, all of which are comparable to current systems in American cities, most of which are larger than Ann Arbor.


University of Michigan planner Sue Gott gave introductory remarks at the June 8 open house.

Streetcars: Modern, electrically-powered vehicles that operate on single-car trains and carry 100-120 passengers each, a streetcar system would not offer a great travel-time advantage given that its track operates in mixed flow with cars and makes frequent stops. They are, however, a popular method with patrons, offering a smooth and quiet ride.

Nau cited officials in Portland, Ore. who estimated their city’s streetcar system has generated $6 billion in adjacent growth and development. It wouldn’t be Ann Arbor’s first ever streetcar line – two railroad stations in town and the downtown area were connected by streetcars in the early 1900s.

Light Rail: This is an electrically-powered model that is larger than a streetcar but more expensive. Light rail operates with three-car trains and carries more people. Light rail typically offers an exclusive or semi-exclusive right-of-way, meaning no cars drive over the tracks, which leads to quicker travel. Although usually found in larger cities like Dallas and Denver, Nau said he thinks Ann Arbor could support it since the travel demand is more comparable to that of a bigger city.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT): Cheaper than other options, a BRT system can run with contemporary, “articulated” buses, rubber tires and a duel-fuel technology similar to current AATA vehicles. Typically, an exclusive lane is dedicated to these buses in this system for at least part of the day. Nau mentioned how excited the people of Cleveland were for the opening of their BRT system, which he said remains popular there today.

Monorail: This option is an elevated track similar to Chicago’s L that offers cars with great time efficiency, using electricity that is supplied within the rail itself.

Automated Gateway Transit/Personal Rapid Transit: Driverless, automated systems similar to Detroit’s People Mover.

All these options may be far more sophisticated than what the city has now with standard AATA buses. With no projections yet on the necessary capital, URS can’t give a recommendation on what would be right for Ann Arbor and what wouldn’t be a good option. That will come during later phases of the study.


A demonstration of dual technology. One of the slides in the PowerPoint presentation turned up blank, so Eli Cooper, transportation program manager for the city of Ann Arbor, grabbed the corresponding poster from an easel and manually filled in the blank.

“What we’ll try to do is narrow this universe of alternatives down to a more manageable set of things that can be considered in future studies,” Nau said.

When a time does come to enact a plan, it will almost certainly need government funding – a lot of it. While a massive project is obviously unlikely to be paid for with city and state dollars alone, getting federal assistance requires a lengthy process that may take 10 years to complete, Nau said.

As for the study itself, AATA is paying for half of the $640,000 price tag. The city of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority agreed to each pitch in $80,000. The University of Michigan makes up the rest of the funding for the study with a $160,000 contribution.

The Funding Partnership: Who Pays?

Representatives from each of the four study-funding partners were present at the meeting, saying a few words before Nau took the podium. Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, kicked off the meeting, stressing the study evolved out of a transportation plan update that was completed last year. The plan recommended action to address future needs as the community evolves.

“The issue of transportation is not one of those things that respects any boundaries,” Cooper said. Transportation impacts from downtown affect the area outside of the downtown, and the university affects the entire community. “The community is responsible not only from within, but for those who commute here from without,” Cooper said.

Roger Hewitt of the DDA followed Cooper, stating that his organization handled more than parking, and was very excited and deeply involved with this mass transit project. University planner Sue Gott from UM said she was interested in improving mobility and noted new sustainability efforts at UM where all new construction is to meet Silver LEED standards. AATA CEO Michael Ford said he wanted to move more people and be more effective for Washtenaw County and beyond.

The preliminary analysis of travel among main activity areas within the area of study in the “boomerang map” shows that the main activity areas themselves and the majority of trips between them are related to the UM campus. There are 50,000 daily trips made between central campus and north campus, for example.

The study has looked at current travel demand among nine activity areas. Four out of 36 of those connections have current travel levels that would support a more robust transportation technology than a standard bus. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

From a chart presented at the June 8 open house slide presentation – and available on the connector study website – the preliminary needs study shows four trips where current travel demand would support a transportation technology more robust than a standard bus.

The four trips that would currently support more sophisticated transportation are between: North Campus and Central Campus; Medical Center and Central Campus; Downtown and Central Campus; South Campus and Central Campus

The prominence of UM-centric trips in the study area was already a concern for some who believe the project will serve UM more than the community at large. That concern factored into discussions about who should pay for the study, and later for the construction of the project.

In June 2009, when the DDA board voted to approve its $80,000 share of the study, DDA board member Sandi Smith said she had reservations about providing support for what would essentially be a “U of M trolley.” Then-board member Rene Greff, co-owner of Arbor Brewing Co., said UM had enough money to support this study itself. That was countered by DDA board member Leah Gunn’s perspective of the UM as the area’s major economic engine, which was not separate from the Ann Arbor community. As part of that discussion, mayor John Hieftje indicated that he felt it was an advantage to have the city involved in any applications for federal grants.

In detail from The Chronicle’s report of the June 3, 2009 DDA board meeting:

Board member Sandi Smith, who is also a city councilmember … had a problem providing support for a project that was essentially going to be a “U of M trolley.” She said she understood that the route was not completely determined, but she had some hesitancy, still. She stressed that if the feasibility study indicated that 70% of the ridership would come from the University of Michigan community, then the cost of construction should reflect that. Rene Greff echoed Smith’s sentiments, saying that the university had enough money to fund the study by themselves. She said that she was willing to support funding the study but stressed that there should not be an expectation in the long-term for a corresponding level for participation in the system’s construction.

For her part, board member Leah Gunn offered the perspective that the University of Michigan was the major economic engine of the city and indeed of the state. She said that just because someone attends the university or works there, it doesn’t mean they’re not part of the community. The project benefits the university, thus benefits the community as well, she said.

Hieftje indicated that the city had “not held back in making clear that the University of Michigan would need to step up.” He suggested that there would be an advantage, though, in being the entity that applied for federal grant dollars, or at least making an application in concert with the university going forward.

The discussion of the study’s funding distribution came against a backdrop of a total cost that had initially been estimated as dramatically lower – $250,000. In February 2008, the plan was to have AATA provide $100,000 and the other three partners $50,000 apiece.

When the bids came back dramatically higher than expected for a total price tag of $640,000, the initial plan was to have each funding partner contribute $160,000 apiece. The DDA and the city resisted the idea of being counted as separate funding sources, and agreed to split one $160,000 “share,” at $80,000 apiece. The AATA picked up the extra share, for a total of $320,000.

Public Comment

The June 8 connector study open house at the downtown library included a segment for attendees to pose questions or make statements.

Two residents made comments that highlighted the possibility that a more sophisticated transportation technology could itself be an attraction to the Ann Arbor area. Ray Detter, head of the Downtown Citizens Advisory Council, noted that there’d been an acceptance of the idea of increased density downtown. He said there could be an additional 5,000 people living downtown. A transportation connector was not just a necessity, he said, but also an amenity that would create something of an attraction, providing vitality to the downtown.

An attendee who lives and works downtown – Rob Thomas – noted that the form of some transportation technologies might have an impact on their ability to attract new riders. He wanted to know if that would factor into the analysis. In response, Nau acknowledged that rail systems did have the ability to attract new riders and that many who give it a try become believers. Construction of such a system costing hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of 2-3 years created a great deal of anticipation, he said, and when it does open, “it’s like Christmas” and people want to ride it.

Clark Charnetski expressed his confidence that high speed regional rail would be coming to Ann Arbor and that it would be important for people to have a way to get around Ann Arbor once they get here.


Local developer Peter Allen complied with a request at the start of the meeting that people turn off their cell phones.

Another resident noted that the use of public transportation is voluntary. He asked if the idea had been explored of requiring a payment to bring a privately-owned vehicle into the city – had that been considered as a funding option? Nau answered that as far as funding options, for projects like this you don’t look at two or three different funding options, you look at 10 or 15 different possibilities. They could include everything from a tax increment finance district (TIF) to using parking meter revenues.

A city councilmember representing Ward 1, Sabra Briere, expressed concern over the potentially considerable costs of building anything with fixed guideways, whether it be rails or bus-exclusive lanes. She asked what an estimate would look like, but Nau wasn’t ready to give out even ballpark figures, saying cost-estimation was the next phase of the study.

Steve Bean, an independent mayoral candidate and chair of Ann Arbor’s environmental commission, asked Nau if there was any possibility of reducing road repair costs due to an improved transit operation, and of downsizing the size of the road network. Nau said the study had not looked at that specifically, but that has not been the experience in other cities. Although passengers enjoy these systems, the overall reduction in traffic on the roads is not significant enough to warrant a decrease in road infrastructure investments.

Later, Nau did say that if some kind of enhanced transit option were not chosen and implemented, it would be necessary to expand the road network.

Carolyn Grawi, director of advocacy and education for the Center of Independent Living, asked about the accessibility to the disabled in any of the transportation systems. Nau assured her that all systems had quick boarding processes and that if they were built with the help of federal funding, it would be “absolutely required that every system be 100 percent accessible.” In response to a question from a different audience member, Nau indicated that all of the options presented could also accommodate bicycles.

Grawi also asked about affordability, both for residents and potential riders. Nau said the cost of these projects for residents was notoriously complicated, but fare would have to be at a price “that would be appealing for the vast majority of the public.”

Additional reporting for this article was provided by Dave Askins.


  1. By ROB
    June 14, 2010 at 4:22 pm | permalink

    Ann Arbor isn’t Dallas or Denver, and it never will be. The state, county, and city are all likely to show declines in population when the new census results are released – and this is nothing new – it has gone on since the last great recession in the late 70s/early 80s. Anyone who thinks downtown A2 will have 5000 more people living in it anytime soon, is not in touch with reality. Michigan is depopulating, and will likely continue to do so for the forseeable future. The tax base will decline along with the population, so the last thing we need is more infrastructure of dubious merit to maintain. The city can’t even maintain the streets and bridges used by the VAST majority of us every day. Turning the city into a Disney-like theme park with trolleys and trains will do nothing to benefit the average citizen of A2 – only the special interests, like the UM and real estate developers. Let them fend for themselves, and put OUR tax dollars back into the neighborhoods, basic infrastructure, and basic services like police and fire. Let UM build it’s own amusement park – they have more money than God.

  2. June 14, 2010 at 5:20 pm | permalink

    Perhaps the vision is that high-rise student housing will fill the core area. That appears to be the only profitable development venture. Note the problems with Ashley Terrace (foreclosure) [link] and the failure of City Apartments [link] to obtain financing.

    Aside from meeting the needs of the UM, this transit vision seems to be a build-it-and-they-will-come scenario; by having a sophisticated and attractive transit system, the population will be attracted. Presumably the jobs will also be attracted by the transit system. Or maybe that is just the UM expansion.

    I did a lengthy review of the UM’s transportation vision as it relates to some of these questions earlier. [link]

  3. By Rod Johnson
    June 14, 2010 at 10:50 pm | permalink

    Is Eli Cooper paid to be a manager or an evangelist? In every discussion of this, or FITS, or WALLY, or whatever, I never hear him taking a critical perspective or balancing costs and benefits. It’s always about the benefits. This strategy of talking about the wonderful things we *could* do without even allowing discussion of costs seems pretty calculated. Everything sounds great in a cost-free context, and people get excited about these, as Rob says, Disneyland-like visions. But what are the problems that these visions are solutions to? The key premise (15% growth by 2035) seems very questionable; the whole employment landscape will be very different in 25 years. I haven’t heard well-founded arguments that we *should* do these things, and there never seems to be anyone in the discussion except proponents. Cui bono?

    We have two other corridors (Huron/Jackson and Washtenaw) that are positively nightmarish at certain times of day, and they don’t seem to have any mindshare in this discussion. Why is it that all the attention seems to be going to the Plymouth-State “boomerang”?

  4. By johnboy
    June 15, 2010 at 3:23 am | permalink

    All the attention is going to the Plymouth-State route because this is where the majority of UM buses run. Once again the “big company” of our “company town” is trying to off load it’s problems onto the public. Since the Fuller Road parking structure has been such a success why not try it again?

  5. June 15, 2010 at 9:52 am | permalink

    thanks for this excellent reporting. This trolley system is the critical backbone to the east/west rail, the north/south (“Wally”) rail and the eventual high speed rail from Chgo to Detroit, and hopefully to Toronto.
    I believe that the future of Ann Arbor lies in attracting the 25-35 year knowledge worker, which is happening at a quickening pace. Bright young workers demand these multi-model options. I think the last year realized a “tipping point” where the Millennial worker decided that staying to work in Ann Arbor after graduation was appealing.

    For appreciation of the big picture, read Richard Florida’s (Rise of the Creative Class fame) new book, “The Great Reset,” comparing the transformative changes after the Long Depression of the 1870′s and the 1930′s. Peter

  6. June 15, 2010 at 12:06 pm | permalink

    Let’s fix what’s broken (Stadium/Jackson, Washtenaw) before we add “chrome” to fix something that’s not broken (the State & Plymouth corridors and that U of M can fix by simply buying more buses. That’s got to be a more efficient (and a more green) use of taxpayer dollars.

  7. By Rod Johnson
    June 15, 2010 at 12:42 pm | permalink

    Peter, why do you believe those things? (Not being adversarial, genuinely curious about what you’re basing your optimism on.)

  8. June 15, 2010 at 3:04 pm | permalink

    Lets get one thing straight folks, the idea of the connector study was that of AATA. U-M got pulled into the mix with the usual “Boo Hoo we want to do this can’t afford it” by AATA. This is just one more attempt by AATA to get it’s hooks further into the University’s piggy bank via public opinion. The final solution of this ridiculous study will be that the AATA should be the Operator of any futuristic Disneyland adventure and the U-M can pay for it, BIG SURPRISE! This mentality is something that Greg Cook (Former CEO of AATA) started years ago. Every idea or dream that AATA comes up with always includes the U-M paying at least half.

    Fact is the Campus Bus System of U-M is works well, if you want to beef up the Transit System at U-M then put in a dedicated non stop lane of travel along Fuller Road. Problem solved and for TONS less money.

  9. June 15, 2010 at 3:12 pm | permalink

    @5 Apropos of Peter Allen’s comment, here’s a super interesting map of inbound and outbound migration from Washtenaw County using 2008 data. [link]

  10. By ROB
    June 15, 2010 at 5:24 pm | permalink

    @Fred Z… That is an interesting map, and all those red lines indicate major outflows of folks, unless I am reading the map incorrectly. I don’t see the logic of Mr. Allen’s thinking – the University graduates far more professionals than there will ever be jobs for here, each and every year, and even if there was a job for each and every one of them, most would choose to go elsewhere for all manner of reasons. VW used to have a tech center in a nice suburb of Detroit (maybe Rochester Hills – not sure), which they relocated to Virginia a couple of years ago, partly because that same demographic coveted by Peter didn’t want to locate to SE Michigan for a variety of reasons, none of which had anything to do with trains or trolleys. This Disney-like thinking, a variation on “if we build it they will come”, is pleasantly delusional, but has nothing to do with demographic realities, let alone the costs involved with installing and maintaining ANY type of rail system. Most younger people I know have either left the state or are planning to do so, and not because we lack a FantasyLand-like rail system.

  11. By Marvin Face
    June 15, 2010 at 5:34 pm | permalink

    Fuller Station was also an idea that started with the City, NOT the UM.

  12. By johnboy
    June 15, 2010 at 5:48 pm | permalink

    Marvin, I am inclined to believe just the opposite. Do you have any info to back up your statement?

  13. By Rod Johnson
    June 15, 2010 at 6:42 pm | permalink

    I think Fuller is one of those happy accidents where each party thinks they’re using the other.

  14. By Marvin Face
    June 15, 2010 at 10:06 pm | permalink

    Johnboy, lets just say I know and leave it at that for now.

  15. June 16, 2010 at 8:59 am | permalink

    To elaborate on Marvin’s comment if I may. The Fuller Road Station was conceived for 2 reasons, first, the City and the University were at odds about the large Parking Structure that U-M was planning to build as part of the Kellogg expansion along Wall Street. Secondly, the idea that Commuter Rail (another red herring by AATA that involves U-M paying for it) namely Wally was on a roll at the time, enter the Detroit A2 Commuter Rail Line.
    Fuller Road Station was I believe a concept started by the City and involved the University. This concept solved several issues, U-M agreed to take on the Fuller Road Station gaining parking, in return U-M would abandon the plan to build a Parking Structure along Wall Street. Commuter Rail was actually planned for this site, AMTRAK was on board with the plan, however, we all know the funding that was available dried up suddenly, and this effectively put the breaks on Commuter Rail for A2.
    Realistically, as I stated earlier those among us who believe that the Campus Bus System is inadequate, need to push for a transit dedicated lane along Fuller Road that allows the buses to bypass the traffic signals. This solution would involve TONS less money then anything that this connector study will come up with.

  16. By Eric Boyd
    June 16, 2010 at 10:38 am | permalink

    Nice analysis by Transport Politic found here: [link]

    This is an excellent site that analyzes transit decisions in municipalities around the globe.

    Bonus: The article includes a citation of the Ann Arbor Chronicle!


  17. June 16, 2010 at 1:49 pm | permalink

    @16 What is the back story on how this expert residing in France happens to write about Ann Arbor? It’s as if someone sent him links to some of these articles…

    I note that from 3,000 miles away this expert finds it pretty easy to slice through our heated local debate …

    “Fortunately [more buses ...] is also the most affordable option, since Ann Arbor is far too small to be able to generate adequate local revenues to pay for something as complex and expensive as a light rail line.”

  18. June 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm | permalink

    @10 — I think, from having played around with it, that the blue (inbound) lines in the visualization simply don’t show up as well as the red (outbound lines), so I’m hesitant to draw conclusions about net flows … but the map(s) do make one thing very clear, which is that the US has a “hub and spoke” migration system, with most of the outbound migration going to 10 or so big metropolitan areas. Ann Arbor is simply too small to compete with NVA, Boston, SF, etc., and greater Detroit just ain’t going to be a hub.

  19. By Eric Boyd
    June 16, 2010 at 2:16 pm | permalink

    @17 — Fred, he seems to do it all over the world regularly, with a lot of insight. No idea how he does it, but I assume he’s heard of the Google. Look at his list of articles. (There’s been at least one interesting one on Detroit.) I assume he wrote an article about Ann Arbor because it’s a unique set of issues compared to some of the larger cities normally covered.

  20. June 16, 2010 at 2:43 pm | permalink

    In case anybody’s interested, here’s the raw IRS data for the county-to-county migration map linked.

    It takes, uh, a little interpretation. [link]

  21. June 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm | permalink

    I was asked earlier about my prediction of Ann Arbor keeping its best and brightest. My sense of the 25-35 year old, U of M grad willing to stay in town, is based on my success with our 5 buildings overlooking Argo Dam and pond on North Main. Most of our tenants are geared to engineering and software development. Also, note Google’s renewed growth and Health Media and Handi Lab being purchased but deciding to stay in Ann Arbor. I believe this decision was based on their key people wanting to stay in this area. Also, think about Roger Newton buying back Esperion and staying in the area. Lastly, Ora Peskowitz’s decision to move to Ann Arbor to oversee the repopulating of Pfizer with the goal of being the economic engine of the state.

  22. By ROB
    June 16, 2010 at 8:48 pm | permalink

    @Peter… There have always been a few UM grads who have chosen to stay here for a time after completing their studies – many thousands went to work for the Big 3 in days gone past, but no longer. It will take more than a few niche market tech companies employing relatively small numbers of people to make-up for what’s been lost in SE Michigan over the past 10 years or so. Do these companies only employ those in their 20s and 30s? That demographic is much smaller than the boomers preceding it, and mostly seems to favor the “bright lights and big cities” of more economically dynamic cities and states, so their presence around here will likely remain thin. Google is nowhere near the number of jobs they forecast when wooing our city officials for favors, a few years ago – their renewed hiring could well be replacement hiring. Sales jobs have relatively high turnover, as I’m sure you know. Even if the former Pfizer site hires 3000 people in the next 10 years, per the UM’s game plan, it would be hyperbole to characterize it as “the economic engine of the state”… I think we’ll need a bigger motor! Cheers!

  23. By Rod Johnson
    June 17, 2010 at 12:18 am | permalink

    I assume Ora Pescovitz moved here in large part because she was offered an attractive salary to… not just out of some sense of mission.

  24. By ROB
    June 17, 2010 at 2:58 am | permalink

    @rod… and Ora Pescovitz is one of the VERY highest paid people at the U, aside from Mary Sue, and Rich Rod. She is just another hired gun for Big U Inc.

  25. By Rod Johnson
    June 17, 2010 at 2:02 pm | permalink

    Although I’m sure she’d work for much less., just for the pure satisfaction of doing good. :)

  26. By Cindy Overmyer
    June 20, 2010 at 12:01 pm | permalink

    As a long-time resident of the Plymouth Road corridor, I’ve been part of this boomerang for a long time, and often watched with frustration at least 5 various U-M busses/shuttles zip on by on Plymouth Road while waiting for an AATA bus to go in the same direction. Can’t the AATA integrate its system w/UM’s on the same roads as Lansing/East Lansing does with Michigan State’s campus? City-wide transport from MSU is a snap!

    Having the U-M bus passes and more busses on the #2 route has been a big improvement, but not so much if half the routes cut out during the U-M summer term. When I was in college, I studied for a couple of years in Freiburg, Germany, a university town just a tad bigger than Ann Arbor, with a large student population; the same sprawl-not much industry tax base-large population-issues were in place there. The solutions: Large articulated busses running every 7 minutes during the day (every 10 min. in the evenings until 1 AM) and designated no-stop bus lanes on major corridors for everyone – students or not. No light rail, even though the town had numerous major passenger/freight lines running through it. No separate busses serving the University which, like U-M, was right downtown, with most student housing developments 2-4 miles away. It worked great – except if your train got in after midnight on the weekend or you were out partying too late in town to catch the last bus home:-) Differences in tax structure and committment to mass transit aside, can’t we do something like that?

    As for U-M “having to pay for it”, why not? I live in the area near Wall Street and don’t want to live in a neighborhood full of parking structures! Since the U initiated the free U-M ID bus passes, my #2 bus has been jammed with passengers, many of whom had never taken a bus anywhere before and were surprised (and even delighted!) to see how easy and quick it was to get downtown or to the Hospital or Main Campus without having to worry about traffic or where to park. I’ve been delighted to finally have a #2 bus that goes directly downtown, without having to make the tedious loop around the hospital and campus areas, probably because of the success of the other routes. It’s taken many years (and U-M’s more direct involvment) to get the AATA system to the point where it’s just as convenient (and sometimes more so) as driving to get around – a point which even the much maligned Detroit and SMART systems reached years ago (and still aren’t too bad at!) How much more money could U-M save (and contribute to AATA) if it didn’t have to operate its own bus system on top of everything else?

    Articulated busses, designated traffic lanes, a schedule running every 10 minutes all day until at least midnight (every 15 on weekends INCLUDING Sunday – bus users need to go shopping/run errands/work odd shifts on the weekends too, don’t forget!) Spend the $$ on that and the residents (both old and new) will use it and thank you for it. Remember, there’s a big active population coming down the pike who want to have access to stores/events/friends and may not be able to drive anymore! Get something like this up and running well and you probably won’t even need light rail (at least in local traffic) at all.

  27. June 20, 2010 at 12:06 pm | permalink

    I think the “articulated busses” may be referring to the BRT-type system recently employed by Cleveland [link].

  28. By Cindy Overmyer
    June 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm | permalink

    Yes, exactly. I just returned from visiting a friend in Cleveland who lives on the Euclid Line, and we used it extensively – the busses are the size of two regular busses hinged together and hold a lot more people. The busses there also connect to Cleveland’s light rail system running east/west into the inner ring suburbs (exclusive Shaker Heights included) and is pretty impressive and easy to use. I’d love to know how the city financed it, considering Cleveland is as depressed financially as Detroit, and it was constructed pretty recently. Bet they have some sort of regional funding/network, which we here in SE Michigan have not been too successful with. This is the sort of transport network that was up and running in Freiburg nearly 20 years ago.

    I’ve also ridden the Minneapolis Hiawatha Line quite a bit since my parents moved to the area – I have to take a bus 20 miles from their house to downtown MPLS just to get on it! It’s a lovely ride, going past most of the downtown MPLS destinations way out to the Mall of America and the MPLS/St. Paul International Airport, but really cost an arm and a leg to build. There are housing developments along the way, but that housing is pretty far from anyplace else (shopping/schools/living-wise). Minneapolis is doing the same sort of sprawling that the Detroit area did 30 years ago-the traffic there is so bad people time when/where they go (not just to work but even to the grocery store or a movie theatre!)just like folks I know in L.A.) but they are concentrating for the moment on bus rapid transit between suburbs and between suburbs and downtown. The Hiawatha Line was exceptional because of the link to the airport and the Mall.

    Have any of the transport studies ever looked at the BATA bus network in Traverse City? They have a great system of fixed route busses in the city limits, connecting to an extensive Dial-A Ride system that covers all of Grand Traverse and Leelanau (and soon Benzie) counties. $2 and a csll a few hours ahead can get you from downtown Traverse out to Northport, Leland, the Sleeping Bear Dunes or Empire, with your bike and groceries to boot. BATA runs round trips in a loop between all the resort towns along Lake Michigan 5-6 times daily from May to October, and some of the drivers I’ve spoken with routinely log 150-200 miles per day on their routes. BATA’s main goal was to ease traffic congestion on the two-lane roads out there, serve people who were working in Traverse but moving 20-30 miles away to the smaller towns to live and commuting in, and also connect the tourist areas for an alternative to car use along the Lakeshore, and it’s working very well for both tourists and residents. It reminds me of the old A2 Dial-A-Ride system, except that it actually works! They too are relying on busses and road transport, though there are lots of old railroad tracks in the area and their roads are a lot worse in the winter than ours! Traverse City isn’t a bad analogy to A2 actually, because they too are inundated every year with a non-resident influx of tourists and Snowbirds, who either don’t live in the area or only live there part-time. It would be interesting to see what the BATA planners would suggest for A2, coming from a more county-wide and regional perspective.

  29. By Joel Batterman
    June 21, 2010 at 1:15 am | permalink

    As Cindy suggests, bus rapid transit (BRT) is the option that makes the most sense for Ann Arbor, along both Plymouth-State and the Washtenaw corridor. Compare Eugene, Oregon’s EmX BRT line, which links that college town with a smaller neighboring city, and has been very successful at a fraction of the cost of light rail.

    Don’t get me wrong. I just returned from Ann Arbor after four years as a student in light-rail & streetcar mecca Portland, Oregon, and I’m a fervent supporter of transit in Ann Arbor and greater Detroit. The status quo is intolerable. But at this time, bus rapid transit is a better choice for a city Ann Arbor’s size. For the cost of a single light rail line, we could dramatically improve transit service along several corridors using bus rapid transit.

    Emphasis on light rail in Ann Arbor (as elsewhere) is likely motivated to a significant degree by the race & class associations that buses have in this country, and perhaps especially in southeast Michigan. However, while conventional US transit wisdom used to hold that rail is necessary to attract riders of means, AATA already serves a relatively affluent base of UM students, commuters, and others, and I think that prejudice against transit of all types is starting to fade more generally. Practically no other US city Ann Arbor’s size has its own light rail or streetcar system. Bus rapid transit would give us the most bang for our transit buck, and in our economically pressed and transit-starved region, that’s what this city needs. Done right, it’ll be a valuable aid to Ann Arbor, U-M, and Ypsilanti, and a model for the rest of southeast Michigan.

  30. June 21, 2010 at 12:14 pm | permalink

    @29 Joel: I would slightly reframe your comment about the racial & class component preference for light rail: I think in Ann Arbor, at least, the more prevalent feeling is that it is “cooler”, i.e. more in fitting with class aspirations.

    I have to admit there is also a comfort aspect. Light rail can deliver a smoother ride; although I have been on some bumpy trolleys, they *are* fun in a way that buses are not.

    Still, the discussion here seems to be converging on a very simple theme: more buses.

  31. June 29, 2010 at 10:28 am | permalink

    I love this discussion and I hope it continues!
    One item to consider, that appears to be somewhat elusive is that all of us are in a hurry. No matter what type of Mass Transit System that is created, the reality is driving is still faster and the most direct form of transportation. Cindy pointed out that she is thankful for the 2C Route that avoids the Med Center, thus a faster trip for her. Even a BRT system will have some issues associated with inconvenience (i.e Limited stops or not, length of route etc)

    Significate issues exist with U-M turning over it’s bus system to AATA. One of which is cost,(U-M ‘s cost is about $56.00 per hour vs AATA’s cost at well over $100.00 per hour) and being able to move large numbers of people between the Campus’s without having to go Downtown. One other issue is U-M’s ability to change a bus route immediately, and not having to go through weeks or preparation and public hearings.

    Many people feel that this is the magic fix for the area’s Mass Transit shortfalls. What if AATA’s operation were turned over to U-M, in theory the result would be the same. One consideration that has never been suggested is having both U-M and AATA work together and offer it’s services to everyone and create better coordination of services, (DDOT and SMART have a limited form of this concept in place; allowing both systems to service both systems bus stops) Again, Cindy brings a valid point when she mentions seeing several U-M buses pass her on Plymouth Rd, this would be a good example of coordination of services; having U-M stop to pick up passengers along Plymouth Rd that travel to the same area as the U-M buses. I maintain that by tweaking both systems and improved coordination we can have a Mass Transit System that is much more functional, serves more people and is tons more economical than what this survey will suggest.

  32. By Rod Johnson
    June 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm | permalink

    I worked with UM Transportation Services about 15 years ago overseeing a student project to redesign the bus service for electric vehicles, which involved a possible rerouting, and there was one ironclad constraint: thou shalt not compete with AATA. Any route that involved picking up riders in an area that was considered AATA turf (the specific example was the students wanted North Campus routes to go to the Kroger on Plymouth) was infeasible. I think that has probably been weakened somewhat since–the concept of “campus” has been diluted as UM has spread out everywhere, but I imagine Cindy’s buses are still following this prime directive.