Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

AATA considering express service to Canton Twp.

23. November 2005 • Murph
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The Detroit News reports,

The township is in preliminary discussions with the Ann Arbor Transit Authority, which normally serves the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti areas. The authority is looking into the feasibility of running a self-funded park-and-ride service with the township.

Canton Township officials ask commuters who might use the daily service to contact Community Services [(734) 394-5190] by the end of December.

About 100 riders would be required, said Christopher White, manager of service development at AATA. Township officials have no estimate of the number of residents who work in Ann Arbor.

White said that the preliminary cost per rider would be about $120 a month, which may be more economical for commuters than paying for gas and parking in downtown Ann Arbor.
. . .
Once the township completes its study, the AATA will decide whether to implement the service. If started, the service would begin in late spring or early summer.

The buses would be funded through a Federal Highway Administration grant, and rider fees would cover operating costs.

AATA has in the past discussed similar (express/subscription) service to locations such as Chelsea, Milan, and Brighton, but the funding has never been secured.



  1. How about resurrecting the service to Dexter, Chelsea, and Saline?

    And it’s unbelievable we don’t have a bus to Detroit other than the Greyhound.
       —Adam de Angeli    Nov. 26 '05 - 03:02PM    #
  2. Adam,

    The old AATA service to Dexter/Chelsea was (in my opinion as a Chelsea native) basically useless to any “rider of choice”. I remember it being a nearly two-hour trip from downtown A2 to Chelsea (a 20 minute drive). Chelsea Area Transportation System (mostly a paratransit provider) now provides a few trips morning and evening to the western edge of AATA’s system for connections; I have no experience with that arrangement and have heard no first-hand reports, but I expect it’s every bit as inconvenient as the previous service to Chelsea was.

    AATA has been working on / talking about, for the past few years, express (highway coach) service to Dexter, Chelsea, etc. that would provide service more similar (in time and cost) to driving and thereby, hopefully, attract riders. This would require,

    (a) some sort of funding to purchase the coaches

    (b) riders to put in them willing to pay operating costs.

    and would mostly serve the 8/9-5 commuter crowd. The fact that they’ve been talking about it so long and keep not successfully implementing it makes me pessimistic that it’ll happen with Canton, either, but I’m certainly happy to cheerlead it in the process.

    It would be nice to have a functional general transit system between Ann Arbor and other places, but if commuter transit is a stepping-stone to that, I’ll take it. (Commuter-oriented transit is often demonized as sapping resources away from services aimed at people who don’t have the option of driving their lexus to work, but since AATA’s continued mentions involve applying for dedicated grants for capital costs and asking the commuters/employers to pay the full operating costs, I don’t see that as a problem here.)
       —Murph.    Nov. 27 '05 - 02:58PM    #
  3. Finally, a way to experience the culture and nightlife of Canton Township without a car!
       —Brandon    Nov. 27 '05 - 08:08PM    #
  4. Wasn’t there discussion a while back about adding a run to Plymouth also?
       —John Q    Nov. 28 '05 - 11:10AM    #
  5. I think Plymouth was discussed at about the same time that Chelsea, Dexter, Milan were being mentioned. Brighton, if I remember correctly, was notably not among the routes being discussed – the reason being that nobody wants to be stuck in a traffic jam on a bus; your average commuter likes to have some illusion of control when traveling, so when you get beyond a certain level of highway congestion, transit demand goes down again, unless you run it on some sort of dedicated route. (HOV/HOT lane, at the least. Or maybe on the Ann Arbor RR tracks…?)

    Brief, informal followup with somebody who should know (read: this is above a rumor but well below a quote), says that the funding is in hand, but there are still annoying federal and state hoops to jump through before it happens. So, on track, but not a done deal yet.
       —Murph.    Nov. 28 '05 - 04:59PM    #
  6. I would like to see any of these alternative transportation initiatives work, but I do wonder at the rationale for Canton, especially when they admit they don’t know how many people might use the service. I did a little poking around on the UM transportation website and found some interesting information. Although the University is certainly not the only entity in Ann Arbor, it does have a pretty good cross-section of people and it is interesting to see what alternatives people are currently using.

    First, a UM blue parking permit costs $55.50/month so the $120/month is pretty costly. I know of one couple who commute in from Canton together and he works at the U and she works for a private company (she parks for free). Their cost to use the AATA service would be $240/month, pretty pricey and they would be restricted to certain hours so would still need to use a car at times.

    The University does provide bus service from Chelsea and Dexter in an agreement with Chelsea Area Transportation System to supplement $1.50 per ride for University faculty, staff, students or temporaries riding the bus from Chelsea or Dexter to and from Ann Arbor. The service is available Monday through Friday. The Connector links bus service to (AATA) Route 9. The rider is responsible for $1.50 per ride from Chelsea and $.50 per ride from Dexter. So the average cost per month for this service is about $65 from Chelsea. I don’t know how much it is used.

    The most interesting statistic I could find was the vanpool stats. The vanpools are sponsored by the U and the U provides the vans and up to six people can ride in each one. The riders pay nothing for upkeep of the van, split the cost of gas, and park in designated free parking spots. My guess is that the number of people who ride in the vanpools might correspond pretty well to those who might use public transportation. The cities served and the numbers of vanpools are listed below: Adrian(3), Blissfield(1), Brighton(4), Canton(1), Chelsea(1), Clinton(2), Dundee(1), Fenton(4), Grand Blanc(1), Grass Lake(4), Hartland(1), Howell(2), Jackson(12), Monroe(2), Northville(1), Redford(1), Tecumseh(1), Temperance(1), Toledo(5), Webberville(1), Westland(1), Ypsilanti(1). The two most striking to me are the Jackson/Grass Lake group with 16 vanpools and Toledo with 5.
       —Juliew    Nov. 29 '05 - 01:21PM    #
  7. The most interesting statistic I could find was the vanpool stats. The vanpools are sponsored by the U and the U provides the vans and up to six people can ride in each one. The riders pay nothing for upkeep of the van, split the cost of gas, and park in designated free parking spots. My guess is that the number of people who ride in the vanpools might correspond pretty well to those who might use public transportation.

    Those are interesting stats. But why would we want to replace those van pools with coaches? Seems to me the van-pool is a more flexible, convenient, cost effective solution (no need for a paid driver which has to be a major part of the operating cost).

    Another approach the U could consider would be to offer free or heavily discounted hang tags to small groups of employees who agree to car-pool to work. In that instance, the U wouldn’t even have to pay for the cost of the vehicle.
       —mw    Nov. 29 '05 - 02:06PM    #
  8. Oh I wasn’t advocating replacing the vanpools, just noting that the areas that seem to have the highest demand are not the ones people normally talk about when discussing alternative transportation in this area.
       —Juliew    Nov. 29 '05 - 02:23PM    #
  9. Sounds like a reason to extend light rail west to Jackson with stops in Grass Lake, Chelsea and Dexter.
       —John Q    Nov. 29 '05 - 03:32PM    #
  10. Well, consider what you’re comparing –
    Parking permits cost you $55/month, but also cost your department some amount if you’re staff or faculty (or so I’ve been told?) Vanpools – the U pays for the vehicle and gas. The University pays half the cost of the trip on CATS.

    The $120 price tag on commuter service to Canton is total – and I’m pretty certain that the U would be picking up part of that for their employees, just as they pay for part of AATA park-and-ride service, vanpools, CATS, and parking permits. The City of Ann Arbor pays 50% of the cost of monthly parking permits for their staff, I’m told – those permits are $105/month, and I’d hope the City would offer (at least) a similar match towards a transit option.

    Hmmm…From the U faculty and staff parking page ,

    The University contributes a fixed amount toward the cost of an option, reducing out-of-pocket parking costs for faculty and staff. This contribution appears on your paycheck stub in the column listing Employer-paid benefits.

    Any Blue or Gold tagholders care to investigate and report what your department is chipping in?
       —Murph.    Nov. 29 '05 - 06:32PM    #
  11. As far as I know, these costs are not billed directly to departments, but are part of the general overhead/infrastructure costs for the University. There is no personal or departmental incentive to hire someone like me who uses neither the parking nor any of the transportation options. Just a cost of doing business and probably one of the reasons the University’s overhead rate is so high. I can check with some of the financial people at work though and see what they say.
       —Juliew    Nov. 29 '05 - 08:07PM    #
  12. “Any Blue or Gold tagholders care to investigate and report what your department is chipping in?”

    It all appears to be here:
    http://www.parking.umich.edu/parking_options/costs.html

    The yearly cost is in the “July 1—14” row. The first column (“UC”) is the university contribution, and I guess the other columns must be the permit-holder’s contribution. So it looks like the university contributes $122, and the permit holder contributes $62 (orange), $125 (yellow), $544 (blue), or $1150 (gold)
       —Bruce Fields    Nov. 29 '05 - 08:32PM    #