Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

The rise of private-public transportation in a2

22. November 2008 • Nancy Shore
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It used to be that transportation fit neatly into two basic categories: public transportation and private transportation. Think of buses vs. bikes or trains vs. cars.

We’ll here in Ann Arbor, and elsewhere in the world, a new trend is emerging.

Meet the new era of private-public transportation (PPT).

For a taste of PPT, check out getmedowntown. getmedowntown offers a bus ride to folks who want to party in downtown Detroit, but don’t want the hassle of driving and parking in the D. $16 will get you to from downtown Ann Arbor to downtown Detroit and back.

Or let’s say you’re hanging out in downtown Ann Arbor around 1:00am and want a ride to your friend’s house across town. You can now give the BTB Party Bus a call and for about $2 the bus (run on used veggie oil) will pick you up from anywhere downtown and drop you off wherever you want to go in Ann Arbor.

It’s a bus, it’s a car, it’s PPT!

You can also see PPT in the form of Zipcar, which now has 10 vehicles on the UM Campus (and hopefully 4 in downtown Ann Arbor very soon). Zipcars give you the freedom of a using car whenever you want one (their tagline is “Wheels when you want them”) without the burden of owning your own.

Zipcars are growing in popularity all over the nation, as is the idea of “bike sharing” which allows you to use a bike when it suits your needs. Bike sharing programs can be found in places such as Chapel Hill, NC , Washington D.C. and Paris, France.

Along the lines of bike sharing programs, Segway is teaming up with UM Engineering undergrads to pilot another form of PPT: a shared Segway service. Imagine checking out a Segway from a kiosk at Main and Ashley and zipping across town to South U and beyond.

If all of this sounds a little strange to you, just talk to a college student. The public private world they inhabit (think Facebook, Myspace, blogs, etc) embraces these new forms of private-public transportation.

What does this new concept of PPT mean for the AATA and the development of parking structures like the new underground Library Lot? We’ll just have to wait and see.



  1. don’t forget the fry-grease powered BTB Party Bus:

    http://arborwiki.org/index.php/BTB_Party_Bus
    http://btbpartybus.com


       —Edward Vielmetti    Nov. 24 '08 - 12:20AM    #
  2. Ed,
    I didn’t. It’s up there, ‘cause it is very cool!


       —Nancy    Nov. 24 '08 - 02:07AM    #
  3. “It used to be that transportation fit neatly into two basic categories: public transportation and private transportation…” But prior to that it did not…, hence the cab; versions of which date back before the car. Transportation has always been a capital investment and for many, many years people have offered their cars, carriages, buggies etc. for hire. The current concept is not different.

    I am not knocking the current attempts to re-package the cab; I like cabs. I lament that they have become harder to use in smaller towns like AA. Also we have spread our cities and infrastructure out so far that cabs fares have become more expensive and therefore less desirable. For example, a cab to the airport here is $55 to $60 one-way which is hard to justify for a 3 to 5 day trip, but in DC you can get to the airport for less than half of that, if you fly out of National. (Dulles is also $60 from downtown because it is so far out.)

    As implied above cabs can do good business around town taking people to and from parties but also Sundays were days where older people who stopped driving would call a cab to go to church. The fare was nominal because the church was in town, not outside in a cornfield. Occasionally I see cabs at the grocery (I assume I would see them at the mall too if I went to the mall).

    But the best part about them is hailing them as they ply the streets. Now I have not seen that here.


       —abc    Nov. 24 '08 - 02:41PM    #
  4. abc,
    Thanks for your comments. I agree that there has always been something similar to private-public transportation out there. The thing that most intrigues me is how our technology is interfacing with these transportation devices.

    Keep the comments coming.


       —Nancy Shore    Nov. 24 '08 - 05:59PM    #
  5. The DC slug lines (semi-organized commuter hitchhiking motivated by HOV lanes) might be another odd example for the category.

    I sometimes wonder whether ubiquitous mobile phones could do anything to improve the perceived safety or convenience of hitchhiking….


       —Bruce Fields    Nov. 24 '08 - 06:28PM    #
  6. I served in the Peace Corps in Sri Lanka in the early 90’s and they had a fine model of public/private transportation.

    On my daily trip from Kandy to Peradeniya to teach, I had the choice of riding a public bus which left every 20 minutes or from dozens of private busses plying the same route. Same price. Same route. They competed on that route because it was the busiest corridor in the area.

    I’ve wondered what it would be like to have a private bus race up and down Washtenaw – from east (or sourth) of Ypsi through Ann Arbor and out to Westgate. I have no idea about legalities or financing, but if I had a bunch of veggie oil and an old bus, I might try it.


       —Andy Brush    Nov. 25 '08 - 05:42PM    #
  7. Andy

    Those are in a lot of countries. In Turkey they are called ‘dolmuş’ which is appropriately the same name as the stuffed grape leaves. They are typically older cars whose frames have been stretched, to which they add multiple bench seats. Every time you squeeze in you think about the grape leaves.


       —abc    Nov. 25 '08 - 09:02PM    #
  8. ABC… I think we could use a little pulling together.

    When I got back and sat on buses where no one was next to me, leaning on me, or when I wasn’t holding someones bag while standing or vice versa… i felt lonely. We’re all too disconnected.


       —Andy Brush    Nov. 25 '08 - 10:50PM    #
  9. free choice for transport is classically american – good that there is still choice.


       —toasty    Nov. 27 '08 - 10:00AM    #
  10. Some may know this already, AATA and Yellow cab in tandem offer senior ride and A ride (a shared ride service) for those sixty five and over and those with special needs.

    For two to three dollars those eligible can ride anywhere in the city and other specified locations in the county. Hours are limited. This is an extremely popular service and on the best of it’s kind anywhere
       —ziggyselbin    Dec. 1 '08 - 05:06AM    #
  11. I have a friend who has years of experience with the AATA/Yellow Cab service. While it sounds good in theory, its value is limited by the highly variable quality of customer service provided by Yellow Cab. It’s nowhere near as consistent and professional experience as riding a bus, or as confidence-inspiring and safe-feeling as getting a ride from a friend.

    If I remember correctly, AATA tried to outsource this to another provider, but they turned out to be horrible, so they went back to Yellow Cab.


       —Fred Zimmerman    Dec. 11 '08 - 04:10PM    #
  12. I use cabs all the time in a2. I generally use Ann arbor cab or yellow cab. Those are probably the 2 best ones in town.


       —terance    May. 18 '09 - 06:55PM    #