Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

AATA proposes fare changes

20. January 2009 • Matt Hampel
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From a press release sent today (no link yet):

AATA’s proposal includes a two-phase increase to change the current fixed-route adult full fare of $1.00 to $1.25 in May, 2009 and to $1.50 in May, 2010. Current half-fare charges would go from 50 cents to 60 and 75 cents, respectively.

The proposal would eliminate the 25-cent fare on fixed-route service for Seniors and A-Ride customers; however, the fares on paratransit service would increase from $2.00 for an advance reservation trip to $2.50 in 2009 and $3.00 in 2010. Same-day trip fares would increase from $3.00 to $3.50 and $4.00, respectively.

Night Ride and Holiday Ride fares would remain at $5.00, with the fare for Senior and A-Ride cardholders remaining at $2.50.

In addition to 30-day passes, shorter-term passes are being considered at both regular and reduced-fare levels. These may include passes for a smaller number of days, or a specific number of trips.


The proposed fare structure is expected to generate an estimated $314,000 in additional revenue in the first year and $540,000 in the second year.

There are several ways to send your feedback:

Comments and questions about the proposed fare changes are being received by AATA through February 27, 2009 by the following methods:

  • Call the AATA Service Change Hotline at 734.677.3934.
  • E-mail AATA at; put “Fare Changes” in the subject line.
  • Fax AATA at 734.973.6338; address the fax to “Fare Changes”.
  • Write to “Fare Changes”, AATA, 2700 S. Industrial Hwy., Ann Arbor, MI 48104.
  • Attend one of the following public meetings: Ann Arbor District Library, Multipurpose Room, 343 S. Fifth, Ann Arbor Tuesday, February 10, 2009; 1-3 p.m. Tuesday February 17, 2009; 6-8 p.m.
City of Ypsilanti Council Chambers, One S. Huron St., Ypsilanti Thursday, February 19, 2009; 4-7 p.m. Thursday, February 26, 2009; 1-3 p.m.

Full releaseFare changes spreadsheet (Scribd)

In other news, the bus track system has been offline for over 6 weeks now.

  1. There is no sign up regarding these meetings at Blake Transit Center.

    I asked staff at BTC for more printed information, and they gave me the phone number of the AATA HQ; they did not have any additional printed materials.

    The printed handout regarding these meetings available at AATA HQ does not mention this fare increase; you would have to know to ask to get details.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 21 '09 - 07:53AM    #
  2. The full release is "up online": Note the url — “PR fare changes”, public relations machinery in action — as well as the lack of specific justifications.

       —Matt H    Jan. 21 '09 - 08:25AM    #
  3. What’s the AATA’s track record on the accuracy of these revenue projections? It had better be pretty good, if they are going to raise fares right in the teeth of a brutal recession.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Jan. 21 '09 - 07:16PM    #
  4. Ok, so how do you suggest cost increases and lower outside funding grants are going to be covered? Ann Arborites already pay two mills in property taxes for AATA It seem like David Nacht is trying to take a resonable step and make sure the system is financially sound. And it’s annoying to have the lynch mob and our two city council reps playing to the crowd without offering any solutions.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jan. 21 '09 - 09:43PM    #
  5. “PR” is for “press release”, Matt.

       —Steve Bean    Jan. 21 '09 - 11:31PM    #
  6. Thanks, Steve. My apologies for the mistake.

       —Matt Hampel    Jan. 22 '09 - 01:16AM    #
  7. In other news, the bus tracking system is finally back online, after pointed questions by council at yesterday’s council meeting.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 22 '09 - 08:00AM    #
  8. Yay! So now we can get back to the task of bitching about how much we think the system sucks! No rest for the weary…

       —freeman    Jan. 22 '09 - 08:52AM    #
  9. Alan — if their revenue projections aren’t accurate, there is no point in raising prices, since the increases still won’t generate the revenue they think they need. So we really need to have some sense of how likely it is that they will be correct. I don’t think this is lynch mobbing, it is asking whether the AATA has a track record of success with forecasting the results of revenue increases.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Jan. 22 '09 - 07:04PM    #
  10. First, overall I think the AATA is a good system. The buses are clean and usually pretty close to on schedule, and there is always a bus stop close in the city.

    That said, it feels like the AATA is flailing here. How does this fit with the WATS Transit Plan ? How does it fit with WALLY?

    I guess I would feel better about this if I saw a strategic vision from the AATA, so I’m really looking forward to the AATA getting a new Executive Director (it’s only been 2 years).

    Leadership rant aside, I do think that 1.25 is a fair rate, and the AATA has avoided raising rates for a while now. We’ll see how all this plays out.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jan. 22 '09 - 08:59PM    #
  11. This week I was told that it cost the AATA over 71 cents per page to copy 35 documents sent to one AATA committee within the last 30 days. If it costs that much to copy a few pages of documents to fill a FOIA request, I think the public is justified in asking them to explain the need for a fare increase.

    Many of the riders are living on very limited income so I think a fare increase should get additional scrutiny because much of it will fall on those with the least ability to pay.

       —karen sidney    Jan. 23 '09 - 03:41AM    #
  12. Perhaps if poeple would stop filing useless FOIA requests, the staff could get back to running an efficient transit system.

       —Marvin Face    Jan. 23 '09 - 07:34PM    #
  13. Something that wasn’t said in the top post that should be noted is this:
    AATA has a Fare Deal Card that allows persons on Medicare, who are income eligible, or who are seniors (60-64) to ride the bus at a reduced rate.

    Under the new fare proposal, the cost of a ride for someone with a Fare Deal Card would go from .50 cents to .60 cents in 2009 and from .60 cents to .75 cents in 2010. So for those who are extremely low income, the fare increase is 10 cents in 2009 and 15 cents in 2010.

    In addition, under the new plan, the cost for people who qualify for ADA and Seniors 65 and over will go from .25 cents to zero.

    While it is never nice to raise the fares for passengers, I think it should be noted that the fare increase will be less for those of very low income, those with have a disability that qualifies them for ADA and those who are 65 and over.

    One of the biggest challenges we face in Michigan is paying for transit. We cannot do it by charging a sales tax like in other states really the only other thing we can do is have a millage, which is not popular either. There are folks out there trying to create policy solutions to this problem. Until that time, many transit agencies in Michigan and across the country are facing the challenge of providing good service and a low cost.

    I guess as far as I can see it, the AATA is trying to find a solution to being able to provide service at a low cost through raising fares. If any of you have a better solution, I would encourage you to come to one of the public meetings or send AATA an email.

       —Nancy Shore    Jan. 23 '09 - 08:01PM    #
  14. “…the only other thing we can do is have a millage, which is not popular either.”

    So we might see what we can do to make it popular. I think the tendency is to accept the status quo on such things, rather than build a new community vision.

    I wonder if AATA might be approaching The Dip (as described by Seth Godin.) If so, will they/we be able to push through it to the potentially huge success on the other side?

       —Steve Bean    Jan. 23 '09 - 09:53PM    #
  15. Steve,
    I think you’re right about the Dip. My hope is that a new AATA Executive Director will help guide the organization in the right direction.

       —Nancy Shore    Jan. 23 '09 - 09:57PM    #
  16. It is my thinking that just because you are over 65 doesn’t mean that you should ride free unless you are income-eligible. Seniors in this country have amassed a great amount of assets, and I think it is unfair to give them a “free ride” while expecting others (particularly lower income folks) to pay.

       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 23 '09 - 11:03PM    #
  17. Leah: it’s a strategy for incentivizing able-bodied seniors to move away from paratransit services (senior taxi – where they cost the general public a good sum of money) and onto the fixed route services (where they cost very little in comparison). Other communities are trying this, so we’ll have to see how it works out here.

       —Ken A.    Jan. 24 '09 - 02:43AM    #
  18. Maybe Leah’s sound thinking about income level would apply to eligibility for the senior taxi service as well.

    A reduced fare might impact the mode choice of a car owner, but if they can’t drive, they likely don’t have car expenses, so their personal transportation budget is freed up to cover the costs of whatever service they use instead. Also, a lower fare wouldn’t have much impact on the behavior of those people, since they don’t have an alternative. So it would only be those who have insufficient income (wealth, actually—assets, as Leah put it) for whom a subsidy would be valuable.

    My guess, Ken, is that those communities trying reduced rates will find that seniors know a deal when they see one, and that most current senior taxi users (in addition to new ones who reach the age limit) will continue to choose the several-dollars savings of the discounted door-to-door service over the less-than-a-dollar savings of the discounted bus trip.

    I don’t think we have to try it to find out. And once it’s in place it wouldn’t be a smooth process to reverse the policy.

    And yes, Nancy, I’ll send those thoughts to AATA.

       —Steve Bean    Jan. 24 '09 - 03:25AM    #
  19. Take into consideration that “able-bodied” seniors are most likely to drive. The buses take an hour to an hour and a half to get where one wants to go (as described earlier in this conversation). Therefore, with the option of personal transportation available that is what we do – drive(yes, I am a “senior”). And if we are downtown for an evening performance or dinner, we sure aren’t going to wait for the bus! Unlike large cities such as New York (and many foreign cities that I have travelled to)where the public transportation is quick and convenient, Ann Arbor does not have the density to have more frequent service. ‘Tis a dilemma.

       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 24 '09 - 04:24AM    #
  20. Leah –

    I’ve never ridden an hour and a half on a bus to get where I want to go; most trips I take are 15-30 minutes. If it turns out that the entire trip would take longer than that – e.g. a trip to WCC from home – I’ll break it up into parts, with a stop downtown for errands, or a stop at the library.

    Most able-bodied seniors that I know are able-bodied because they get regular exercise. That means being a pedestrian as much as possible.

    If we are downtown for an evening performance or dinner, it’s very difficult to ride the bus: almost all of the routes go to once an hour service or stop entirely after 6:30p or so. You would need to time your trips precisely, which means that you’d need to have real time bus information somewhere convenient, and that service was down for 6+ weeks. Even with all that, many evening bus routes are very full, with workers from downtown commuting back to Ypsilanti after a late shift, or students coming back from studying.

    Ann Arbor has plenty of density for more frequent service. When the #3 bus to the veteran’s hospital is standing room only, and Vietnam War vets have to stand because the bus is completely full of WCC students, Huron High students, and commuters, you know that service improvements are justified.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 24 '09 - 05:23PM    #
  21. The impression I got after watching David Nachts presentation to the AAcity council was that the revenue from the fare increase and/or possible new millage would be used to help expand AATA into the “out” county areas rather than be used to increase service within the city limits.

    I thought that is where the conflict arose at the city council meeting. The main discussion was:

    Should Ann Arbor residents pay a higher fee and subsidize an expansion to the more rural areas when it takes over an hour to get from end of the city to the other?

    Shouldn’t we optimize the system we have rather than trying to make a bigger inefficient system?

    I could be wrong in my interpretation, but that is what I took from the meeting.

       —Diane    Jan. 24 '09 - 06:38PM    #
  22. A note on senior citizens: On average, senior citizens are the wealthiest demographic group in the nation. They have amassed more wealth than any other. While their incomes are from pensions and Social Security seem relatively small, these folks often have lots of assets.

    The poorest group in the nation are single parents and their children.

    I think all people, seniors and others, should pay full fare unless they are eligible. And we might want to think beyond income.

       —Cooler Heads    Jan. 24 '09 - 06:44PM    #
  23. Thank you “Cooler Heads” – I agree, which is why I spend a good deal of time advocating for parents and children. 25% of the children in this country live in poverty, and I find that alarming. As to taking the bus, what I am saying is that people will not do it because a car is more convenient – we have battled this forever, offering incentives such as the GoPass, and people still want to drive. This is, after all, Michigan where we USED to make cars.

       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 24 '09 - 07:08PM    #
  24. “As to taking the bus, what I am saying is that people will not do it because a car is more convenient…”

    Is that true, Leah? Seems like the reality is that some people do take the bus even when they own a car, sometimes because it is more convenient (not to mention cheaper than paying for parking.)

       —Steve Bean    Jan. 25 '09 - 03:32AM    #
  25. There have been a lot of good points made in this conversation. While it is true that for most things the car is still the most convenient thing to do, I don’t believe that has to be the case.

    When buses are able to run every 10 minutes, thus eliminating the need for a schedule, then they will be more convenient.

    When buses take into account the needs of the passenger over the needs to optimize service, then, I believe, it will be more convenient.

    In my opinion, it is unfortunate that cars and the selling of cars has been seen as a private, market-driven enterprise, while public transportation has been thought of as merely a service provided to people. It seems to me that many transit agencies (AATA included) struggle with the fact that we live in market-driven times where the customer has choices and needs to be convinced that one is better than another. And that takes marketing and improved ease of service.

    All of this said, AATA ridership continues to increase and I get calls every day from people who want go!passes. I hear many stories of people who start riding the bus and love it. While the system definitely has it’s flaws, it still works well for many needs.

    Another challenge that has been hinted at by many people is that AATA operates on a Spoke and Hub system where most of the routes end downtown. While many, many people want to come downtown, it’s quite clear that there are also other hubs outside of downtown where people want to go, including the UM Medical Center and the State Street Area by Briarwood. At this point, I don’t think it makes sense to abandon the Spoke and Hub, but rather create more Hubs so you don’t have to go downtown to get to the place you really want to go.

    So I think solutions are there and I think that our public transportation is important enough to continue to push for these solutions.

       —Nancy Shore    Jan. 25 '09 - 05:33AM    #
  26. The AATA system is currently set up to be optimized for the amount of funding that the area is willing to commit to it.

    In smaller cities with relatively moderate levels of service, timed-transfer systems are the industry standard for fixed route service provision. There’s no debate in the industry about this. The system was evaluated a few years ago, and the overall structure was found to be sound. Many of the service changes last August were derived from recommendations within that evaluation. They included shifts of service from route segments with low ridership to routes with overcrowding. Trips from one side of Ann Arbor to another can be made in around 35 minutes with only one transfer necessary.

    The challenges for service provision arise when there are competing demands…compromises have to be made. We’d all like a high frequency of service on the #4 all day and more direct trips from Ypsilanti. Route 4 service frequency is variable throughout the day because Ypsilanti has been unable to pay for more frequent service. The routing uses the current alignment because the UM Hospital is a major trip generator. Moving buses away from the hospital would dramatically drop ridership on the route (and we know how people in this area feel when they perceive buses to be under-utilized). The service frequencies and deviation of route 5 onto Eisenhower involve a similar set of compromises.

    Almost every route on the system is a balancing act between “convenient” service and the amounts of funding available to provide high levels of service. Keep in mind that although the service realignments last August meant more direct trips for some people, other people lost service in their areas altogether.

    If this community is now ready for a system with super-high frequencies on non-circuitous routes, then the financial resources need to be put in place to accommodate that. The timed-transfer system based on a hub-and-spoke pattern probably won’t go away even if we do move in that direction because the downtown area of Ann Arbor is a huge trip generator for the system (and the AA road system is radial from that area). The Boulder, CO area provides a good example for a possible way to take the system into the future. In that area, the RTD largely operates the fixed route service in a hub-spoke pattern focused on the downtown area. The City of Boulder worked with RTD to create a series of routes overlaid onto that pattern which directly connect major trip generators with high frequency service. This high-frequency service costs about 1.5-2 times more than the hub-spoke service. Ann Arbor could follow this example by creating express routes and cross-town routes which directly connect some places which currently aren’t connected. These additions could be overlaid onto/integrated into the current system in such a way as to reduce the circuitousness of some of the current routes (Incidentally, many of the service additions to the AATA system over the last decade have been based on these principles.).

    All of this costs money, so i pose this question: is this area fiscally ready to take its public transportation system to the next level?

       —Ken A.    Jan. 25 '09 - 10:00AM    #
  27. Thanks, Ken, that is very helpful info.

    I don’t think you’re question needs to be limited to fiscal readiness. There are numerous factors in addition to convenience and cost—the two that consistently get the most attention—that people care about and consider with regard to transportation choices and spending. I wonder if AATA has been similarly limiting its marketing and visioning efforts. When more than one of our intelligent and thoughtful, local elected officials is misinformed about a basic aspect of our bus service, I think that’s evidence of an area in need of attention (and probably money.)

    With that in mind, some information that might be even more helpful for us to consider is a set of estimates of how much money and what levels of ridership would enable a leap to higher levels of service?

    The bus systems in American cities have been developed and have operated in an outdated world of cheap gas, no-cost polluting, subsidized roads and parking lots, and a general perception that driving is a pleasurable or, at worst, benign way of spending time. (I won’t get into that topic right now.) Accepting them as a model, no matter how uniform they might be, is to lack imagination and deny global ecological realities.

    For example, the general assumption is that a certain level of population density is required to sustain a certain level of service. That’s twentieth-century, eco-ignorant thinking. In today’s world, with tomorrow’s prospects for ecocide, mass transit’s positives get magnified. We need to change the assumptions to include much higher ridership, make it a reality, and market and develop the system on that basis.

    An opportunity for AATA is to tap into the love that Ann Arborites have for the world and life (forms) in general and their willingness to temporarily pay more money for a greater societal benefit in the future. I think people would appreciate being marketed to as a community rather than just as individuals. As a start, AATA could help us understand the economic impacts of car ownership and driving and the potential for savings that would benefit the community economically, socially, and environmentally if we made collective changes.

       —Steve Bean    Jan. 25 '09 - 11:12AM    #
  28. Before we have a rush to the exits on the “greedy geezer” theme, I’d like to offer some data from the US Census.

    Unfortunately, I was not able to find exactly the correlations I wanted, but here are some relevant statistics for Ann Arbor. (Figures are from 2007.)

    Total number of persons over 16: 100,208
    Total 65 or over: 9, 397 (about 9.4% of population)

    Total households: 45, 245
    Mean household income: $75, 708
    Households With retirement income: 5,019
    Mean retirement income: $29,917
    Households With Social Security: 7,348
    Mean Social Security income: $17,332
    (I took this to mean that SS was not included in retirement income, but am not certain.)
    Note that college-student households pull down the mean income figure for all households.

    Mean family income: $106,599

    Poverty level is defined as $14,000 for a family of 2, $21,200 for a family of 4, and $10,400 for an individual.

    Percent families under the poverty line with two parents and children under 18: 7.9%

    Percent families under the poverty line with a female single parent and children under 18: 21.8%

    Percent individuals under the poverty line who are 65 and older: 7.8%

    These figures indicate to me at least that people over 65 in Ann Arbor are not disproportionately wealthy. Many are living on a tenuous income. Recall that pensions are vanishing and 401Ks have taken hits. I’ve heard many news reports that most Americans are not saving adequately for retirement. Not all “seniors” fit the stereotype of the retired couple with a comfortable UM pension who travel to Europe a couple of times a year.

    Also consider the barriers to administering a means test for these reduced fares. Would AATA grill each applicant for a senior card? I’m guessing that would discourage many from applying. And what limits would you set?

    I sat through a number of the discussions on the fares and the fare structure seemed to be sensibly designed (I’m not endorsing the increased fares). The idea was to make it so easy for seniors and the disabled to ride the regular bus that the “demand services”, which are much more expensive, would at least not grow. In order to use the senior fare, one must go to the office and apply, with ID. (I for one haven’t bothered yet.) I doubt that seniors whose incomes are adequate to their needs will be doing that. So let’s evaluate the fare proposal in its entirety rather than picking on the reduced senior fares.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jan. 25 '09 - 10:44PM    #
  29. Based on the experience with the 2X service, I can imagine demand (and utility) for other similar X routes – a 3X that only hit the high density trip generators on that route (Ypsi, WCC, Huron HS, VA, U Hospital, downtown) and a 5X (Ypsi, Ypsi HS, Meijer, Packard/Platt, Packard/Stadium, Thompson/Madison, downtown). I’m not sure how you’d route a 4X or a 6X all the way to Ypsi. The service goal would be to have 30 minute Ypsi-Ann Arbor service on routes on buses that were full.

    I was thinking about a way to make the fare increases of minimal inconvenience to the people who pay cash (perhaps because they can’t scrape up enough cash at once to buy a month pass), and hit upon the idea of more aggressive use of tokens. If you kept the price of 10 tokens at $10, but moved cash fares to $1.25, then token-buyers would get an effective 20% discount. If you then get service organizations and agencies to commit to buying tokens for their clients – or doing the equivalent of “validating parking” by paying for bus fare for shoppers or meeting attendees – then you can put some value into the economy, essentially printing a local coinage that’s backed by the promise of transportation within the community.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 25 '09 - 11:31PM    #
  30. I like that a lot. I wonder how much seigneurage could be generated by a wide use of tokens. If the cost of producing a token is less than its face value, AATA is in effect minting money. A certain number of tokens will find themselves into collections, drawers and behind sofa cushions.

    AATA also makes scrip for its demand services. If it produced scrip for special occasions like conferences, etc. – meeting attendees – a certain amount of that would also be discarded without use.

    And yes, it would be an ideal way to provide bus fare for the less advantaged and could even be used as a fundraising technique similar to the Food Gatherers collection of cans – we could either donate for an organization to buy tokens, or drop tokens into admittance boxes for events.

    Another appeal of discounting tokens in the same way that passes are discounted is that some of the risk to the buyer is alleviated. No expiration date.

    Besides, if I had some in my wallet, I know I’d take the bus more often than if I had to be sure to have a dollar bill and two quarters (“Driver carries no change”).

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jan. 26 '09 - 01:22AM    #
  31. I’m a senior (barely), I’m able-bodied, and I never use AATA. As to exercise, I agree with Mark Twain, who said that whenever he felt the need to exercise, he lay down until the feeling passed. 8-)

    I never use AATA because it doesn’t take me where I want to go, especially not within a reasonable time. I can drive downtown in ten minutes, ditto to the stores in NE Ann Arbor. My work involves going to various courts. By car it takes me 15 minutes inside AA.

    I agree that AA simply doesn’t have the population density to permit a convenient transit service. People might as well relax to the logic of this situation.

    However, I strongly support AATA as a charity, providing service (even slow service) to people who don’t have cars and/or can’t drive.

       —David Cahill    Jan. 26 '09 - 01:43AM    #
  32. I love taking AATA – when it runs. There is a stop right near my house and when I need to go downtown during the day I try to take it.

    Only problem – during the day it stops only hourly. This takes real planning for tasks downtown. I’ve had to wait 45 minutes downtown after being dropped off to go to a meeting, for example. If it stopped even on the half-hour, it would be so much more useful. And then there is the problem of no night or weekend service. If the schedule were more extensive, I’d take it frequently. Love not having to drive and park downtown.

    But I’m ever so grateful – it is the Threatened Thirteen, barely saved by the grace of AATA from having mid-day service cancelled altogether. I was really glad we had it when I broke my ankle and couldn’t drive. I just wish we could somehow expand service from being oriented only to work-bound commuters so that the waiting pool of users like me could be on it more often.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jan. 26 '09 - 02:01AM    #
  33. Vivienne –

    The AATA has promised public meetings with any organization that wants to have one regarding the fare hikes. I would suggest that having one along the 13 route would be a good exercise of getting riders out to know each other and to speak up.

    My 5, 6, and 36 routes all look pretty healthy, but the 14 was truncated back to peak hour service, and almost every bus stop along Stadium is totally crusted in with snow in the last storm. It’s going to take quite a bit of work for me to even try to take the 14 (like a buzzer that goes off when it’s time to leave the house to catch it).

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 26 '09 - 03:57AM    #
  34. Just 2 notes to throw in:

    There’s another reason to consider subsidizing senior transit. I’ve known many seniors to get to the point where they say “I’m no longer safe behind the wheel.” When they get to that point, we want to make it easy for them to choose to stop driving.

    Second, Leah talked about how people still want to drive even though there are incentives like the GoPass. While many people do drive, you can see the spike in ridership when the UM and AATA worked out an agreement to allow students, faculty, and staff to ride free. There is also data that the GoPass does increase ridership. So while many people do still choose to drive, these incentives do work to help people choose sustainable transportation.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jan. 27 '09 - 08:30PM    #
  35. I suspect that this won’t be the first time I point out this sort of thing, but our bus system is not sustainable.

       —Steve Bean    Jan. 28 '09 - 02:47AM    #
  36. Could you define your terms, Steve? And perhaps expand a bit?

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jan. 28 '09 - 09:32PM    #
  37. First, my thinking is that the concept of sustainability is only applicable at the system level, and then only within a chosen timeframe. At the highest level, even our solar system isn’t sustainable (from our perspective as humans), because our sun will eventually die. So using the term loosely would ultimately render it meaningless. At the community scale it’s also in danger of becoming meaningless, similar to “green”.

    Beyond that, I like the model for sustainability that requires a balance among environmental quality, economic vitality, and social equity over time.

    In simple terms, without even getting into a complex definition such as that, our bus system isn’t sustainable primarily for the simple reason that it relies on non-renewable fuels (in a thousands-of-years time horizon.)

       —Steve Bean    Jan. 28 '09 - 11:40PM    #
  38. Thanks. That is definitely the big-picture viewpoint. In the small immediate future, though, ridership does get people out of automobiles for an incrementally “sustainable” result – or maybe I should just say one with an improved environmental and social effect. I agree with you about the misuse and endangerment of the term.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jan. 29 '09 - 12:37AM    #
  39. Another way of putting it is that sustainability is a pass/fail test. Either something is, or it isn’t, sustainable. “More sustainable” is an oxymoron. The accurate wording is “movement toward” sustainability. It’s a goal.

    When we get that clear in our minds we’ll be better able to assess new policies, practices, technologies, etc. in terms of how far they move us toward that goal. Are they baby steps, long strides, or leaps? If we always only take baby steps, we may not get there before the system collapses. (If we’re not passing, we’re failing, no matter how slowly.) Eventually we will probably need to take mostly long strides and an occasional leap, and the sooner the better.

       —Steve Bean    Jan. 29 '09 - 02:46AM    #
  40. Google Transit does not have the current AATA transit schedule – the old one expired, and the new one has not yet been sent up to Google. Therefore route planning is down now.

    See an example

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 29 '09 - 07:41AM    #
  41. It’s all available on the AATA website, including real time for any route. You don’t need to go through Google – just go direct.

       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 29 '09 - 08:47AM    #
  42. Leah,

    Google Transit is used for travel planning in the future, to see what routes and transfers you might take for a trip.

    This page

    references it, but when you try to use it, there is no data.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 29 '09 - 09:16AM    #
  43. If sustainability is either/or, then nothing is sustainable as we will eventually face the death of our star. Or, even if we colonize space, we will face either the heat death or implosion of the universe.

    I do think the AATA is “more sustainable” than the single-passenger car system that predominates, which is why I want to see it well run, well funded, and well used.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jan. 29 '09 - 08:59PM    #
  44. Did you read #37, Chuck?

       —Steve Bean    Jan. 29 '09 - 11:15PM    #
  45. The Plan a Ride trip planner is working on the AATA website.

    It can be accessed through the same page as the Google trip planner:

       —Ken A.    Jan. 31 '09 - 12:42AM    #
  46. Sorry, Steve, I missed in when I scanned back for Vivienne’s question.

    So there is a question about what time frame should we be measuring sustainability. ArborUpdate isn’t sustainable on a 1000 year time frame because of the extractive ways we currently create the computers and networking component. The 1000 year focus is useful to ponder, but I don’t think it works as a basis for planning.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jan. 31 '09 - 03:40AM    #
  47. Ken, the Google trip planner is down.

    shows the problem. The error message is

    Sorry, we don’t have transit schedule data for a trip from Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, MI 48105 to 530 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (Michigan Union) at the time and date you specified.

    Get driving directions from Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, MI 48105 to 530 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (Michigan Union).

    The problem is that the AATA schedule sent to Google expired, and the AATA has not generated and sent a new one to Google.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 31 '09 - 09:21AM    #
  48. I’m not disputing the Google outage Ed. The Plan a Ride service (a module of Trapeze) plots trips just like the Google Transit trip planner does. It’s an alternative that can be used until the Google problem is resolved.

       —Ken A.    Feb. 3 '09 - 01:26AM    #
  49. The Google Transit trip planner is back. That makes it possible to compare directions between it and Trapeze.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Feb. 10 '09 - 02:50AM    #
  50. FYI the AATA also has a Frequently Asked Questions page about the fare changes.

       —Nancy Shore    Feb. 13 '09 - 08:32PM    #
  51. Re Post#3: I would also question the validity of the projections in revenue. When were these calculated and using what data?

    The fact that we may be entering into a recession may actually even increase ridership if it is cost-effective. Economists have pointed out that McDonald’s and Wal-Mart were the only two gainers during 2008 on the Dow Jones Industrials due to the fact that the demand for inexpensive products was projected to increase during the recession. The same logic applies if AATA facilities are cost-effective to consumers.

       —John Dory    Feb. 28 '09 - 09:43PM    #
  52. AS someone who occasionally takes the Ypsi-Ann Arbor bus routes, I can say that I would use them more frequently if there was an express route. Especially given the hub and spoke model. From transit center to transit center it could take under 30 minutes.

       —Ruth Kraut    Mar. 8 '09 - 05:19AM    #
  53. I agree with Ruth Kraut. An express route would increase ridership.

       —Kerry D.    Mar. 9 '09 - 05:26AM    #
  54. I have read with interest the Blogs contained within this board and offer for consideration several items that may be of interest. The proposed fare increase appears to be motivated by AATA’s desire to obtain forced additional funding from not only U-M, but the suburban communities that benefit from AATA service as well. Board minutes from the November 2008 meeting emphatically state this. I also found somewhat disturbing as I continued to read this section that the AATA never stated that the fare increases were necessary due to upcoming budget shortfalls or even increased cost of fuel or supplies, but only as a means to obtain additional monies from U-M and the suburbs. Additionally, this was also the solution for operating the Art Fair and Football Shuttles at a profit. Not surprisingly, this section has been “removed” from the AATA web site. I however had the foresight to print out this section; so I have the “facts!” Now I am not here to bash the AATA, but as an Ann Arbor resident and TAXPAYER, I am appalled that the AATA is considering the County wide tax millage that will require me to pay 3 mills for this service along with the fare increase. I find hard to believe that every eligible U-M associated individual takes advantage of the M-Ride program. I submit that the cries of U-M paying additional money for M-Ride might be squelched with purchasing some type of monthly or annual pass for each eligible participant that actually uses the bus; at the actual cost of the pass. This solution would give the AATA the cost per person financial solution that has been suggested. Thus relieving the Ann Arbor taxpayer of this burden. In closing, I go on record stating that because U-M has it’s own bus system U-M needs to step up and transport U-M folks themselves and perhaps even offer to help transport some townies around town!

       —Ralph K    Mar. 15 '09 - 07:29PM    #
  55. Ralph, I still see a full list of board meeting minutes at What document are you referring to?

       —Matt Hampel    Mar. 15 '09 - 07:37PM    #
  56. Matt,
    This was the Planning and Development Meeting from November 20, 2008 and a presentation given by Mary Stasiak. This broke down into several categories the pros and cons of each fare proposal, including the “free fare” proposal.

       —Ralph K    Mar. 15 '09 - 07:52PM    #
  57. I don’t believe that #54 accurately reflects the staff report on the fare increase. I have a copy of the minutes (PD meeting of Nov. 20, 2008) and I was also present at that meeting and some subsequent meetings.

    It was made clear that there is a projected budget deficit for AATA in the future without the fare increase. Part of this was the lower return on investment for reserve funds. Minutes refer to the need to raise fares to correct the “long-term structural deficit”.

    I think what Ralph K. is responding to was the discussion of how the base fare amount (the stated base fare) affects all other fare classes and contracts. Each special agreement or arrangement begins with the base fare, which serves as the basis either for a multiplier of that amount or for other calculations to arrive at the stated cost for that service. Apparently AATA lost money in the past on art fair shuttles, for example, but the fare for that service is determined in part by the base fare.

    The POSA contracts with other municipalities have to pay the real allocated costs for the service, and I read the minutes as saying that the increased fares would help those communities meet the cost (because the increased fare would offset the cost to the community).

    I’m hoping Bruce can make the pdf available so folks can read the minutes for themselves.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Mar. 16 '09 - 02:14AM    #
  58. And here it is:


    Thanks, Vivienne!

       —Bruce Fields    Mar. 16 '09 - 02:54AM    #
  59. Thank you Vivienne and Bruce for the additional insight, I did not attend the board meeting and I have based my posting primarily on my interpretation of those minutes, and conversations with AATA drivers. However, I continue to be convinced that the primary motivation behind the increase continues being in pursuit of obtaining additional funding from U-M and the POSA partners. I still strongly believe that the University should step up and provide for the transportation of the University community, and University functions themselves.

       —Ralph K    Mar. 16 '09 - 04:26AM    #
  60. The City of Ypsilanti budget proposes to keep the reduced price for AATA service. Wonder how the AATA board will handle that one.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    May. 2 '09 - 10:46PM    #