Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Pros and Cons: Underground Parking Structure

20. February 2009 • Nancy Shore
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At the City Council’s Tuesday meeting, the Council voted to approve the site plan for the new underground parking structure at Fifth Avenue (also known as the Library Lot). This structure will add 670 spaces and will cost about $55 million to construct.

In an effort to facilitate some discussion about the recently approved underground parking structure, I’ve put together a list of pros and cons.

This list is compiled from emails I have received, arguments I have heard, and comments at the Council Meeting, which I attended. Since the Ann Arbor Chronicle did a wonderful job capturing the comments at the City Council Meeting, I pulled a lot of these pros and cons from their recent article.

Underground Parking Structure Pros and Cons


  • The underground structure is an investment in downtown and the entire community, which would support new development as well as existing businesses.
  • Building parking underground is more expensive but it creates a better urban fabric than above ground parking. And you will be able to create active uses on top of the structure.
  • It’s a good time to build the structure because materials costs are low and the construction will help create local jobs
  • The additional spaces would bring more people downtown to help support the retail base that’s here.
  • Local business owners have heard about customers who have not come to shop in their stores because of the lack of parking. The parking system is at capacity. The new parking structure would help to increase capacity so there are more spaces for customers to park
  • Churches and other religious organizations depend on the parking structures for their events. Increasing parking will be positive for these organizations.
  • Because of students, construction workers and the fact that Liberty Square is only open to monthly parkers, more parking is needed and the underground structure will help to alleviate that.
  • In order to attract larger employers to the downtown, there needs to be more capacity in the parking system so that parking spaces can be offered to employers. Employers are leaving downtown because they cannot get additional spaces.
  • The underground garage will support an overall transportation plan, which also encompasses go!passes, buses, pedestrians and cyclists. It is one approach among many that the DDA and City are using to increase downtown vitality.
  • Just because it’s possible for near-downtown residents to walk or bicycle into downtown, it’s not necessarily possible for everyone. A huge percentage of downtown visitors come from all over our region. And those people are not just going to walk, they need a place to park.
  • Automobiles are currently a part of our transportation reality: people drive into Ann Arbor from outlying areas. The ultimate goal is to move forward in the future to where people have more options (like transit and rail). The reality that currently exists, though, includes automobiles. Based on the both the 2007 Nelson\Nygaard study and the anecdotal data, it’s clear that the parking system is at capacity and that we need to increase it.
  • The city is losing business in the downtown area because there is inadequate parking.
  • We need more parking if we are going to grow the downtown.


  • The underground parking structure seems to be part of a package of developing a conference center, which has not had adequate community feedback. There is citizen concern about what is going to go on top.
  • Have we really done everything possible as laid out in Nelson/Nygaard parking study prior to building more parking? Are there more cost effective approaches such as expanding the Park and Ride Lot system, creating more express buses, running buses later into the night, etc.?
  • The underground garage doesn’t correlate with environmentalism, but runs counter to the best concepts in environmentalism. People should park on the perimeter and use public transportation into the downtown.
  • There are many nuances and data on parking system use and hourly users that need to be examined more closely before more parking is built.
    How do we know that the underground parking structure will support business in the State Street Area?
  • The underground garage had been considered from an economic standpoint, but not from the standpoint of the environment or social equity.
  • According to the City’s CFO, the project is “not affordable with the plans they have.”
  • It’s probably possible to walk from one side of town to the other using parking lots, yet people say the downtown needs more parking.
  • Building an underground parking structure is not a novel or innovative approach to solving the downtown parking issue.
  • The city could build forever and never accommodate all the people who want to park in this town.
  • There has not been enough public input on the structure.
  • What could $55 million do for public transportation?
  • Building an underground parking structure is not a sustainable solution.
  • The main reason that businesses don’t want to locate downtown is the overpriced commercial real estate prices, not a lack of parking.

  1. Incidentally, I sometimes thing the Nelson/Nygaard parking study is like the bible. The same document can cause one to reach many different conclusions, depending on your perspective.

       —Nancy Shore    Feb. 20 '09 - 11:45PM    #
  2. Underground parking is good for density, but the proposed layout is poor. The proposal would result in a 4 level “bridge” on Fifth Ave, needing to meet all the requirements of bridges, due to the traffic on top. additionally, buses would be continually turning on top of the “bridge” to enter the Blake center, causing undue stress to the bridge – degrading its lifespan (not to mention the road salt). What would be best is for the library to build a new building on the old YMCA site (currently a parking lot), and then construct a massive and rectangular underground parking structure on the properties east of Fifth Ave. Put no parking under a major roadway, please!

       —urbanite    Feb. 21 '09 - 01:35AM    #
  3. Among your cons, I don’t see the necessary increase in parking rates. We will be penalizing the downtown merchants who rely on casual traffic to stay in business.

    Also, I think it ironic that we are talking of building parking to attract employers, when regular commuters (for work) are the very best population to use satellite parking and mass transit (aka GetDowntown).

    We should not be using public money to subsidize development, either for residential development or for commercial development. We should be making parking available to the general public so that people will come downtown to shop and use public facilities like the library, the courts, and the city offices.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 22 '09 - 02:25AM    #
  4. Parking rates are a more complex issue than they might seem. To begin with, they must be set at least high enough to cover the costs of the parking system, given the current policy to that effect.

    Second, parking cost is a lesser concern to most downtown visitors, relative to other factors such as location and other measures of convenience, at least according to the last study that asked about such things. With the current state of the economy, a (limited) followup survey might be worthwhile, to see if that still holds true. The current high level of demand seems like a reasonable sign that rates could be increased at least some amount for at least some spaces and times.

    That said, the need to raise rates to cover the costs of the proposed new parking structure will considerably reduce future opportunities to use creative rate structures more fully in ways that could move the city more quickly and equitably toward a sustainable transportation system.

    While I agree with your point about commuters, Vivienne, I don’t think it’s reasonable to believe that all new commuters could/would use such alternatives to parking downtown. Businesses also often want spaces available for visitors. That said, I think that there are many alternatives that, combined, could reduce demand from that group. We just haven’t fully explored them.

    Speaking of which, I just sent a message today to the Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition (WBWC) email list that included examples: “better parking load management (which encompasses many possibilities, from price changes to event rescheduling), car sharing, car and van pooling, telecommuting, park and ride lots, taxi service (including by bike), delivery service (including by bike), online business meetings, telephone communications, and more.” Another load management approach that came to mind later today is incentives for shoppers to visit during non-peak hours.

    I understand your concern about the possible subsidizing of private interests, however, I think that the “parking pays for itself” policy largely avoids that. A related policy, which was supported by the parking study recommendations by Nelson/Nygaard, favors the inclusion of new parking capacity within the DDA’s system in order to reduce potential negative impacts of private surface lots (among other things.) I think that such subsidization can be avoided.

       —Steve Bean    Feb. 22 '09 - 08:35AM    #
  5. After discussing billions of federal dollars for rescue and recovery, $55 million sounds like small change.

    To put it in perspective, though, let’s do a little simple math.

    * With 670 spaces, the bill for the structure comes to $82,089.55 for each parking space

    * One AATA hybrid bus costs $546,000

    * One new bus could be purchased for the price of 6.67 parking spaces

    * $55 million would be enough to buy about 100 new hybrid buses (though it would take a lot more to run them, of course)

    * Each bus would be able to deliver 30 people (seated) to the downtown area

    * Each parking space would, on average, deliver roughly 2 people downtown

    * For the cost of one hybrid bus, the structure will provide for about 13 people to get downtown

    * For the same price, a bus can deliver 2.3 times as many people downtown

    * With 670 spaces each allowing two people to come downtown, the structure enables 1340 more people can come downtown

    * If 1340 is the city’s goal for bringing additional people downtown, it would take only 45 buses to bring them in

    * The cost of enough buses to bring in that number would be $24,570,000

    So that’s the simple math. Of course there are many other factors to consider, not so simple:

    * The appeal of buses (or lack thereof)

    * The reduction of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants from using 45 buses instead of 670 cars

    * The fact that developers of parking garages contribute to campaigns for City Council and Mayor, while the California manufacturer of the buses does not.
    I’m sure you can think of more factors. But none of these are actully my primary concern.

    What worries me most is that when this structure is completed, the cost of gasoline will probably be over $4/gallon again. It will keep rising. It must, because there is a limited supply of oil, and we’re burning through it fast. So before this structure is five years old, citizens will be clamoring for more transportation options. Citizens who remember that the structure cost $55 million, and they can’t afford to drive to it, will be wondering how City Council could have been so blind that they didn’t put the money into public transportation.

    Let’s invest wisely, for the long term. Long term, we already have enough parking downtown. What we don’t have is good alternatives.

       —Larry Krieg    Feb. 22 '09 - 09:26AM    #
  6. * The appeal of buses (or lack thereof)

    I think this point of Larry’s is probably one of the most important in considering the “cons”.

    Sure, building a new parking structure neglects the transportation solutions that shiny happy urban planners would most like to see (I’m referring to myself, obviously), like parking on the periphery and using transit.

    However, statements like that assume that the public has no preference between the two – that a new park-and-ride lot and a new bus route would be a cheaper and more environmental solution that would be just as effective in allowing people to getDowntown. Once you require people to make mode transfers, though, not to mention the simple psychological objections many carry towards buses, this becomes a much less appealing option – and people go to the mall, instead.

    We either serve cars expensively in the downtowns or cheaply at the periphery – and our choice pushes land use between compact walkable areas and car-oriented sprawl. Downtown parking is an investment in downtowns, which is itself an investment in walking, biking, and transit: the most important factor in transportation choice is not the cost of gas, but the (perceived) availability of options. Downtown parking structures are an investment in the walkable downtowns and neighborhoods of 30 years from now – even if we’re no longer using them (for parking) at the time.

    But that’s not to say that I think this is an all-good idea – just that it’s not as retrograde, anti-environment as it seems.

    We’ve discussed ad nauseum in the past the idea of fostering satellite downtowns at State & Eisenhower, Washtenaw & Huron Parkway, Stadium & Jackson, Packard & Platt, etc. Making all of those car-dominated places more compact and more human-friendly, and providing fast, good transit between these nodes, as well as between existing regional downtown concentrations, would be an even better investment in our community’s future: we’d have not only a walkable, transit-supportive downtown, but a walkable, transit-supportive city.

    And Step 1 in this process is dirt-cheap: just change the rules. Currently, the City’s zoning absolutely prevents good, human-focused development on the periphery – we absolutely demand that developers build for cars, not for people. (Remember, David C’s favorite haiku doesn’t call for Rite Aids Everywhere, but for walkable, humanist development of 3-4 stories.)

    But we’ve been saying that here for years, the City’s planning staff has been saying it, the Planning Commission knows it…and it still hasn’t happened. Which says a lot to me about how interested the community is in good alternatives. Oh well.

       —Murph    Feb. 22 '09 - 09:44PM    #
  7. (And, reading deeper in Larry’s page, it appears you’re in agreement with me in Part 4 of your white paper :

    Because most zoning ordinances were developed to meet twentieth-century needs, they discourage land use that puts residences close to services and food supply. It has been said that sustainable development is actually illegal in most of the United States. There are well-thought-out models that can be used to update our zoning ordinances, but that can only happen if local zoning authorities are aware that the public needs and supports such changes.

    I’d note that zoning authorities are often more interested in newer, more sustainable models than is the general population – heck, recognizing a problem and being interested in solutions is often what got them in the zoning world in the first pace. Not that I speak from personal experience or anything. Nuh-uh.

    [Development capital is] not really a problem, because major investment is not needed at the outset; what is needed is education, consensus-building, and zoning modifications. Economies are cyclical, and we can have reasonable confidence that investment will become available when it is appropriate.

    Staff time to address regulatory change needs is dirt cheap, compared to either underground parking structures or new transit lines. But, unfortunately, planning staff is often one of the first things cuts in times of falling tax revenues.

    Where I’d disagree with you, Larry, is your focus on greenfield development. There’s only so much better you can do with a greenfield project – Cherry Hill Village is a “better” development than the typical, but it still hasn’t nearly the potential of Chelsea, or Stadium & Jackson, for transit or walkability. I’m disappointed that you’d challenge the status quo on everything else, but then decide to look at prettying up greenfield development because that’s where you see development happening.

       —Murph    Feb. 22 '09 - 10:06PM    #
  8. I appreciated Mayor Hieftje’s comments at last week’s Council meeting to the effect that we must have more downtown parking because(1) downtown businesses rely on it and (2) it is not possible for the city government to change people’s wishes to drive to and from downtown.

    It would be nice for those people who push alternative means of transportation to face the simple fact that for most of us, those means are failed alternatives.

    Plus (I hate to disappoint my fans and anti-fans): In Michigan There Can Be Nothing Wrong With The Car. 8-)

       —David Cahill    Feb. 23 '09 - 03:13AM    #
  9. David,

    I strongly disagree with your notion that alternative means of transportation are failed modes. In fact, I am hard-pressed to think of any successful community on the planet that doesn’t have diverse options for getting around. Of course, this is true of every great city in the world – but it is also true for most the great medium sized towns as well.

    In my view, Ann Arbor needs a balanced system with transportation alternatives across many modes. (BTW – Since when did walking become an “alternative” anyway!? Something like how solar is considered an alternative fuel when fossil fuels are just solar power filtered through plants and millions of years – but I digress).

    Not everybody will find use in every mode. That is not an indication of failure – it is an outcome of having multiple options. AATA performed over 5 million rides last year.

    Also, while downtown businesses rely on parking, they also rely on buses (admittedly to a lesser extent – which is probably why we spend so much more on streets and parking decks).

    There are so many government functions that are worthwhile despite the fact that a large segment of the populace rarely uses them. Libraries come to mind.

       —Jeff Irwin    Feb. 23 '09 - 10:53PM    #
  10. Parking rates pay for more than parking. In fiscal year 2008, the DDA collected $14 million in parking revenue. They gave $2 million to the city’s general fund for “rent” even though the DDA pays 100% of the cost to build and maintain the system. The DDA parking fund gave the city an additional $760,000 to maintain the streets. So out of the $14 million in fees, $2.76 million (20%) went back to the city to pay for things other than parking. Some of the rate increase is because the city wants the $2.76 in annual subsidies from the parking fees to continue.

       —karen sidney    Feb. 23 '09 - 11:34PM    #
  11. Sorry, Jeff, but I’m not swayed by your argument“Great cities” have enough density to support mass transit, but even in those places the transit system is heavily subsidized. I read recently that despite hundreds of billions of dollars in mass transit subsidies, fewer than 1% of all trips use such systems.

    AA will never have the density to support a mass transit system that is routinely used by ordinary people. I support the AATA, and will probably support the millage increase folks are discussing. But I am doing so only because I see AATA as a charity, serving two principal non-student populations: People who are too poor to drive, and criminals who have had their licenses taken away.

       —David Cahill    Feb. 24 '09 - 03:50AM    #
  12. Now that right there is a comment that is already echoing around the world.

       —Bill Tozier    Feb. 24 '09 - 05:41AM    #
  13. Begging your pardon Mr Cahill, but the folks I ride with neither look like criminals, nor poor. I would love to see how you came to your conclusion…

       —scooter62    Feb. 24 '09 - 06:02AM    #
  14. There’s an important difference between poverty and not wanting to pay for a car. I use the difference to take the train to Chicago!

    Rats, I just fed the troll.

       —Matt    Feb. 24 '09 - 06:14AM    #
  15. Ann Arbor does have the density to support mass transit. I’m not talking about transplanting the Metro to Ann Arbor, but we can look to other successful cities around the world with thriving transit systems and thriving economies. I would point to a city like Wuerzburg in Germany. It is the educational hub of its region. It has slightly more people and slightly less population density.

    They have a transit system relying mostly on buses, supplemented by a downtown streetcar and regional heavy rail connections. We do have some serious cultural differences which shouldn’t be ignored. However, we also can’t ignore that Ann Arbor had a streetcar system in the early 20th century. (Or that it ultimately failed as a private venture and was replaced by bus).

    In any event, this is getting a bit off topic – but I just couldn’t let it go by without stating some disagreement with the notion that cars and cars alone should be the focus when deciding which modes of transport to subsidize.

       —Jeff Irwin    Feb. 24 '09 - 06:33AM    #
  16. Question for Nancy Shore:

    It’s my understanding that with the new fare boxes recently installed on buses by AATA, it will be possible to adapt the getDowntown go!pass cards to a “swipe-able” version, which should allow us to collect more precise data on their use.

    Re: Comment [11] Would it be possible to ask the companies who participate in the go!pass program to tell you which go!passes are being distributed to (i) people who are too poor to drive and (ii) criminals who have had their licenses taken away?

    It would be great to be able to study the bus boarding patterns of the poor people versus the criminals.

       —HD    Feb. 24 '09 - 07:05AM    #
  17. HD, I’d imagine the intersection of the two would account for most use. Obviously.

       —Matt    Feb. 24 '09 - 07:36AM    #
  18. HD,
    You somehow read my mind. The new fareboxes will indeed allow go!passes to become swipe-able, so we will get a better sense of what companies are using them the most and how many individuals are using them. Right now, we just have general ridership data.

    But, that being said, looking at the current data shows that many, many go!pass riders are not too poor to drive and not criminals.

    You can see all of the go!pass stats on this page

    Currently, about 5,700 go!passes have been purchased for downtown workers. Among the companies with go!passes are:
    Google Ann Arbor
    Menlo Innovations
    DTE Energy
    The City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County
    The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra
    Miller Canfield
    Bank of Ann Arbor
    and over 400 more

    None of these businesses is obligated to buy go!passes, so you must assume that they perceive some value in them. And currently, go!pass rides account for about 30,000 trips a month on the buses. I have seen the manager of Suwanee Springs use his go!pass. I know that A2D2 Goddess Wendy Rampson uses her go!pass. I also know people who work at architect firms and hair salons that use their go!pass. And I know none of this will matter to David, but perhaps it will help present another viewpoint.

    The last study of the getDowntown Program was in 2005 (we are currently doing a follow up study this year). That study surveyed downtown workers and found that about 15% of those surveyed used the bus to get to work. The general demographics for those surveyed found these workers to be mostly full time, many with incomes of over $50,000 a year, and very few without cars or licenses.

    David is right in being interested in making sure the bus is available for those with no other means to get around. I used to work at SOS Community Services and definitely know that many low income individuals depend on the bus. But my experience at getDowntown has also shown me that there are many people of means who actually want to take the bus.

    I agree with Jeff that the Ann Arbor area could support more robust mass transit, even to the level of light rail. However, we have to plan for it, meaning we have to understand that if we want better transit, we need more density, which means addressing zoning issues and allowing for more development in the different hubs in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area.

    If you want to read more about this, check out the recent A2 Transportation Plan update. Of special interest are the maps that show how Ann Arbor could grow in the next 20 years and what sort of transit we could support with that growth.

    I think there is a real tension in this community between the people who would like to see it grow and those who would like to see it stay the same.

       —Nancy    Feb. 24 '09 - 08:00AM    #
  19. As an extremely wealthy criminal, I could choose to hire my own driver. But I enjoy the social aspects of bus-riding, and the chance to keep tabs on the broader Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti-area bus-riding criminal element.

       —Bruce Fields    Feb. 24 '09 - 08:16AM    #
  20. Nancy, do you have the numbers for go!pass use for last October (I think it was) so that the 2007-2008 numbers can be be compared with previous years? The data that’s on your web site indicated that go!pass use (not holders, but actual uses) increased about 8% annually for the last four year-long periods, but with that last month’s number missing it’s unclear for the final year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the increase was more than 8%, given the numbers for the earlier months of that period.

    I would contrast that with the numbers that DDA member Roger Hewitt provided to council about parking system revenues and hourly users increasing around 5% for about two and a half years if I knew what that vague statement means. (And no, HD didn’t fail to convey any specificity in his reporting—the statement was simply that vague. Apparently it was clear to council. I sent them the info on the go!pass use, to no avail.)

       —Steve Bean    Feb. 24 '09 - 09:21AM    #
  21. Nancy, I think you’ve got it backwards. Mass transit is not an end in itself, but merely a means to an end. Yet you say “if we want better transit, we need more density, which means addressing zoning issues and allowing for more development in the different hubs in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area.”

    Forcing the City to have more density in order to improve transit is to put the cart before the horse.

       —David Cahill    Feb. 24 '09 - 06:41PM    #
  22. Steve,
    You can see the updated numbers here

    David, you have hit the nail on the head. The transit/density issue is very chicken and egg. It’s hard to know which needs to come first.

       —Nancy Shore    Feb. 24 '09 - 07:27PM    #
  23. David points out that “Mass transit is not an end in itself.” What are the ends of mass transit? To my mind, they include:

    # Environmental sustainability; # reduced congestion; # reduced demand for parking; # accessibility for people who cannot drive (which is more than people in poverty or with convictions, it includes some of our elderly population, high school students, people with disabilities or injuries, etc.)

    I think what happened here is that David made a good point (that there is an altruistic reason to support transit) but made it in an way that touched a lot of nerves.

    My point is that in addition to the altruistic reasons to support transit, there are also self interested reasons. Every person on a bus is one less person to wait behind at the corner of State and Hill at 5:00 on a Friday (sorry, the traffic timing there is a mini pet peeve of mine).

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Feb. 24 '09 - 09:02PM    #
  24. Thanks, Nancy. Wow! A 19%+ increase in 2007-2008 over the previous 12 month-period! (Thank you and congratulations.) And almost a 50% increase over the low in 2002-2003. Any reason for the 2001-2002 numbers not being included? Any numbers yet for November ’08 and beyond?

       —Steve Bean    Feb. 24 '09 - 09:43PM    #
  25. Steve,
    I didn’t include the 2001-2002 numbers because there just isn’t room to include them on the list on my website. However, I can tell you that the 2001-2002 numbers are lower than those for 2005-2006 and beyond.

    So far for 2008-2009 we’ve had the following ridership:
    Nov 08: 29,847 (about 500 more rides than Nov 07)
    Dec 08: 34,717 (about 6,000 more rides than Dec 07)
    Jan 09: 37,013 (about 1,500 more rides than Jan 08)

       —Nancy Shore    Feb. 24 '09 - 10:04PM    #
  26. Nancy,

    When did Uof M begin to offer free rides to faculty/Staff/students? Is the increase in rides due to the UofM free ride program or due to new paying customers?

    What are the real numbers in “paid” fares? This will tell us if more people are taking the bus voluntarily.

    Also, everyone seems to forget that we live in Michigan…it is cold out there for half the year. Would you stand waiting for a bus when it is 20 degrees outside to go shop downtown? Most would probably drive to the mall.

    We need parking downtown so that our businesses can make it through the winter.

       —Diane    Feb. 25 '09 - 12:05AM    #
  27. There definitely needs to be more parking in the area. I have to believe it will stimulate commerce as it gives visitors more accessible facilities.

       —Mark Koroi    Feb. 25 '09 - 01:54AM    #
  28. Diane, business does drop off for many downtown retailers during the winter months (after December.) However, it’s not due to parking spaces somehow being less available.

    Adding more parking for people who don’t buy things during the winter months is illogical. One might as well argue that the malls should add more parking since their business drops off as well during those months. The winter may cull the herd, so to speak, of weaker individuals, but that’s very different from the impacts of a limiting resource like parking. (I’ll end the ecology analogy there.)

    Also keep in mind that the go!pass program is intended, in part, to get commuting workers to use the bus so that visitors and shoppers can use the parking spaces, not the other way around. As noted above, it’s been very successful.

    More parking won’t bring people with little disposable income downtown to shop, and it won’t cause people who patronize downtown bars and restaurants to buy shoes and other items from retailers (though they might do so.) Kind of like how the mayor pointed out that we can’t force people to ride the bus. This is just as true, it’s just not part of the groupthink.

    We don’t need more parking (though we’re adding about 300 spaces in the next year or so, aside from the proposed structure), we just need to think more creatively about how to manage the system, in particular to spread out the peaks in demand. Businesses that are struggling (and their area associations, the chamber, the DDA, and city council) need to do likewise to attract shoppers during times when demand for parking is lower, for example. Building this structure will be a(nother) two-year distraction from those efforts.

       —Steve Bean    Feb. 25 '09 - 04:16AM    #
  29. Steve – “cull the herd…of weaker individuals”? I am very supportive of AATA, mass transit, walkability, and biking. But I’ve noticed a certain tendency on the part of able people to dismiss the need of some of us to have accessibility to downtown services during the winter and in general. I don’t own a bicycle and downtown is an hour walk from my house. I’d take the bus all the time if the schedule permitted. But please understand that parking is an important facet of the transportation mix. We should manage it responsibly but it is also important to making downtown retail appealing, and yes, accessible.

    Between your comments about the herd and people with less disposable income, and David’s comments about criminals riding the bus, I’m beginning to wonder what kind of community this is. Recall that we are living in an ageing society and try to be generous to people who aren’t exactly like you.

    Question: where can you buy shoes downtown now?

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 25 '09 - 06:57AM    #
  30. You can buy shoes downtown at Van Boven’s in the Nickels Arcade. They are pricey, but of quality. Unfortunately, my favorite shoe store, Mast’s, has closed its downtown store and moved to Westgate.

       —Leah Gunn    Feb. 25 '09 - 07:11AM    #
  31. “Footprints” on Main St. is one of my favorite places to buy shoes…a little pricey, but the shoes are top-shelf and will last you a long time.

       —scooter62    Feb. 25 '09 - 07:23AM    #
  32. Steve-The point I was trying to make is that parking is and always will be necessary. Some people think that if we purposely limit the parking then shoppers will automatically take the bus. When it is cold and there is a shortage of parking spots people will shop elsewhere.

    My intent was to argue against the people who seem to think that we have enough parking currently and that if there is an empty space at “main and william” that a shopper will park there when they want to shop at “state and washington”. Maybe in the summer, one might walk, but not in the winter. So when I say that business would fall off in the winter, it would if parking becomes more limited due to whatever reason (new monthly permits for employees, new relocated businesses that mandate parking privileges, etc)

    If we want to increase downtown shopping and development we need to increase downtown parking.

    Customer parking for area businesses is actually a different discussion than the merits of increasing ridership for public transportation. The issues are linked but the solutions will be different.

       —Diane    Feb. 25 '09 - 07:23AM    #
  33. I also like Footprints. Can be pricey, but they have great sales during artfair. They have two stores one on Main st. and one on s. university.

       —Diane    Feb. 25 '09 - 07:26AM    #
  34. Diane,
    To answer your comment #26:

    “When did Uof M begin to offer free rides to faculty/Staff/students? Is the increase in rides due to the UofM free ride program or due to new paying customers?”

    U of M does not offer free rides to faculty/staff/and students. The UM subsidizes all UM riders by paying the AATA. Will UM employees have unlimited rides on AATA buses, those rides are being paid for. I believe the UM pays upwards of 1 million for UM riders, but don’t quote me on that.

    The same goes for the go!pass. Even though a go!pass user has unlimited rides, those rides have been paid for by someone else. In the case of the go!pass, this someone else is the employer and the DDA. The AATA uses a formula to ensure that every type of fare is equal, meaning that the price for the MCARD paid by the UM and the price for go!passes paid by the DDA/Employer is equal to the amount of revenue generated from other cash fares.

    The increase in rides that I cited in comment #25 are just for go!passes. And every time someone purchases a go!pass, AATA gets revenue.

    I don’t know the break down for increase in ridership in general and if that is caused by UM or other riders, but I have heard from the AATA that recent increases in rides are coming more from non UM folks than UM folks. But AATA would be the ones to ask for the actual numbers.

    “What are the real numbers in “paid” fares? This will tell us if more people are taking the bus voluntarily.”

    Again, all of the fares on AATA buses are “paid” fares. While the fares might not be paid by the person getting on the bus at that moment, they are paid by someone. I don’t understand the second part of you question.

       —Nancy    Feb. 25 '09 - 07:49AM    #
  35. My newest shoes and winter boots are from Footprints.

    Vivienne, you misconstrued my comment. Not surprising—I wasn’t very clear. The “herd” was a reference to businesses, not people. Poor analogy? Mea culpa.

    The comment about disposable income referred to the current state of the economy, not some kind of rich vs. poor distinction. Mea culpa again.

    You might be interested to know that I publicly supported the 5th & Division changes to add on-street parking spaces and also suggested almost ten years ago that a traffic lane on S. Main be converted to parking in order to support the businesses that had been struggling in the Ashley Mews building. Let’s make the best use of existing resources. (I also suggested that Catherine, William, and S. First be considered for additional on-street spaces.) You might also be interested to know that my wife owns a business on Main Street.

    I also think that it makes sense to add the public parking to the Ann Arbor City Apartments development. But that’s enough.

    I’m not anti-parking and I haven’t argued for removing spaces. I don’t have any expectation that others can or will live or get around the way I do or can. I’d like to see my neighbor who is in a wheelchair be able to get around in the winter, but I haven’t seen him out since November. For that reason and because the piles made parking and walking difficult, as well as gave a negative experience to downtown visitors, I made public comments before the DDA board regarding the snow-clearing problems we’ve been having downtown.

    (Feel free to continue wondering what the heck is up with Cahill, though.)

    Yes, we are living in an aging society. All the more reason to ensure the future viability of our transit system for those who won’t be able to drive. Wasting resources on (more) increased parking capacity when demand is about to permanently decline for a number of reasons (ask me why) isn’t insensitive or inequitable. In fact, it’s the opposite, as well as being ecologically wise.

    “Some people think that if we purposely limit the parking then shoppers will automatically take the bus.”

    I don’t know anyone who believes that, advocates that, or has said that, Diane. I certainly don’t and haven’t. What I do think is that the success of the go!pass program and the AATA services in general will be harmed by the contrary policy of increasing parking supply rather than maximizing parking demand management approaches and various other incentives in order to address peak demand issues.

    Don’t argue against the people who say we have enough parking, argue against the people (city council) who direct the parking system managers (the DDA) to spend their time on a four-year process to add parking spaces thereby distracting them from fully focusing on managing the existing system for the benefit of current businesses and commuters. Arguing with me would be a waste of time, for example—I have no power, or so it seems. :-)

       —Steve Bean    Feb. 25 '09 - 08:28AM    #
  36. Nancy- I was under the impression that UofM paid a flat rate per year regardless of how many UofM people actually used the buses, but I could be wrong.

    I was trying to figure out what the true increase in paid riders is. How much of the increase in riders is not based on UofM riders?

    I am just curious to see how many more people are taking the bus downtown each year vs. to UofM jobs. The UofM riders have a financial incentive to not take the bus.

       —Diane    Feb. 25 '09 - 08:52AM    #
  37. oops…typo above in 36

    The UofM riders have a financial incentive to TAKE the bus. They don’t have to pay for parking anymore.

       —Diane    Feb. 25 '09 - 08:57AM    #
  38. I think you are correct, Diane. The UM pays a fixed amount to the AATA so M-card holders can ride.

    The AATA is changing their fare boxes so that they will be able to record actual rider numbers with a swipe system.

    Copyeditor note: There are two alternate spellings for ageing or aging. Computer spell-checks often do not allow alternate spellings, thus many phonetic spellings are being eliminated from common usage. I think the second spelling looks as though it is pronounced “agging”.

    I’m glad to hear of the kinder, gentler Steve.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 25 '09 - 07:15PM    #
  39. Diane and Vivienne,
    You could be write about how UM pays for their folks. I am not sure how it works. As for Diane’s question about how much of an increase in riders is not based on UM, I think AATA could answer that question, but I don’t know.

       —Nancy Shore    Feb. 25 '09 - 08:41PM    #
  40. Yes, I’m pretty sure that UM pays a fixed amount to AATA for the M-card riders. According to their 2009 budget, that amount is $700,000. UM pays an additional $145,385 to help operate the LINK. UM also passes through $1.2 million in federal maintenance funds.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 26 '09 - 12:08AM    #
  41. Shoes – how could I forget Birkenstock (4th Ave.)?

       —Leah Gunn    Feb. 26 '09 - 04:36AM    #
  42. Not meaning to keep up the downtown shoestore plugs but:

    There is also a new trendy shoe store that opened on 4th ave last year (between wash. and liberty).

    Sole sisters.

    I have only walked by and have never actually gone in so don’t much about it.

       —Diane    Feb. 26 '09 - 06:34AM    #
  43. In reply to Larry’s environmental statement about buses vs. cars. I don’t believe it holds too much water because it relies on “ifs” that he seems to take as “givens”. If the bus has the capacity to bring 30 people downtown, doesn’t mean that it will have that many riders on any given trip. Hence wasted energy. And I don’t know about you, but if I go to shop, park a car on the outskirts of town and take a bus, I had better be only shopping for a few items or I will have the burden of carrying a bunch of items with me and dragging them all over creation instead of taking it a short distance to my car and throwing it in the back seat. And if I am only going to go downtown for a few items, well, I would rather take a car, than wait for a bus that is going to take more time and energy out of my day than the trip is worth. Personally, I don’t own a car and don’t particularly need one for most of my needs. But these are variables that have to be considered and cannot be taken for granted, like some neat little formula. Life isn’t like that, I am afraid.

    I am sure there are other points to be considered, but these two were some fairly simple ones.

       —Bear    Feb. 26 '09 - 05:49PM    #
  44. Bear, see the third paragraph of #28. The same applies for park-and-ride lots, which are intended for commuters, not shoppers. City residents who want to shop downtown can (please) take the bus, and out-of-towners can drive in to shop.

       —Steve Bean    Feb. 26 '09 - 09:34PM    #
  45. Vivienne, I think shoes are one of the absolute easiest “basic goods” to buy downtown. Beyond what’s been mentioned,

    * There’s also a Footprints on South U.

    * My runner friends buy absolutely all their shoes at Running Fit or Tortoise and Hare (both around Liberty and Fourth Ave.)

    * My shoes are generally boots. My last three pairs have come from Bivouac, Sam’s, and (in downtown Ypsi) Puffer Reds.

    Sam’s is pretty generally friendly to my non-biz wardrobe. Jeans that last for years cheaper than anywhere at the mall, socks & underwear, t-shirts, winter coats-gloves-hats…Yeah, I pretty much adore Sam’s. (And, as far as I can tell, most of the employees live in Ypsi. I’m really pulling for them to move the store itself to Ypsi when it inevitably gets priced out of A2.)

       —Murph    Feb. 26 '09 - 10:44PM    #
  46. Also, I’m guessing David C. hasn’t seen The Wire. As anyone who has could tell you, criminals and poor people don’t take the bus. They either drive (some of them very nice cars with drivers, like Bruce’s) or just sit around. Really – I’m in the middle of Season 3, and I don’t think there’s been a single scene yet that took place on a bus.

    (tongue-in-cheek, clearly…)

       —Murph    Feb. 26 '09 - 10:46PM    #
  47. I clearly wasn’t on my toes with the shoe question. I’m a Mast’s customer myself, but I’m glad our downtown is still taking at least one type of goods in stride and that the “sole” of the retail business hasn’t been extinguished.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 26 '09 - 11:17PM    #
  48. Bear’s statement in #43 is as honest as it is revealing : “a bus that is going to take more time and energy out of my day than the trip is worth.” That’s it, we are a culture that prefers single passenger cars and see the only public transit system we have as being inefficient and inconvenient. A recent trip to several major cities demonstrated how it could be done if there was political will and wisdom. Bike lanes, pedestrian malls, frequent transit (buses and street cars every 10-15 minutes), and limited parking options. Result? More folks take transit, ped/bike friendlier cities, less pollution, and no compelling ‘need’ to build more parking decks, above or under ground.

    And once again, no one takes up the cause for safety. Here I can’t resist a plug for one of my favorite sites to see the bigger picture when it comes to traffic safety, which seems to have been overlooked by the politicos who think development is the way to go: MTCF Datatool
    There you can see that more than 2,800 crashes occur every year in Ann Arbor, especially downtown. There is another cost to bringing more cars in to town but I guess safety is not as sexy and glassed skyscrapers and subterranean parking spaces.

    This deck also further supports the notion that this city is somewhat hypocritical when it comes to being “green” and sustainable. What on earth would motivate those folks to build another parking which will be mostly vacant during the 24×7 time frame, only to be at capacity from 8a-5p and during events? Why not spend monies on increasing AATA hours and frequency (gt2xhour) and peripheral commuter lots? Is that out of the scope or vision of the DDA? Hats off to my council member Anglin for voting against this proposal and recognizing it for the waste of money and energy. It IS time to do something bold, not spending precious dollars repeating the same old same old inefficiencies.

       —Robert S.    Feb. 27 '09 - 02:38AM    #
  49. The Wire…so best. I’ve seen all 5 seasons and can’t think of a single bus scene.

       —Dale    Feb. 27 '09 - 02:59AM    #
  50. “A recent trip to several major cities demonstrated how it could be done if there was political will and wisdom. Bike lanes, pedestrian malls, frequent transit (buses and street cars every 10-15 minutes), and limited parking options. Result? More folks take transit, ped/bike friendlier cities, less pollution, and no compelling ‘need’ to build more parking decks, above or under ground.”

    These major cities are NOT equivalent to Ann Arbor. We do not have the population to sustain such a network of public transportation, no matter how great the environmental benefits are. Unless you are willing to have your taxes rise enormously to cover the subsidy, this is not feasible.

    I would love to see the AATA system be overhauled and be more efficient and user friendly for the residents of An Arbor.

    Can city council even do anything about the inefficiencies of the AATA system? Is it within their purview?

    Once again I say that the issue of enhanced public transportation is a separate discussion from whether we need a new parking garage, since we are not a major metropolitan area that has a major population center to sustain such a system.

    Enhanced public transportation helps the environment, the parking garage helps downtown merchants and other businesses.

       —Diane    Feb. 27 '09 - 03:29AM    #
  51. “Can city council even do anything about the inefficiencies of the AATA system? Is it within their purview?” (Diane) No, the city has no control over AATA at all, other than appointment of its board. In recent years, non-residents have been appointed and one (David Nacht), now the chair of the board, is promoting AATA as a regional authority rather than a city utility. I recently had an article published on this (Ann Arbor Observer), and the Ann Arbor News has had a couple of articles about the move to a regional authority. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has also had some excellent coverage of the issue. The emphasis is now on interarea commuters and multimodal transportation (think trains and light rail) to bring commuters into Ann Arbor efficiently, rather than to move people around Ann Arbor in order to conduct daily life.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 27 '09 - 06:30AM    #
  52. Vivienne, in what ways do you see it as “rather than” as opposed to “in addition to”?

       —Steve Bean    Feb. 27 '09 - 08:41AM    #
  53. Here’s a modest proposal for creating incentives for commuters to use sustainable transportation.

    Right now, many downtown businesses provide parking passes to their employees, and there is a long waiting list to get on the parking pass list. I believe the cost for a pass is $225.

    What if the AATA and DDA could partner to offer an EZ Commuting Card that would be valid for either the busses or the lots, and which would allow a cash-out of unused benefits.

    It would work something like this.

    Bossman Bob used to offer a parking pass to all his employees at $225 each, but he switched to an EZ Commuting Card, still valued at $225.

    Sally Smartworker is watching her money right now, so rather that park downtown like she used to, she’s started using the park-and-ride lots and catching the bus downtown. So, she’s only spending an average of $45 on bus fares, which means there’s $180 left on her EZ Commuting Card.

    What happens to that $180? Sally cashes it out. Let’s say that the AATA and DDA charge 10% of the cash out for admin fees, so there’s $162 to cash out. Her boss takes 20% of the cash out for admin fees, so Bob gets about $32 and Sally gets the remaining $130.

    Everybody wins:

    * Sally gets and extra $130 in her pocket;

    * The DDA gets to move through the backlog on requests for monthly passes;

    * Bob gets to save some money on his commuting benefit without angering his employees by taking it way;

    * The AATA gets increased ridership at full farebox prices, which also increases their ability to get federal transit funding.

    There are some problems here: # How would this work with the go!pass program? The go!pass could cut a lot of the incentive out for the AATA;

    # Could the AATA meet the increased demand?

    # Would the DDA still generate sufficient parking revenue?

    # Can agencies really play well together like this?

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Feb. 27 '09 - 08:43PM    #
  54. I am curious and don’t know the answer to this, so I thought I would ask:

    Do employers offer “free” parking passes to their employees or do the employees have the opportunity to purchase the pass out of their own pocket?

    I realize that some places might pay for their employee parking, but do most or all employers?

    If someone is willing to pay $225/month out of pocket for parking in downtown Ann Arbor, there is probably nothing that will incentivize that person to take public transportation. That is, unless you actually pay them as you suggested.

    But what about the people who currently take the bus? Will they get paid too?

       —Diane    Feb. 27 '09 - 10:28PM    #
  55. I’ve been following this discussion since the CC okay’d the new parking structure and “Library Lane” improvement plan. The very next evening, a few people involved with A2 area cycling showed up to hear a presentation on the City’s application for “Bicycle Friendly Community.” It was ironic to me that one of our council members, I Will Not Name, voted FOR the parking structure, but has also offered to assist the cycling community in A2. Part of the City’s presentation for the Bicycle Friendly Community was a note that as cycling is encouraged, the need for parking decreases. Funny that the same point wasn’t made the previous night, and very few (actually NONE) of the parking structure “stake holders” showed up on Wednesday.

    Here’s my comment:

    I see all sorts of “if/then” thinking involved in this parking structure issue. IF we build more parking, THEN 1) bigger employers will move here … [is this true? prove it]; THEN 2) people from out-of-town will make this a shopping and entertainment destination … [Is there a problem with parking after hours? I often see hundreds of spaces available after 5pm, on the “spaces left” marquees of various downtown structures; THEN 3) we’ll have a real pedestrian-friendly town because people will park and then walk around!

    I think about these if/thens in the context of high-density residential living in downtown A2. What does one do for groceries? As far as I know, Kerrytown is about the only “walkable” place to buy green groceries, and you can choose only the Co-Op or the market in the Kerrytown building. No Kroger’s, no Hiller’s, no BVL. In short: NO COMPETITION. What keeps prices down? Competition. Sales in quantity. Ann Arbor isn’t set up to be, downtown, an affordable place to live — so people will STILL need to drive to the periphery to buy basics, unless they have above-average incomes or, in the case of the Co-Op, are willing to make the sacrifices to “eat clean.”

    Let’s talk about RENTS for shopkeepers in A2. That alone keeps the pressure on to keep prices up.

    The same can be said of footwear, since it came up a few messages ago. Footprints is a nice shop but for most of us, it’s off to JC Penney or Footlocker. Yes, there’s Running Fit and Tortoise and Hare, but again: maybe I “just” want a pair of “tennis shoes” from Meijer.

    The downtown Ann Arbor economy does not embrace people of modest incomes, and right now — in the U.S. — the market for luxury gear is down.

    Building parking lots to attract ANYTHING when your prices can’t compete with those of merchants on the periphery just dooms you to failure.

    I traveled to Denver recently — there in the middle of town was a massive Walgreens: milk, juice, lunch items, basic “living gear,” cosmetics, etc. Downtown.

    Does A2 have such a thing? Why not? And so, people drive OUT of downtown, to supply their basic needs, if they even live here.

    (My priest lives downtown and does his shopping at Hiller’s. I’ve seen him there.)

    Think about that. Adding more parking — will it be the economic windfall everyone hopes it will be? I doubt it. Anymore than building parking structures will encourage a “walking city.”

    As for “BFC,” I think we’ll get it: we’ll become a “Bum Friendly City” with the addition of Library Lane. In Denver on the 16th St. pedestrian mall, the homeless are selling newspapers and panhandling on every corner.


       —Liz    Feb. 27 '09 - 11:10PM    #
  56. If Sally Smartworker parked at a park and ride lot, and took the bus to work downtown, her bus fare is NOTHING (she has a GoPass). Who pays for the GoPass? Her employer forks over $5.00 a year, and the DDA subsidizes the rest.

    And we STILL can’t get people to ride the bus.

       —Leah Gunn    Feb. 28 '09 - 01:37AM    #
  57. Note that not all employers buy the GoPass for their employees, even at the bargain price of $5 a year.

    With reference to Steve’s question (#52), I based that on David Nacht’s responses at the city council meeting and on comments I have heard at AATA committee meetings. They indicate that first priority is being given to commuters and some of the restructuring of schedules indicates that. With infinite monetary resources, I assume that all routes would be maintained and all purposes met, but given the reality of limited funds and expansionary plans, I think that commuter service is poised to be “rather than” local bus access instead of “in addition to”.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 28 '09 - 01:52AM    #
  58. I’ve been corrected on my parking numbers, apparently it’s $125 with a 1 year waiting list. If someone paid out of pocket each day, they would pay about $160 per month.

    Leah’s point about not getting people to ride the bus brings out my point. The practice of employer-provided parking creates a perverse incentive. People aren’t paying the full cost of driving, so driving seems like a better deal. Sure, but bus may be free to them, but so is parking, so why choose the bus?

    I know people who live close to downtown, have a bus pass AND have free parking. Guess what: they drive. If they either lost their free parking or got “paid” for choosing the bus (or walking, biking, whatever), then I think we would see bus ridership go up.

    Finally, Leah, I think your statement that “we STILL can’t get people to ride the bus,” is hyperbole. My bus (the 12) is comfortably full during commuting time, and others are bursting at the seams. Sure, as 2:12pm the bus may be pretty empty, but then again so are the roads.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Feb. 28 '09 - 02:24AM    #
  59. Some comments,
    In response to Vivienne’s Comment:
    “The emphasis [of AATA] is now on interarea commuters and multimodal transportation (think trains and light rail) to bring commuters into Ann Arbor efficiently, rather than to move people around Ann Arbor in order to conduct daily life.”

    From what I have heard, the idea is to do both. If folks decide to move forward a countywide millage it would be for both improved and service to other areas of the county as well as improved and enhanced service within Ann Arbor (think later buses, more frequent buses, etc). I haven’t heard anything from the AATA or WATS to indicate that if they begin to provide service outside of Ann Arbor, the bus service within Ann Arbor will be lessened. I just wish the AATA would get the proposed service plan out there so people could see what it would be.

    In response to Diane:
    “Do employers offer “free” parking passes to their employees or do the employees have the opportunity to purchase the pass out of their own pocket? “

    The getDowntown Program is currently conducting a survey of downtown employers to find this out. But the quick answer is that about 40% do offer parking for their employees and about 60% do not. At least, those were the numbers last we checked. So if employees are still getting free parking from their employer, it is less likely that they will be incentivized to try another option. As the DDA moves to more pay as you park options rather than monthly parking passes, this might change.

       —Nancy Shore    Feb. 28 '09 - 02:33AM    #
  60. Nancy,

    “ If folks decide to move forward a countywide millage it would be for both improved and service to other areas of the county as well as improved and enhanced service within Ann Arbor (think later buses, more frequent buses, etc). “

    That’s a big if – supposes both that Ann Arbor voters would support an additional mill above and beyond the current 2 mills and also that township voters would vote for a millage that is nearly as much as some townships already levy for their entire operating budgets.

    But suppose that it does happen and that many provisions of The Ann Arbor Transportation Plan Update also go into effect – that calls for huge investments in new features (many millions) for both city and AATA. Of course, that might come from federal dollars.

    Lots of ifs, though. I agree that it would be good to see a proposed service plan for the hypothetical county-wide authority.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Feb. 28 '09 - 02:52AM    #
  61. The increases in go!pass use that Nancy’s data indicate are especially interesting in that they occurred in spite of the lower gas prices in the latter half of ’08.

    Parking supply has been higher in the last year, I believe, than at almost any point in the city’s history. If that’s true (I may well be mistaken), then would the most likely factor behind the increases be the economy? Possibly augmented by a growing comfort level with bus riding? Conscious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? It would be helpful to know.

       —Steve Bean    Feb. 28 '09 - 03:44AM    #
  62. Parking supply has remained static for the last twenty years. Although a floor was added to Fourth and William, First & Washington was torn down. The lots at 415 W. Washington (old city parks building and maintenance facility) and at Fifth & William are both temporary. When new parking structures were built at Fourth/William and S. Forest, no new spaces were added. The Univesity of Michigan owns 300 of the 900 spaces at Forest, which formerly was a 600 space structure (although many spaces were out of commission because of deterioration of the structure). In the downtown area, over 1 million square feet of new building has been added.

    As to getting people on the buses, evidence given here is anecdotal and refers mostly to workers (and students), not shoppers. The downtown, in order to survive, needs ALL forms of transportation: parking, walking, biking, and bus riding. And, of course, it needs us to shop locally.

       —Leah Gunn    Feb. 28 '09 - 04:42AM    #
  63. Leah, what’s anecdotal about the go!pass use data that Nancy provided in #22 and #25? Yes, it refers mostly to workers, though some of those uses are almost certainly by those workers taking the bus for shopping trips. What’s your point?

       —Steve Bean    Feb. 28 '09 - 07:19AM    #
  64. See post #58

       —Leah Gunn    Feb. 28 '09 - 08:19AM    #
  65. How many here recognize the term “New Soviet Man”? It was at one time the Communist ideal of changing human behavior so that people would work hard and always act for the greater good of the society (translation: the Communist dictatorship).

    Some time ago, a friend of mine pointed out that the people who favor lots of development downtown, and “incentivizing” people to use mass transit instead of cars, are trying to create the “New Ann Arbor Man”. The NAM gladly lives in a little box in the sky (a condo) and doesn’t need a car. Or the NAM loves to ride on the bus for long periods of time to get where s/he is going, instead of driving.

    Do people here favor the creation of the NAM? Or do they believe that people should be encouraged to be themselves?

       —David Cahill    Feb. 28 '09 - 07:37PM    #
  66. I’d like to give my opinion on the NAM idea. I am an Ann Arbor resident that favors development downtown and making sure that people who live in Ann Arbor have a wide variety of transportation options to get where they need to go.

    There are many younger people like me who also support development because they would like to live in an urban environment where they don’t have to get into a car to get where they need to go. It also seems to make sense to continue to build in an area that already has a lot of development rather than create more sprawl that eats up green space and is less environmentally friendly.

    All that being said, I think what I and others like myself want is to level the playing field a little bit between cars and other forms of transportation. For a long time cars, because of cheap gas and our American culture, have been incentivized over other forms of transportation even if they are not always the best option. If I want to go downtown, riding my bike can often be faster and more convenient than driving a car. This can be true on the bus sometimes as well. Since I live off Liberty, I can take the 12 or the 9 and get downtown just as fast as if I drove. This is not to say that our bus system could use some improvement because it definitely can.

    One of the American values we have is freedom of choice, and I would like to be able to have a wide variety of transportation options. I think others in the community feel the same way.

    But since driving cars has been incentivized so long, we have to look at how to get people to actually try to use an option that for so long has been seen as unpleasant. And sometimes, people that use that other option (be it biking, busing are walking) find benefits that go beyond money, such as more connection to their community, better health, etc.

    However, as someone who looks at transportation data a lot, I can also say that we do have to plan for having cars downtown. So many people, shoppers, commuters, students, come into our downtown from all over the place, so we need to accommodate that. I only hope that if and when the rail system gets up and running, we can have yet another option.

    So rather than call myself the New Ann Arbor Man, I’d like to be called a TOD: Transit-Oriented Diva.

       —Nancy    Feb. 28 '09 - 08:06PM    #
  67. You lost me, Leah.

    As usual, David presents a false dichotomy. The reasons for personal choices are as numerous as the people choosing them.

    Be yourself, David, as you always have been. No one can force you to stop fearing (and denying) reality. It’s possible for you to do it on your own, but you have to start by wanting to know the truth.

    I’ll choose LOR—lover of reality—if we’re going for three-letter acronyms.

       —Steve Bean    Feb. 28 '09 - 09:01PM    #
  68. I’ll join as a POD person (that’s “Piling On David”).

    David’s post #65 is a fantastic example of Newspeak. People live in houses and drive cars. All people. All the time. And if they don’t, then they want to. They always have. They always will. They are uniform in their preferences, which have never changed, and never will.

    Some people want to live in a condo downtown. Some people want to get around without a car. These people would love to have these choices provided for as thoroughly as we provide for the preference of living in a stand-alone house on a quarter acre and driving everywhere.

    The issue is not forcing people to live in condos downtown and ride the bus or walk – the issue is allowing the choice to do these things, by balancing the playing field. This often looks like “incentivizing” downtown development and transit use because we’re so accustomed to ignoring the heavy incentives on suburban land use and transportation patterns.

    I’ll direct our attention to studies by UMich Profs. Jonathan Levine and Aseem Inam, as summarized in Levine’s 2006 book Zoned Out. When asking developers in the Midwest, roughly, “Why don’t you build more downtown-style development?”, only 22% said there wasn’t a market interest in it. By contrast, 76% said it was because regulations (e.g. zoning) prohibited them from doing so.

    In another study, they surveyed households in Boston and Atlanta about their preferences for neighborhood type. The citizens of each area had very similar preferences for downtown / inner suburban / outer suburban neighborhood types, but residents of Boston were much more likely to live in a neighborhood that matched their preference – because there was a greater supply of it.

    But I know David doesn’t hold much with science. He’d prefer to listen to some guy he knows than read peer-reviewed research.

    So lets go to the phones for some anecdotal evidence. Here’s somebody from Portland asking the A2-Ypsi livejournal group for advice on moving to the area . Our caller receives 13 comments stating that Ann Arbor’s bus/bike/walk environment is sub-optimal. Only 1 comment has anything remotely negative to say about the driving environment. David will probably filter out everything except the person who says you have to get into town early for a good parking space, and claim, “see? people want to drive and park!” Because clearly all of those other people say they wish Ann Arbor had better bus service because they want to stop riding the bus.

       —Murph    Feb. 28 '09 - 09:43PM    #
  69. Forget three letter acronyms, Murph points out the issue of the Zoned Out Man Buying In Exurbia (ZOMBIE).

    Cahill raised the issue of manipulation, what manipulations are in place in favor of suburbs at the expense of downtowns?
    1. Free parking for downtown employees;
    2. Subsidized services to townships (such as the recent sheriff patrol debate);
    3. Artificially cheap gas (we don’t pay the full price at the pump);
    4. Anti-urban tax policy like the Headlee Ammendment.

    Sure, David, you want to live away from downtown and drive there. That’s fine.

    I’ve talked to a lot of people who would like to have a decent downtown apartment or condo at workforce prices, and they haven’t been able to find much for them, it’s all either luxury or grungy. And the people who have been asking for this have been the young professional contingent that many analysts have said that Michigan needs to figure out how to retain if we’re going to have a future economy.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Mar. 1 '09 - 02:33AM    #
  70. Chuck, everything in America is subsidized, so it is not helpful to point fingers at particular subsidies. I think they all cancel each other out.

    Since some folks here have lauded their own alleged personal virtues, and sincerely believe that the government should force or “incentivize” others to be like them, let me start my own virtue contest.

    I drive about 2,000 miles per year and work out of my house. I think this is pretty virtuous.


       —David Cahill    Mar. 1 '09 - 08:50PM    #
  71. I consider myself a LOR too and I agree that we haven’t been paying the true price of gas and that this has facilitated sprawl. Too bad about Michigan’s Land Division act, too. But aren’t we getting away from the main point? Should we be putting ourselves in debt to build an expensive underground parking garage whose main purpose seems to be subsidizing development? Not “workforce” housing, but a convention center. That hasn’t been stated directly, but is pretty obvious.

    The DDA commissioned (in 2005-2006) a wonderful study of how development in the downtown (specifically, the Kline’s lot) could be profitable. They looked at many different options and concluded that luxury condos were the only option. Some of the factors were the cost of land, the cost of construction, and parking.

    LOR’s will know that there is no free lunch. Downtown development will not result in affordable housing for young creators unless it is subsidized. Ironically, “workforce” housing for people (singles or couples) earning between about $40,00 to $60,00 a year is the orphan of housing plans. This is the 80%-100% AMI category that is sneered at by affordable housing advocates but not profitable enough for developers.

    Let’s “incentivise” retention and rehabilitation of existing affordable housing in the near-downtown area instead of tearing them down to build ugly monolithic cell blocks. This will also help to keep our historic buildings intact. Young professionals also like to live in areas with a real character, as shown by Donovan Rypkema’s work.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Mar. 1 '09 - 10:28PM    #
  72. Vivienne is right – in spite of efforts by many of us, “workforce” housing is indeed the orphan of affordable housing. People believe that tax money should be spent on very low income residents, and there is a strong argument for that. There is also a requirement that a developer be able to make a profit, and how that fits into the scheme of things has always been a dilemma. However, rehabbing and restoration can be very expensive. I don’t want monlithic “cell block” designs either. We are still a capitalist society (although that may change) and financing, right now, is almost impossible to get (see today’s AA News). So, what should we do? Any ideas out there?

       —Leah Gunn    Mar. 2 '09 - 02:49AM    #
  73. How to bring a thread to a screeching halt – ask for some constructive suggestions!

    (Vivienne and I have both been concerned about the issue of workforce housing, and have really gotten no where.)

       —Leah Gunn    Mar. 7 '09 - 10:04PM    #
  74. In light of the concerns contained in the lawsuit filed on behalf of Noah Hall’s group and adjoining businesses about construction constituting a nuisance and the alleged Open Meeetings Act violations by City Council, does anyone have any additional comments regarding the appropriateness of this proposed srtucture?

       —Kerry D.    Aug. 31 '09 - 04:07AM    #