Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

AATA [kicked] out of Arborland

16. June 2009 • Matt Hampel
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In late May, the Chronicle wrote about problems between Arborland management and the AATA — management wanted the busses out. According to a release in the Arbor Update inbox, negotiations broke down and service will be stopped on July 1. Snippets follow:

After 30 years of providing transit service at Arborland, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) has received notification terminating the agreement which provided for a bus stop and transfer location in the shopping center, effective July 1.

Over the past year, AATA has worked with Finsilver Friedman Management Corporation of Farmington Hills to successfully resolve the only issue that has been raised, that of bus riders parking close to store entrances. AATA agreed to post signs designating commuter parking areas and to provide on-site staff to monitor the area at critical times.

In the short term, AATA plans to locate bus stops near the intersection of Washtenaw Avenue and Pittsfield Boulevard, where there are traffic signals and crosswalks. AATA sees this approach as the best available option for now.

“We contacted the City of Ann Arbor and the Michigan Department of Transportation about development of bus pullouts along the south side of Washtenaw Avenue between Pittsfield and Yost Boulevard, but moving to that site will take approximately a year to plan, obtain permits and construct.”

  1. This press release sure reads like a pressure tactic from the AATA. With July 1 only two weeks away, it’s cutting it close (and new bus schedules only come out in August, right?)

    I’m not sure what the management’s thought process was. 150 commuters (not 150 cars) is not a huge amount for Arborland. And these are people who park during the weekday, not exactly prime retail shopping time.

       —Matt Hampel    Jun. 16 '09 - 06:10PM    #
  2. Attention all AATA Riders!

    It sounds like it’s time to boycott Arborland and it’s stores.

    It was so easy to get off work, do a little shopping at Hiller’s and hop on another bus home.

    It looks like Meijer will be getting my business now.

       —AATA Bus Rider    Jun. 16 '09 - 06:10PM    #
  3. from

    Please contact us with questions or comments about Arborland Center or businesses within the Center.

    No matter what your reason for contacting us, we will never share your personal information with a third party.

    Arborland Center Property Management:

    Brittany Polen
    Finsilver/Friedman Management Corporation
    34975 W. Twelve Mile Road, Suite 100
    Farmington Hills, MI 48331
    Phone: (248) 848-4933
    Fax: (248) 848-5124

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jun. 16 '09 - 06:17PM    #
  4. To be fair, it sounds like the commuters are part of the problem, whether they are aware of the issues or not. Does anyone know if the commuters were ever made aware of the parking issues, and if so, whether any altered their parking behavior?

    The design of the parking lot and specifically the location of the bus stop encourage people to park close to the Borders store and close to the satellite building containing the Starbucks and other shops. I wonder if is practical to redesign the lot to put the bus stop in the middle of the parking lot (around 300’ north and 100’ east of its current position), as far from all the shops as possible?

    With respect to comment #2, unless you were buying a book, a coffee, an ice cream, and a noodle dish on a regular basis, you aren’t really addressing the issue. The mall management has to address the concerns of the shops being hurt by the parking behavior.

    I wonder whether the commuters will invade the smaller parking lots on the south side of Washtenaw. That could cause all sorts of other problems.

       —Eric    Jun. 16 '09 - 07:41PM    #
  5. When I first read the story, my main concern was for access by bus to the shopping and services at Arborland. The use of the lot for commuter parking does put a different spin on it. Arborland was not formally a Park and Ride lot and though there are a lot of parking spaces, I’ve observed that it is often fairly full.
    Some observations:
    1. The Park and Ride page mentions that Maple Village no longer permits commuter parking. However, those bus stops are on the public road, so presumably the management can’t stop their use. I heard last year that the bus stop shelters were removed, which is causing hardship for people who use the bus to access the West Stadium area. It must be the same issue.
    2. AATA is now developing a Park and Ride lot at Plymouth Road and US 23. Perhaps that will take a little pressure off the East Washtenaw area.
    3. Ironically the Ann Arbor Transportation Plan Update calls for heavy development in the Arborland area to support heavy transit use.
    4. These conflicts between commuter parking and management of retail and service areas are clearly interfering with the ability of people who live in Ann Arbor to have good access to bus service. Something to consider as strategy is developed.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 16 '09 - 09:39PM    #
  6. From the link in post #3 you can easily submit a comment (complaint) to the Arborland property management company. I just did so and I encourage others to do the same.

       —Katie L.    Jun. 16 '09 - 09:39PM    #
  7. Imagine the change in fall of 2010, when the east-west rail is anticipated. Will people drive to downtown Ypsilanti to catch the train to Ann Arbor? Where will they park? Will rail commuters replace bus commuters?
    For that matter, those of us who might take the bus to shop at Arborland must now deal with larger issues involving crossing busy traffic. How will this affect our willingness to go without cars to shop?

       —Sabra Briere    Jun. 16 '09 - 10:36PM    #
  8. I have to say, this whole Arborland thing really frustrates me. I heard about this before it went public and when I asked the AATA if there was any proof that commuters were interfering with parking at Arborland, they said they hadn’t gotten anything from the owners with any data to back it up.

    I’d also like to give some credit to Ann Arbor Chamber President Jesse Bernstein (who is also an AATA Board Member and my boss) for trying to negotiate with Arborland. He definitely tried to get them to change their minds. (I hate this “they” stuff).

    Ed, thanks for posting the information about the Arborland owners. I encourage everyone to write a letter if you are frustrated about this.

    In regards to some other comments, I do think there are some conflicts of interest all up and down the bus issue. I heard from a City employee that Arborland initially put in the Arborland bus stop for free, but wouldn’t sign anything saying that bus stop would be permanent. And the AATA was also kicked out of Maple Village when Plum Market moved in.

    Until I see or hear any real evidence that bus ridership harms businesses, I have a hard time believing there isn’t something else going on here. I think it’s only fair to allow all sorts of people (elderly, those without cars, younger people, those with disabilities, and commuters) to have access to the same shopping opportunities that everyone else does. But I guess that doesn’t matter to some.

    So anyway, I digress. So the issue I see is that the City of Ann Arbor is working to make Ann Arbor more transit friendly but some of the places that they are trying to encourage that kind of development are pushing out the buses. A Transit Oriented Development isn’t much good if no buses go to it.

    And as for the trains, trains are going to be great for Ann Arbor, but they are not going to take the place of buses. Buses often serve different purposes, and in cities with good public transportation, there is both good bus service and good rail service.

    Sabra, I hope you and and other City Council members address this issue because I do think it’s counter to what Ann Arbor is trying to do as a whole relative to Transit Oriented Development.

    On a positive note, I also heard from the AATA that they should be able to build another bus stop on the other side of Washtenaw across from Arborland to serve the same purpose as the current stop does. The only issue is that this is going to take some time.

       —Nancy    Jun. 17 '09 - 02:42AM    #
  9. FYI I also emailed a comment to Arborland.

       —Nancy    Jun. 17 '09 - 02:54AM    #
  10. I live in the neighborhood south of Washtenaw Ave. and near Arborland. I also regularly ride the bus downtown. This often draws me over to Arborland and I enjoy browsing Borders on my way through or stopping at Hiller’s on my way home. Now, they won’t be getting that business from me and the considerable traffic that makes Arborland seem busy and thriving.

    I hope that this decision is not one that the ownership regrets. A desolate Arborland is a recent memory. Then again, I hope that AATA can successfully move across Washtenaw and that the added activity can help revitalize some of those properties. I would certainly rather not cross Washtenaw on foot.

       —Jeff Irwin    Jun. 17 '09 - 03:07AM    #
  11. I just posted the email below to the Arborland Management’s website… I am a little dismayed that all the flyers posted at the Arborland bus stops say to contact AATA. This kind of leads one to believe this whole thing was AATA’s decision— which after just a little research I learned it was not. The flyers should really have information on them about where to complain— i.e., Arborland’s management.

    To Arborland Management:
    I am surprised and appalled by your decision to stop AATA bus service at Arborland Mall starting July 1 2009.

    Perhaps your decision would be more understandable if there were other rationale given for this move besides the claim that bus riders were parking outside the designated “Park and Ride” zones.

    If that were the only problem, why would you penalize everyone for the actions of a few? People are people, and of course if it’s easier to ignore the rules many will do so. The solution is simple, though— start handing out tickets. Just as in other areas of the city, when people see that parking rules are being enforced, they will start obeying them.

    I live in Belleville, but I lived in Ypsilanti for 18 years and I have worked in Ann Arbor for 22 years. The Ann Arbor/Ypsi area is still “home” to me, and where I choose to do much of my shopping. Sadly, I am finding Arborland much less desirable a shopping destination after hearing this news.

    I am not so concerned for myself, since I have a job, a reliable car, and good health. I have lots of options. The people your decision is going to hurt are students, the elderly, and people with disabilities who are dependent on the bus system as their primary/only means of transportation. Think about this— do people who use wheelchairs or canes to get around need to be dodging rush hour traffic in the rain across Washtenaw to connect to another bus route? I don’t think so! In the absence of any better explanation from your administration for this thoughtless and disruptive move, I’ll just assume it’s another example of a big company’s inability to care about the needs of the community whenever it might be a little inconvenient to do so.

       —Deb Paron    Jun. 17 '09 - 03:15AM    #
  12. I don’t understand how moving the bus stop to the street resolves the parking problem for Arborland. Presumably people are still going to want to take the bus so will continue to park in the Arborland lot and just walk to the bus stop’s new location.

       —Ethan's Mom    Jun. 17 '09 - 05:48AM    #
  13. This is going to be very interesting.

    I remember reviewing this case in Buffalo as part of one of my social policy classes.

    Over-simplified synopsis: fancy shopping mall kicks bus routes out to dangerous street (very wide & crappy pedestrian amenities – sounds like an MDOT street!). Transit rider jaywalks and is flattened by a dump truck. Case is built around the argument that bus riding minorities and disabled people should have the same (safe) access to the mall as people who drive cars. Case is settled before trial and service is eventually restored.

    The situation isn’t exactly the same here, but the overarching principles are very similar…

       —kena    Jun. 17 '09 - 06:51AM    #
  14. I think, that in addition to contacting Arborland, we should all contact the individual stores, indicating that we are less likely to shop there if they are not friendly to our public transit system. After all, it is they who will be hurt by losing business from both bus passengers and those who might otherwise shop there. This is bad public relations on the part of the mall owners. I think the deliniation of spaces and the handing out of tickets (or stern warnings if tickets are not legal) is a good idea. I honestly do not remember seeing signs asking me to park elsewhere.

    Hiller’s – 3615 Washtenaw (one of my favorites)
    Border’s – 3527 Washtenaw
    DSW Shoes – 3665 Washtenaw
    Bed, Bath & Beyond – 3645 Washtenaw
    Office Max – 3783 Washtenaw
    Dress Barn – 3625 Washtenaw
    (What others?)
    Zip for all – 48104

    I just dropped some bucks at Hiller’s the other day and I really love the store – but I won’t go there anymore if they support this policy.

       —Leah Gunn    Jun. 17 '09 - 03:02PM    #
  15. I have often parked at Arborland and taken the bus. I am a researcher at UM, and park there because it cuts down on the driving I do, which is good for the community. I take the bus to work from the shopping center, then on the way home I can shop for groceries and other items without making an extra trip.

    There are a lot of not-so-affluent people who take the bus and transfer at Arborland. I suspect that some “suit” from the management company saw these people, saw the parked cars, and had this idea that the less fortunate could be pushed away from the stores by banning the cars.

    I happen to know that a lot of these folks actually shop at Arborland too. They can take the bus if they can’t afford a car. I wonder, if the buses get pushed out of the shopping area, how many of us will actually shop there.

    I am really annoyed at the Arborland management, and I’m considering a total ban. I’ll miss DSW for shoes, and Hillers. But you know, there are other places I can spend my money.

       —just a homeowner    Jun. 17 '09 - 04:55PM    #
  16. I’d be interested in hearing how these folks feel about the loss of “proximity to public transportation” in a whole big sector of town they’ve identified as crucial for future economic development.

       —Bill Tozier    Jun. 17 '09 - 05:54PM    #
  17. Another FYI in regards to comment #14:
    I heard that Borders and Hiller’s are both proponents to keeping the bus stop where it is. So you could also call these two stores and let them know that thank them and hope they can talk to the Arborland owners about this:

    Hiller’s:(734) 677-2370
    Border’s: (734)677-6948

    Or you could call the other stores to ask them to talk to the owners.

       —Nancy    Jun. 17 '09 - 06:52PM    #
  18. #15, parking at Arborland may cut down your commute, but it also means you don’t pay to park. That’s not to say I think you should have to pay to park. I’m merely making an observation.

    Frankly, mall parking is not meant to subsidize either the city of Ann Arbor or U of M. It’s meant for the customers of the owners of the mall. Moving the AATA stop inconveniences those who ride the bus to shop, or who live near that stop and use it to take the bus downtown. It’s also is a pain in the muffler for those who commute to Ann Arbor and want to park for free.

    There is a bigger problem at work here, and that is U of M’s lack of broad commitment to alternative transportation, and university policy that addresses the need to seriously cut the number of university staff and students who must commute to (and around) Ann Arbor by car.

    Arborland is private property. Boycotting the stores is much like the recent graffiti ordinance (punishing the victims). Ann Arbor property taxes (highest per capita in Michigan) along with our pathetic funding of and stock of affordable housing, mean more and more people commute to work here.

    Taxation and development are public policy decisions made by elected officials. We got condos downtown and condo developers. Before you boycott Hiller’s, talk to Leah Gunn and her DDA buddies, Mayor and Council about the development (where hundreds of spots in parking garages are given to developers), and public policy course they’ve set over the past 10 years.

    The desire of commuters to park at Arborland is a direct result of development and policy decisions made by politicians.

       —UMGrad1234    Jun. 17 '09 - 07:04PM    #
  19. Sorry folks, I’m not going to carry my grocery bags across the parking lot and cross over to Washtenaw heading to Ypsi. just so I can shop at Hiller’s.

    Yes, I own a car. Yes, I have two degrees and a job. I choose to take the bus because it is the “right thing to do”.

    We also have some senior citizens who shop at Meijer, live at Carpenter Place and transfer to AATA bus 22 so they don’t have to cross Carpenter during rush hour traffic. Now granny is going to have to cross Washtenaw during rush hour.

    How stupid is this?

    After riding these buses for over 20 years, I’ve only seen Arborland full of cars at Christmas time.

       —AATA Bus Rider    Jun. 17 '09 - 07:40PM    #
  20. Another heads up:
    I talked with a staff member at the AATA that said it would be a good idea to contact the Management of the Stores at this point to let them know you are concerned about this.

       —Nancy    Jun. 17 '09 - 08:27PM    #
  21. So I just called Hiller’s and talked to a very nice manager about this issue. He said that Hiller’s is supportive and I encouraged him to continue to push the management of Arborland to help remedy this situation. He really seemed to get it, which is good to hear.

    If any of you have time or inclination, please call or stop by any of the stores at Arborland and let them know how you feel.

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 17 '09 - 08:35PM    #
  22. Thanks for contacting Hiller’s, Nancy. That is my personal favorite grocery store, and I’d hate for them to lose business b/c of this! I could be wrong, but I think they are one of the few non-large-corporate-chains in Arborland, so I’d really hate to see them suffer b/c of the management company.

       —TeacherPatti    Jun. 17 '09 - 09:11PM    #
  23. All University of Michigan staff, students and faculty have free bus passes. The DDA underwrites the GoPass which is available to all those who work downtown if the employer will pay a fee of $5.00 per year. The DDA is committed to supporting public transit, and has been for many years. Remember, there is a shortage of parking downtown, so if people can find other ways to get there, that is good. I would also like to remind people that the DDA pays part of Nancy Shore’s salary for the GetDowntown program, which recently included the Curb Your Car promotion in May.

    The DDA definitely does its part to support public transit as well as parking.

    As for “hundreds of parking spaces given to developers” – that is simply NOT TRUE. The City pays the DDA for the Google parking, and everyone else pays their own way.

       —Leah Gunn    Jun. 17 '09 - 10:45PM    #
  24. There’s an article in today’s Ann Arbor News about this.

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 17 '09 - 11:16PM    #
  25. Has anyone talked to the city planning department about this? Presumably, the bus stops and traffic configuration for the buses within the Arborland parking lot are part of the site plan. Sometimes (but I’m not sure if it’s true in this case) the bus stops are part of a “public benefit” that is essential to the approval. Maybe it’s not an issue here because they are just going to leave the infrastructure as is, but not have buses driving through and stopping? I think that any reconfiguration of space (or adding of more parking spaces where buses used to stop) would necessitate a review of the site plan? This former planning commissioner is a bit curious … thought I’d see if anyone knows anything before I call the planning department.

       —Jennifer Santi Hall    Jun. 17 '09 - 11:27PM    #
  26. Jennifer,
    I spoke with Jeff Kahan in the Planning Dept and he seemed to indicate that the Arborland owners put in the bus stop for free but wouldn’t sign anything saying it would be there permanently. So I didn’t get a sense that it was in the site plan (i.e. required). But I (and he) could be wrong.

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 17 '09 - 11:42PM    #
  27. How about the disabilities act? I can’t remember the exact name or provision, but I don’t think access can just be cut off at will. Many partially abled transit users (those who use walkers, canes,wheelchairs,etc.) will now have their safe access to Arborland cut off. There are also many carless young mothers with babies and toddlers in strollers who will have great difficulty crossing Washtenaw. The pedestrian light on Washtenaw is very short. I can just barely make it across in the time allowed, and I don’t have any mobility problems. I have been using this bus stop for more than 15 years, and have watched transit users managing shopping carts, babies, canes and walkers with great difficulty. This is a major public safety issue. I have never seen the parking lot full except right before Christmas.

    Leslie Morris

       —Leslie Morris    Jun. 18 '09 - 12:17AM    #
  28. Leslie has an excellent point – and because Washtenaw is a state trunkline, it is doubtful that a pedestrian light will be permitted. It would halt all traffic into and out of the city at rush hour. I don’t see how an abled person can get across, much less those with disabilities or babies in strollers, small children walking, and people with shopping bags.

    This is just essentially dumb!

    And I cruised the parking lot today – there are no signs asking people to park away from the stores – all they need to do is put up some sineage and paint a line. There is a white line at Briarwood behind which all employees must park. Why don’t they just do that here?

    I hate to see the businesses suffer because of a stupid management decision.

       —Leah Gunn    Jun. 18 '09 - 12:31AM    #
  29. UM’s bus passes aren’t free. The university pays a significant amount of money for access to the AATA system. They also pay a significant amount of money for route 36 and they used to pay for half of the Link. This all is on top of what they pay for their transit system (which is open to anyone – including everyone who posts here).

       —kena    Jun. 18 '09 - 01:43AM    #
  30. Of course the UM pays for them, just as the DDA pays for the GoPass. The passes ARE free to the users.

       —Leah Gunn    Jun. 18 '09 - 01:50AM    #
  31. Here is the statement that Mary Davis of Borders’ Corporate Affairs provided me with today concerning their position:

    “Borders’ Statement on the Removal of the AATA Park and Ride Location at Arborland

    As a part of the Ann Arbor community with a store in the Arborland shopping center that has served customers for 10 years, Borders understands the important role that the Park and Ride location there has played for thousands of AATA riders. While the Arborland stop was not an official AATA Park and Ride location, it was one of several “casual” Park and Rides that provided access to low-cost, efficient and environmentally sound transportation for area residents.

    Borders supports the work of the AATA and is disappointed with Arborland’s decision to remove this Park and Ride stop. While the stop and resulting parking needs of riders did at times present challenges to patrons of our store looking for parking near our location, these challenges were not insurmountable. In fact, Borders recently approached Arborland with workable options to address our challenges while allowing the Arborland Park and Ride to remain. Unfortunately, we were informed that the decision to remove the stop was final, and that Borders had no opportunity to influence or change it despite our attempts to work out viable alternatives.

    Of course, Borders supports the return of the AATA Park and Ride to Arborland and is confident that any issues that impacted our business can be addressed so that this important access point can be restored for Ann Arbor residents.”

       —Lucy Ann Lance    Jun. 18 '09 - 07:46AM    #
  32. What if Briarwood Mall followed Arborland’s lead? I sure would hate to walk from Eisenhower to go to my favorite mall stores.

       —AATA Bus Rider    Jun. 18 '09 - 03:36PM    #
  33. July 1 is fast approaching. Does anyone have a viable action plan on this? Or can we just wring our hands?

       —David Cahill    Jun. 18 '09 - 06:48PM    #
  34. I’d like to see the Mayor and Council take action by passing a resolution, making phone calls, or other gentle persuasion to ask the mall managers nicely to change their minds.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 18 '09 - 10:53PM    #
  35. I am also frustrated by the inability to do anything about this. I’ve called and emailed the Arborland owners and have gotten no response. I’ve received a ton of emails from people who said they have contacted Arborland as well. I wish some sort of negotiation could be reached. I mean, won’t people still park at Arborland even if they move the stop?

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 18 '09 - 11:12PM    #
  36. Perhaps a small demonstration is in order? Make a simple stand on the corner, “Honk to Save Public Transit,” etc. I don’t know whether Arborland or the Farmington Hills offices would be a preferable site. Probably the former, though it turns out the corporation’s offices are accessible by transit (not from Ann Arbor, naturally), and parking appears to be rather ample…

    SOS—Save our Stop? Do tell if you’re interested.
       —Joel Batterman    Jun. 19 '09 - 06:54AM    #
  37. Are there any options that retain the bus stop on the north side of Washtenaw there while addressing the parking problems for the tenants in the Starbucks building? If I were them, I’d be complaining, and if I were Arborland, I would accomodate by getting rid of the bus lane and making their parking lot contiguous with the Border’s lot.

       —jcp2    Jun. 19 '09 - 04:11PM    #
  38. I went to the mall owners main website and got into a “live chat” with a rep. When I explained what concerned me, that chat person cut off the communication. I also emailed to the address listed in comment #3.

       —just a homeowner    Jun. 19 '09 - 04:16PM    #
  39. Someone also told me that the email address for Arborland is now full.

    I think no matter what comes from all of this, it demonstrates our community’s interest in public transportation. This is huge. Please continue to speak out, write out, and let folks know your concerns.

    My biggest issue at this point is that Arborland is unwilling to simply take the time to look at some other alternatives. I talked to someone at the AATA who is getting stonewalled as well. They are refusing to communicate. This is very unfortunate.

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 19 '09 - 05:36PM    #
  40. I made some copies of Mary Davis’s statement of Borders’ opposition to the removal of the stop and posted them in the shelters at the stop, and passed a few out. I thought it was a good strong statement, and demonstrates arrogance on the part of the management company. I gave a copy to one transit rider who said she worked at Michaels’ craft store, and that they had been getting lots of calls, and that people were upset, but that Michaels’ had nothing to do with the removal of the stop. She said she would take it to work. I hope their management might make a statement of opposition.

    I also gave a copy to an employee at Hiller’s service desk, and asked that she pass it along to management, as I had heard that Jim Hiller also opposed. She said Jim Hiller definitely opposed, and had tried to talk to the management company on behalf of his employees, many of whom take the bus,but that the company was uncooperative. (This is second-hand; I have no actual quote from Jim Hiller.)

    Many people, including AATA representatives, have referred to this bus stop as a “Park and Ride” stop. Although there is a small designated area of the parking lot for park and ride users, by far the greatest number of the users of this stop are NOT “Park and Ride” people. They are transit-dependent users: young, low-income, senior citizens and disabled people. This is the major transit transfer stop for three different bus lines, both eastbound and westbound, on the major transit corridor between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. It is probably also the major destination stop on this corridor. All these people will now have to cross Washtenaw. For many elderly and disabled people there is simply no safe way to cross.

    The drivers that I have talked to are well acquainted with the safety problems, and do not think the new plan is workable or safe. Since this is a transfer point, schedules have allowed at least a five-minute wait, so that transferring passengers don’t miss the bus if their own bus is a little late. On Washtenaw, this would be difficult or impossible, because Washtenaw has such heavy traffic that it would back up behind a waiting bus. And the pedestrian crossing light is a block away from designated stops for two of the bus routes. So it is virtually guaranteed that a lot of people will miss their next bus.

    I made an appointment to see Mayor Hieftje next Friday about this. He should at least try to do something about the safety problem. Can you imagine a wheelchair user rolling up the ramp and then being strapped in by the driver while a line of traffic waits behind the bus? How about someone with a cane or a walker trying to cross at the very short pedestrian light, and walking two extra blocks to get to and from that light to get to the bus stop?

       —Leslie Morris    Jun. 19 '09 - 10:42PM    #
  41. Hello all,
    It might also be a good idea for as many people as possible to forward all of their emails to AMCAP, which looks like the Company that is above the Michigan Based company that owns Arborland:

    AmCap, Inc.
    Mike Kaiser

    44 Cook Street, Ste. 710
    Denver, CO 80206
    (303) 321-1500
    (303) 321-0662 fax

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 19 '09 - 11:52PM    #
  42. Here’s the AmCap information page about Arborland, and here also is a Paula Gardner Ann Arbor Business Review story about the finances of Arborland after the Circuit City bankruptcy.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jun. 19 '09 - 11:59PM    #
  43. Why do I have the sense that Arborland’s owners want the shopping center to fail? Is there some advantage to that for them?

       —Riin    Jun. 20 '09 - 07:33PM    #
  44. So many of the comments here are about whom to call, whom to protest, whom to write, etc. with the goal only to have the mall management simply reverse their decision, end of story. But there seems to be a legitimate problem here. I wish more commenters would address that issue directly.

    How about less whining and more solving?

    Post #11 suggests the mall management hand out tickets. I wasn’t aware private citizens could hand out tickets. I presume the mall management could have cars towed, but that seems heavy handed (and can you imagine the whining that would take place here?). So it seems we need a disincentive short of towing.

    But maybe there needs to be a city ordinance that would allow a mall to designate areas for customers and for commuters and allow commuters parking in customer areas to be ticketed.

    Maybe the bus transfer point could be moved within the parking lot to a better place?

    But now it seems like mall management is in hunker-down mode, likely due to the onslaught of whining. The opportunity for constructive discussions may now be lost for the time being.

       —Eric    Jun. 20 '09 - 08:53PM    #
  45. My understanding is the ‘whining’ is happening because the management isn’t saying anything except “we want you out”. The AATA hasn’t concretely named any reasons, either. We know at least from the last AATA board meeting that money isn’t an issue. There have been a lot of discussions, and no positive action, so now we get to put in our word.

       —Matt Hampel    Jun. 20 '09 - 10:07PM    #
  46. Eric,

    The management company appears to have no interest in workable alternatives or even constructive discussions. See comment #31, above, on Borders’ attempt to suggest such alternatives (presumably some clearer signage, combined with ticketing of cars violating rules or policies). If the stop is moved to the proposed locations just outside the center or across the street, drivers will have little difficulty parking in the Arborland parking lot and walking to the bus. There will have to be ticketing and clearer signs even if the stop is removed. That is, the ticketing will be the solution to the problem parking, and not the removal of the stop. The majority of the users of this stop are transit-dependent, and are not parking any cars. It has become clear to me that they are the real target of the removal of this stop. See comments #12 and #13 above, especially the link provided in comment #13. I am sure the AATA, the tenant stores, and the “whining” citizens would cooperate in a solution that would move the stop to another location within the parking lot, combined with ticketing, clearer signage and even the complete removal of the “park and ride” parking section if necessary.

       —Leslie Morris    Jun. 20 '09 - 10:29PM    #
  47. In the comments on an Ann Arbor News story of June 16 on the loss of the bus stop, I have found evidence of the real reason the owners are so adamant about getting rid of the bus stop. There are descriptions of problems with “vagrants” “hanging out” “smoking crack” etc. at the bus transfer point. As a 15 year user of this bus stop, I state unequivocally that these allegations are false. I have never seen anything illegal or even annoying at this transfer station. There are suggestions that this is connected to the panhandlers who stand with signs at the corner of Washtenaw by the traffic light, where motorists wait to exit from Arborland. These panhandlers never come to the bus transfer station, so that activity will continue if the station is removed. There are panhandlers who solicit shoppers in the parking lot; I have been solicited several times while walking in front of Borders’. These panhandlers do not come from the transfer station. I have never seen any panhandling at the transfer station.

    There are also allusions to a tent city on Arborland property behind the shopping center. I have not yet checked this out; the tent city may well be real. However, no one “hangs out” at the transfer station; they just wait for the bus.

    At the Blake Center there is some “hanging out” and some occasional panhandling.

    What is true is that many of the bus riders are poor, and some may be homeless. Some people who do not like their looks apparently assume that they must be engaging in illegal activity. Such illegal activity as there is on Arborland property will continue if the transfer station is removed, because there is no connection. And because of these false allegations more than 1000 bus riders per day are to be inconvenienced, and many actually endangered.

       —Leslie Morris    Jun. 21 '09 - 05:15PM    #
  48. “In the comments on an Ann Arbor News story of June 16 on the loss of the bus stop, I have found evidence of the real reason the owners are so adamant about getting rid of the bus stop.”

    Link? I looked around mlive but couldn’t find the comments you mention. How do you know they were from the Arborland owners?

       —Bruce Fields    Jun. 21 '09 - 10:12PM    #
  49. I have located what has been referred to as a “tent city” in the comments to the Ann Arbor News story. At the far corner of the Arborland parking lot, behind the Toys R Us store, a small path leads into thick underbrush. About 15 feet into the underbrush, well hidden in the brush, is a cluster of what looked like about eight tents. I would guess that the maximum population capacity might be about twenty people. It is close enough to Arborland that it might be on the Arborland property, but it is impossible to tell.

    There are houses not too far away, also behind Arborland.

    I think we have found the real reason that the owner wants to remove the transit stop. The parking difficulties are a cover story. The owner is not even willing to accept rent to keep the stop there. Residents who live behind Arborland have discovered the tent cluster. When driving by the shopping center, or while shopping there, they have seen obviously poor people sitting on the benches waiting for the next bus. Since they are not transit users themselves, they have falsely concluded that these must be people from the tent cluster “hanging out”, and that there must be illegal activity going on. They have complained, possibly directly to the owner. The owner, who does not live in town, has no way of knowing that the complaints are mistaken.

    All regular users of this transit stop know that this stop is safe. Most users are senior citizens, disabled individuals, or parents with small children. If there were illegal activity going on they would be very concerned, and would report it. Store managers would also be concerned, and would be demanding that the problems be solved.

    The handful of residents of the tent cluster are clearly trying to keep a low profile so that their tents will not be removed. They are probably going out of their way not to “hang out” on Arborland property, or to cause trouble.

    How should we handle this?

       —Leslie Morris    Jun. 21 '09 - 10:45PM    #
  50. Bruce,

    I googled problems with bus stations in shopping centers, and about third site down in the list was from the Ann Arbor news; a story titled “AATA says contract terminated that allowed bus shelter and transfer station at Arborland”

    There were 25 comments below the story, and some of those comments were my source. Possibly this is not a new enough story to find easily on their site; maybe it is from archives. One problem is that it is not possible to print the comments; only the story can be printed. I plan to transcribe the comments.

       —Leslie Morris    Jun. 21 '09 - 10:57PM    #
  51. Here’s the article and I believe one of the comments referred to, is by youwhine, who cheers on Arborland for getting rid of the “crackheads/deviants/thugs/thieves/drug dealers” so the place will be “nice for shopping”.

    I don’t think Leslie is saying that this and some of the other comments were authored by the owners, but is only suggesting that the owners may share, or at least be receptive to, this line of thinking. But I could be wrong on this, in which case I should be corrected.

       —Michael Schils    Jun. 21 '09 - 11:11PM    #
  52. Got it, thanks.

    (And, sure, I suppose it’s possible this is the real reason and the owners just never mentioned it—but we don’t have much to go on there.)

       —Bruce Fields    Jun. 22 '09 - 07:49AM    #
  53. So, I suppose the “vagrants” will clear out once the bus stop moves one block away. Yeah, right.

    Is anyone from the city or anywhere putting pressure on the real estate management company?

       —just a homeowner    Jun. 22 '09 - 04:31PM    #
  54. Maybe not the city, but I’m sure Starbucks, Cold Stone Creamery, and Noodles and Company are not happy with their odd lot in life.

       —jcp2    Jun. 22 '09 - 05:40PM    #
  55. Not sure it is very helpful to any debate to quote MLive blogger comments. Lol.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jun. 24 '09 - 06:06PM    #
  56. As of July 1, the following Arborland businesses have already moved to express their disappointment with the closing of the bus stop, or are working to share their concerns. These 11 businesses represent fully half of the mall’s current tenants.

    America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses Beauty First Borders Cold Stone Creamery Dressbarn DSW Shoe Warehouse Hiller’s Marshall’s Michael’s Noodles & Company Starbucks Additional stores are speaking to corporate offices about the possibility of following suit. If you get a chance, tell them thanks, and to keep up the good work!
       —Joel Batterman    Jul. 1 '09 - 10:29PM    #
  57. Ouch; that’s some unfortunate formatting.

    The businesses are: America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, Beauty First, Borders, Cold Stone Creamery, dressbarn, DSW Shoe Warehouse, Hiller’s, Marshall’s, Michael’s, Noodles & Company, and Starbucks.

    Additional stores are speaking to corporate offices about the possibility of following suit.

    If you get a chance, tell them thanks, and to keep up the good work!

       —Joel Batterman    Jul. 1 '09 - 10:34PM    #
  58. Thanks for this. It would be wonderful if someone would do all the work to put a contact list (of store reps) together.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jul. 2 '09 - 01:51AM    #
  59. There’s a start at infrastructure for a list of store reps within Arborwiki; if you hit

    you’ll see links to various of the stores which should speed some of this along.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jul. 3 '09 - 09:13AM    #
  60. Visiting the site this afternoon, I found that attempting to cross the Washtenaw-Pittsfield intersection in person produced a rather more acute perspective than I had previously. This is reflected in the e-mail I sent Council afterwards.

    Dear members of Council,

    This afternoon, I visited Arborland Mall for the first time since the AATA bus stops there were relocated to Washtenaw Avenue. I hope very much that the old site within the mall property can be restored, and given mall businesses’ dismay at the new situation, I hope that Council can take action to encourage a speedy resolution that satisfies all parties. In the interim, however, I urge the City, in the strongest terms possible, to construct in the interim a new signalized pedestrian crossing on the east side of the Washtenaw-Pittsfield intersection. This crossing should have been there already, but the relocation of the stops makes its absence especially chilling.

    At present, a signalized crosswalk across Washtenaw only exists on the west side of this intersection. As such, legally going to and from the new stops on the south side of Washtenaw requires crossing 3 separate crosswalks and a total of ten lanes of traffic (3 at the Arborland exit drive, 4 at Washtenaw, and 3 at Pittsfield). I timed this traverse at four minutes exactly, not including the additional 1-2 minutes necessary for reaching the site of the former stops. (The painted crosswalks are also so eroded as to be close to invisible.)

    The Arborland stops account for about 1000 total weekday boardings. A certain proportion of those riders will undoubtedly be motivated to forgo the wait and jaywalk across Washtenaw immediately east of the intersection, site of the missing crosswalk. Indeed, during the few minutes I spent there, I observed one pedestrian, probably a bus rider, do just this. The speed limit on this section of Washtenaw appears to be 40 mile per hour.

    The pedestrian fatality rate at 40 miles per hour is eighty percent.

    I hope you see why I believe there is no time to lose in constructing a new signalized crosswalk at this location. The odds are such that a catastrophic event there can scarcely be called an accident. I am confident that the stops can be returned to the Arborland property, but first things should come first. I encourage Council to examine the site in person, as I did.

    Thanks very much for your attention to this matter, and do enjoy the holiday.

    Sincerely, Joel M. Batterman
       —Joel Batterman    Jul. 4 '09 - 07:07AM    #
  61. Once again, apologies for the formatting; it looks like I’d have to rewrite the letter for the paragraph breaks to show up.

       —Joel Batterman    Jul. 4 '09 - 07:16AM    #
  62. Paragraphs that begin with a blank character, like a space or a tab, don’t show up correctly — it’s one of the flukes of our software. I’ve edited your comment for formatting.

       —Matt Hampel    Jul. 5 '09 - 07:45PM    #
  63. Has the July 1st effective termination date been enforced?

       —Kerry D.    Jul. 6 '09 - 03:55AM    #
  64. I listed the Arborland tenants at my LiveJournal here:

    Corporate headquarters for the landlord is:
    AmCap, Inc.
    1281 East Main Street
    Stamford, CT 06902
    (203) 327-2001

       —Steven Harper Piziks    Jul. 6 '09 - 04:06AM    #
  65. Thanks Matt. The termination date has been enforced, and the shelters have been moved to Washtenaw for now.

    It should be noted that Washtenaw’s status as a state route makes it more difficult to get pedestrian crossings installed, though I’d hope MDOT would be more amenable in this case since the intersection is already signalized.
       —Joel Batterman    Jul. 6 '09 - 07:27AM    #
  66. Speaking to my AATA drivers, they seem to like the new arrangement of not having to pull into Arborland anymore.

    However, my driver worries about the passengers and listens to numerous complaints throughout the day.

    Riders missing connections seems to be a common thread. They used to be able to hold buses at the mall and wait for people to make that connecting bus.

    Another worry, people not using the crosswalks to get across Washtenaw. I wonder how long it is going to take for a pedestrian to get hit by an oncoming car or truck as they run across the street to make the bus.

       —AATA Bus Rider    Jul. 7 '09 - 05:34PM    #
  67. Have the stores put pressure on mall owners? How about Old Navy? I’d like to buy a couple of t-shirts there, but won’t if they have not voiced displeasure with the change in bus stops…

       —Just a homeowner    Jul. 7 '09 - 10:16PM    #
  68. Fortunately, a large number of stores have been contacting the mall owners and managers (see #57); many employees have been suffering from the relocation themselves. Unfortunately, Old Navy has not done so, to the best of my knowledge. It would be well worth letting them know your thoughts on the matter; the difficulties the change imposes may only be fully comprehensible from firsthand experience.

       —Joel Batterman    Jul. 8 '09 - 08:02AM    #
  69. I was pleased by this commentary by Michigan Business Review. It appears that no one with their heads on straight thinks this was a good idea. My private hypothesis is that someone in Connecticut made a snap judgment to get a problem of some sort out of the way and is now too stubborn to admit that they made a mistake.

    I don’t understand why our city’s leaders, like the Mayor and the Chamber of Commerce, don’t reach out to these people and exercise some diplomacy. I don’t think Obama has the time.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jul. 10 '09 - 06:07AM    #
  70. Vivienne,
    As far as I’ve heard, the Mayor and Jesse from the Chamber (before he resigned) did try to contact the AmCap. But they haven’t responded to any phone calls or emails. How do you talk to a brick wall?

       —Nancy    Jul. 10 '09 - 06:39AM    #
  71. Good question. There must be a lever somewhere. But I haven’t seen any reports that those conversations were attempted. In fact, Sue McCormick was reported as saying that staff were going to handle it.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jul. 10 '09 - 03:09PM    #
  72. Has Sue ever taken the AATA?

    Is she familiar with CATA bus service in her Spartan town?

    I will say that the Lansing Greyhound station which is combined with the CATA station in beautiful downtown Lansing beats our Greyhound station for passenger comfort and tranfer ability.

       —AATA Bus Rider    Jul. 10 '09 - 04:55PM    #