Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Downtown parking - how valuable is free?

Posted by Murph on 19. December 2009

It’s been a while since we had a good parking fight around here, so thanks to for throwing us a bone. In two pieces today, they post one downtown merchant’s op-ed for free parking during the holidays, and an article on the Ann Arbor City Council’s upcoming discussion of extending meter enforcement from 6pm to 10pm. (full resolution text.)

City Councilmember Sandi Smith cites, in her explanation of the time extension, the importance of convenient, high-turnover parking at the curb for downtown businesses and customers. For at least five years, the DDA has observed that the 6pm end time encourages all-night parking – a downtown employee or patron arriving at 4 or 5pm pays the meter through 6pm, then leaves the car there for the rest of the night, forcing later patrons to park further away even for short trips.

Commenters on, by contrast, are heavily skewed towards the attitude that parking should be free, so that downtown Ann Arbor businesses can compete effectively with WalMart.

Extending meter enforcement can, according to Don Shoup and others, help downtown businesses in this competition by providing parking convenience, often a stronger factor than price in the mall vs. downtown decision. (This, as observed, rarely factors into the visceral reaction to pricing parking.)

Notably, past discussions of downtown parking pricing and timing have typically led to the concern that lower income downtown employees priced out by such a decision be provided with an alternative – such as extending the hours of bus service. The resolution at hand does not seem to include consideration of such alternatives.

The resolution references the 2007 Nelson/Nygaard study of downtown parking, available online.

Comment [28]

Candidate questionnaire, August 09: Transportation

Posted by Murph on 30. July 2009

Continuing our candidate questionnaire results…

#4 – How will you work to ensure a safe, effective, and efficient transportation system in the city, ranging from biking and walking to transit options like AATA or the proposed commuter rails?

Greden: I have long supported the City’s pedestrian transportation program, which adds new bike lanes and sidewalks as part of road re-construction projects. I also support the expansion of regional mass transit in partnership with SEMCOG, U-M, and other local governments.

Kunselman: I can’t answer this question with much specificity as it is too broad of a topic, and much of our transportation planning occurs outside of City Hall. But I’ve always been supportive of pursuing a “safe, effective, and efficient transportation system.” As the candidate that is the most multi-modal of any (I have been known to bike, catch a bus, travel by train, drive a car, ride a motorcycle, and skateboard to my destinations), I know all too well the importance of the need for good roads (potholes are known to have killed motorcyclists), defined bike lanes, and laws that permit skateboarding as a form of transportation. As for the commuter rails – WALLY is dead due to a lack of Livingston County cooperation and cost sharing. And resurrecting commuter rail to Detroit will entail a huge federal subsidy that is not likely to happen during any tenure that I may have on Council; I would rather the Feds at least subsidize the Stadium Bridge reconstruction.

(Candidates Bullington, Anglin, and Rosencrans did not provide responses.)

Comment [2]

Michigan may lose 2 Amtrak lines in 2010

Posted by Matt Hampel on 30. June 2009

In the post on the “hydrogen superhighway,” Joel Batterman notes that the State of Michigan may cut funding to the Pere Marquette and Blue Water trains. The Pere Marquette has service between Grand Rapids and Chicago; the Blue Water, between Port Huron and Chicago. Here’s a PDF with information on the planned shutdown and what you can do about it. The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers has more information.

In other news, I emailed Amtrak asking for information on any improvements in progress or planned for the Wolverine line. No response, and there’s nothing of interested on the stimulus plan bids page.

Finally, Wolverine’s service hours change starting today — some trains are earlier, others later, and some are unchanged.

Comment [5]

Next-gen "hydrogen superhighway" proposal to get local public hearing, July 10

Posted by Murph on 26. June 2009

Rendering from

Every few years, Brighton-based Interstate Traveler Company pops up briefly with their visions of solar-generated hydrogen-powered mag-lev high-speed rail pods that could carry everything from people to individual automobiles to freight, provide conduits for public utilities, revitalize the American steel industry, and even provide remedies for drought and famine, all through private investment expense.

Usually, their appearances get no more than a single news article, but this time they seem to have found traction. On June 15, the company presented to a State task force, claiming they had $2B in private investment lined up to build a Lansing-Detroit line. They would require the State’s involvement only in providing permission to use highway right-of-ways for the system, which would be built on elevated tracks built in the medians of I-96, US-23, and I-94.

The proposal will now get a public hearing locally on July 10, from 10am – noon, at the University of Michigan’s Palmer Commons. Later presentations are planned for Grand Rapids and Detroit, according to the A2News.

The proposal has its skeptics, including commenters on the DetroitYES forums and The Transport Politic blog. State Rep. Bill Rogers (R-Brighton), who heads the legislative task force, responds that a privately-funded system is at least worth a look. As quoted by DetNews, “If they truly can finance it, I don’t know why it couldn’t exist,” Rogers said. “I just don’t know if the money is there.”

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AATA [kicked] out of Arborland

Posted by Matt Hampel on 16. June 2009

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.”

Comment [72]

Transportation Town Hall Meeting May 11, 7pm, WCC

Posted by Nancy Shore on 12. May 2009

There is going to be a Town Hall Meeting tonight (May 11) at 7m at Washtenaw Community College to focus on transportation projects.

According to an email on the event:

Pam Byrnes will host a town hall meeting with U.S. Reps. John Dingell (D-Michigan) and Mark Schauer (D-Michigan) to provide an update on local, state and federal transportation projects aimed at improving roads in Washtenaw County. The town hall will take place on Monday, May 11, at 7 p.m. at the Washtenaw Community College Morris Lawrence Building, located at 4800 E. Huron River Drive in Ann Arbor.

In addition to the speakers above, Ron DeCook the Legislative Liaison for MDot will be talking about funding possibilities and Terri Blackmore of the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study will be discussion transportation needs in the county.

Comment [1]

Commuter Challenge 2009 Starts May 1

Posted by Nancy Shore on 30. April 2009

The getDowntown Program is holding the 4th annual Commuter Challenge during the Month of May.

The Challenge is a month-long online commuting-competition between Ann Arbor businesses (primarily downtown) to see who can walk, bike, bus, carpool, telecommute, etc. the most.

The Goal of the Challenge is to encourage people who are thinking about trying a sustainable commute to actually do it.

As of April 30th, 2009, 113 114 117 Organizations and about 1,200 Participants have signed up for the Challenge. Last year, 114 Organizations and 1,400 Participants competed. Organizations can still sign up for the Challenge throughout the month of May.

More information about the Challenge is below:

Pros and Cons: Underground Parking Structure

Posted by Nancy Shore on 20. February 2009

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

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AATA proposes fare changes

Posted by Matt Hampel on 20. January 2009

From a press release sent today (no link yet):

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

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Status Report: A2D2 Parking and Transportation

Posted by Nancy Shore on 18. December 2008

The City of Ann Arbor recently posted a status report regarding the implementation of A2D2 parking and transportation recommendations.

For those who don’t know, A2D2 is Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown, which is the product of many years that is working to guide the development of downtown Ann Arbor. More info about A2D2 is here

Among the initiatives taken up by the City the DDA and the getDowntown Program:

Zipcar: The DDA and getDowntown are working to bring 4 Zipcars to downtown Ann Arbor. My hope is that the contract is signed for this by the end of the year and we have cars on the ground within 1 to 2 months of that signed contract.

Parking: There are now reserved spaces for carpools and vanpools in downtown parking structures and the DDA is working on plans for an underground parking structure on the Library Lot.

Transit: Service hours for the Link were extended to 11pm. They don’t say this, but it should also be noted that a Night Ride Shuttle and a2Chelsea Express were also launched.

Non-Motorized: The DDA has refurbished bike lockers downtown, added moped and motorcycle parking , and approved plans for the Fifth and Division improvements.

Wayfinding: Wayfinding signage is underway downtown.

Lead by Example: The City of Ann Arbor is working with getDowntown on a customized sustainable commuting program for City Employees.

On the Horizon: Plans for a Park and Ride Lot at Plymouth and US-23, installation of parking pay stations, and an express bus from Brighton to Ann Arbor

Comment [1]

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