The University Record, February 12, 2001

U-M working with AATA to enhance campus bus service

By Diane Brown
Facilities and Operations

The University is working with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) on ways in which the two can work together to provide better services for U-M riders. Photo by Bill Wood, U-M Photo Services
Enhanced service levels, increased efficiency and resulting savings are goals that are motivating the staff of Parking and Transportation Services as they discuss expansion of existing partnerships with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) to complement a continued U-M bus service. The initiative arises from questions that bus riders and drivers have frequently asked of Parking and Transportation staff.

How can bus access to non-campus locations be increased for students, faculty and staff? How can the service of partially empty buses driving similar routes be combined? How can existing service levels be enhanced by improving efficiency?

“The University buses are filled to capacity most of the time, and our facilities for bus storage and maintenance are at capacity,” says Pat Cunningham, director of Parking and Transportation Services.

“AATA has additional capacity on many of their buses. Clearly, it is in the best interest of the community to use more efficiently our joint services and operate our buses without redundancy. Further partnerships will allow us to improve our bus services to the University community in the most economical manner.”

The proposal being discussed would result a transfer of some routes, including the Nite Owl service, to AATA—a total of 11,900 hours of service from the current U-M service total of 105,000 hours. If this phase were successful, U-M and AATA would jointly explore an expansion of the initiative over several years to transfer up to 30,000 hours of service. This would be accomplished without a reduction in the number of AFSCME bus driver positions and without layoffs of student drivers.

“We believe that transferring these routes will improve the bus services being offered for both the University and Ann Arbor community,” Cunningham says.

“For example, a student who wants to go to downtown Ann Arbor in the evening cannot take the Nite Owl bus to get there, but a combined route with AATA will allow our students, faculty and staff to access this destination and others without paying a fare. These transfers will allow both of us to make better use of our combined equipment and staff.”

The discussions also have addressed other expansion possibilities. One option frequently requested by students is a fare-free service from anywhere in the county.

“The University and AATA are both interested in a program called ‘unlimited access’ that more than 25 other university communities are utilizing,” Cunningham says. “‘Unlimited access,’ or fare-free service, for the entire University community on all regular AATA routes would make the AATA bus service much more attractive to our students, faculty and staff and would result in increases in AATA bus service. This also would further our desire to reduce the number of cars coming to campus, reduce the number of parking spaces required for these cars, eliminate some of the traffic on our roadways and reduce pollution. We are currently studying the feasibility of that idea.

“We must continually improve our services to meet the changing needs of the campus,” Cunningham says. “It is our desire to see more people ride buses, whether AATA buses or University buses, to decrease our parking needs, improve our traffic circulation and reduce environmental pollution. It is the desire of the University to capture more bus riders from home, and AATA is the key to this expansion. This partnership is good for the University, good for Ann Arbor, and promotes good neighbors.”