The University Record, March 5, 2001

Administration wants input on proposal to expand U-M partnership with AATA

By Nancy L. Kuharevicz

Student bus drivers and others voiced their opposition to the possible changes to the campus bus service at a Feb. 13 rally on the Diag. Among their concerns are loss of student and union driver positions, longer wait times at bus stops and less accountability for service with AATA taking over some U-M routes. Photo by Marcia L. Ledford, U-M Photo Services
The administration is seeking input from the University community about a proposed expansion of Parking and Transportation Services’ partnership with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA), Robert Kasdin, executive vice president and chief financial officer, told Regents at their Feb. 15 meeting in the G.M. Conference Room, Lurie Engineering Building. The expanded alliance would involve transferring some routes from the U-M to AATA.

There is no new agreement in place between the U-M and AATA, Kasdin emphasized. The administration wants to be responsive to the University community’s needs and to maintain a continuing dialogue with faculty, staff and students who would be affected by changes in campus bus service.

The new contractual arrangement with AATA would be phased in over three or four years, and no full-time University positions would be lost, Kasdin said. In addition, no students would lose their jobs. “Our goal is to provide timely, clean and safe bus service to faculty, students and staff,” he said.

“Any transfer of U-M service hours would be accompanied by an agreement that our partner will meet or exceed our current service levels, schedules and locations,” says Hank Baier, associate vice president for facilities and operations.

Regent S. Martin Taylor said he would like to see meetings set up among all parties involved in any bus service changes and a 60-day moratorium on negotiations and the signing of any contract with AATA. “I think anything short of that would be unacceptable to me,” he said.

Taylor added that he believes the University also should solicit input from labor groups that would be affected by any agreement.

President Lee C. Bollinger said, “I want a full airing of everything related to this issue.”

To help keep the campus community informed, a fact sheet is being posted this week on a special section of the Parking and Transportation Services Web site (www.transportation.umich.edu). It will list highlights of the bus service proposal, detail the proposed transition plan and discuss benefits to the University of an expanded alliance with AATA, says Diane Brown, public information officer, Facilities and Operations.

Parking and Transportation Services will conduct two public hearings near the end of the month—one on Central Campus and one on North Campus—to review bus service expansion plans and solicit feedback from the University community, Brown says. Summaries of the public hearings then will be posted on the Parking and Transportation Services Web site.

During the public comment portion of the Regents meeting, students, staff and union representatives aired their concerns about the proposed expansion of the U-M’s partnership with AATA.

Speakers criticized University officials for not seeking input from the campus community before beginning discussions with AATA on the plan. They also expressed fears that route transfers would result in the loss of student and union bus driving jobs, longer wait times for riders and less accountability to U-M users for service levels.

Michael A. Dover, a graduate student instructor in sociology, said he represented the University Committee for Fair Public Employment Practices, a group composed of faculty, staff and students who “oppose unnecessary layoffs and privatization in Michigan.” Reading from a prepared statement, he told executive officers and Regents that the committee opposes the loss of student driver jobs that would occur under the proposed deal, questions the appropriateness of the U-M shifting more of its campus bus service to AATA and takes issue with the lack of University community input in the decision-making process.

Kevin Reynard, a 15-year University employee, said the mission of the bus service is to provide safe, economical and dependable transportation for the campus community, not to put riders on AATA buses to augment that service’s bottom line. The proposed changes won’t benefit the University community, he said.

Student bus drivers pointed out that their jobs are some of the best-paying student positions on campus. Many student drivers need the jobs to help make ends meet, and many of them are minorities.

Jeremy Molenda said he would have had to leave the University after two years if not for his job with Transportation Services. “I’m out here trying to get my hands on some living money and some tuition money,” he said.