Young professionals give feedback on transit plan at A2Y Converge forum
Public transportation can transform our community, our environment, and our economy, according to TheRide CEO Michael Ford.
“It’s more than just getting you from one point to another; It’s an important part of the community,” Ford said.
Because it is important to discuss proposed changes in public transportation, A2Y Converge hosted a Local Transit Forum with TheRide on July 12th to discuss possible improvements to local transit, including a change from serving only the Ann Arbor area to serving all of Washtenaw County.
At the forum, representatives for The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (TheRide) received community feedback from the Chamber’s young professionals. This is in addition to input from thousands of community members and more than 70 public meetings that have helped TheRide’s board create a new 30-year vision.
The forum revolved around TheRide’s Five-Year Transit Program, which includes the following as a way to begin the changes involved with the new 30-year vision:
- Increase service frequency to every 15 minutes on major corridors
- Extend hours of operation on weekdays and weekends
- Make routes more direct
- Make travel times faster (more real time information and signals to get buses through traffic faster)
- Connect to local nearby cities, townships, and villages to reduce Ann Arbor’s congestion and need for extra parking.
Ford explained in more detail at the forum that the 30-year vision, or the Smart Growth Transit Master Plan, would expand services to connect Washtenaw communities rather than just covering the Ann Arbor area. Eight transit districts have been created throughout the county as a new structure for this plan, which can be viewed along with their governance system at MovingYouForward.org.
Five-year plan map
After questions from attendees, funding for the expansion was not discussed in detail at the fourm, as Ford said the framework of the plan has not been fully approved yet. After possible approval at the August 1 Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting, funding options could be sought based on recommendations from TheRide’s Financial Task Force. The county commissioner is the last of four parties who have been involved in the decision. The Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti city councils as well as the AATA have given their approval.
Justin Fenwick, Business Transportation Coordinator at TheRide, spoke at the forum about the more immediate changes in service happening as a part of this plan.
Converge members who attended were excited to learn about the new programs TheRide has that go beyond basic city transportation. This includes NightRide for after hours transportation, ExpressRide for a faster commute between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, AirRide for shuttles to the Detroit Metro Airport, and VanRide for a car pooling system.Attendees were especially interested in NightRide and VanRide for local work-related benefits.
NightRide, more specifically, is a late-night, shared-ride taxi service with Blue Cab. TheRide initiated it in response to the community’s need for safe, low-cost transportation late at night by complimenting TheRide’s bus service and providing round-the-clock, public transportation within the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area, even on holidays. Attendees at the forum said they think flexibility and extended hours are important improvements.
VanRide allows a minimum of five people to ride to and from work each day in a seven passenger van provided by TheRide. A monthly fee includes the vehicle, insurance and maintenance. The designated driver rides for free and has personal use of the van for up to 200 miles per month. VanRide is available to anyone commuting to or within Washtenaw County. More information is available at MyVanRide.org.
Attendees also expressed some of their concerns with service, such as using public transportation in relation to commuting to work. This included conflicts with timing of the buses differing from what time someone would need to arrive at work. The location of parking lots provided by TheRide for people to park and take the bus was also a concern as the locations aren’t convenient for everyone. As one attendee said, he was unsure of how safe he would feel leaving his car in some of the parking locations.
Fenwick said they are working on expanding services such as convenient parking and faster communication for real time information about the location of buses. Fenwick said he has not owned a car for more than five years, providing perspective on the ways people can depend on local transit, even if it is just for a ride to work.
He asked that employees talk to their places of business about whether the businesses have considered the benefits of public transportation for employees, especially with the new services offered in the area by TheRide.
TheRide is still seeking feedback on the plan from local young professionals. Even if you weren’t able to make the forum, you can still contact Justin Fenwick at firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions or questions. More information on the proposed plan is available at movingyouforward.org.
A2Y Converge is always looking for opportunities for young professionals to have their say on what’s happening in the Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti area. We will be hosting Downtown Development Fourm with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority Wednesday, August 29 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm in the Celtic Room at Conor O’Neill’s. Join us to hear more about the Connecting Williams Street project and let the DDA know what you think.