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Posted on Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 6:02 a.m.

AATA looks to rebuild Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor will be demolished and rebuilt under a plan by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.

AATA's board of directors is expected to vote on a resolution Wednesday night to tear down the 1987-era bus station and build a more modern facility in its place. Officials say funding for the project is available, and the deteriorating conditions of the current facility call for a new transit center.


The AATA is considering a plan that calls for demolishing and rebuilding the Blake Transit Center.

Melanie Maxwell |

The board meets at 6:30 p.m. at AATA's headquarters, 2700 S. Industrial Highway.

AATA officials say the agency intends to maintain a dynamic presence in downtown Ann Arbor, and the Blake Transit Center is an important asset.

AATA spokeswoman Mary Stasiak said about 5,000 bus riders come through the station on a daily basis - more than half of whom are getting off with a downtown Ann Arbor destination.

"It really is the second largest destination in our community outside of Central Campus," she said.

In 2005, AATA received approval for grants to renovate or rebuild the downtown transit center. That included $1.6 million in federal funds and $402,000 in state funds. Those funds now are being put toward the project, which is estimated at $2.7 million to $3.7 million in total.

While efforts are under way between the city and the University of Michigan to build a new transit center along Fuller Road, Stasiak said there is a need for both bus stations, and the grants AATA received could only be used downtown. AATA's Planning and Development Committee recommended going forward with the Blake Transit Center project at its last meeting, and construction could begin by June if approved by the full board, Stasiak said.

CEO Michael Ford recommended in a report to board members that the agency issue a request for proposals and select a firm to design and build the new facility. Architectural and engineering firm DLZ already conducted an assessment that looked at options ranging from rehabilitation to rebuilding the transit center.

Stasiak said so many critical repairs were needed that it made sense to completely rebuild the facility.

"First of all, it is not compliant with ADA," she said. "The heating ventilation and air conditioning equipment is well beyond its life expectancy. There is deterioration of the concrete pavement, the sinking storm sewer catch basin, and overall deterioration of the building."

While the resolution cites increasing ridership as another reason for a new transit center, a new report shows overall use of the agency's fixed-route bus service has dropped by about 9 percent since last year. Average weekday ridership so far this year is 23,170, which is 2,221 fewer than this time last year.

Stasiak said the dip in ridership is something many transit agencies across the country are experiencing due to the economy and fewer people going to jobs.

The existing transit center includes waiting, boarding, transferring, information, customer service, security and employee break areas. The resolution to be voted on says the new facilities will take maximum advantage of the site - all features currently provided would be included, as well as additional space for new uses.

Stasiak said the new uses would include a public board room that could accommodate 60 to 75 guests, new offices for staff meetings, additional storage space, and an improved public lobby with information kiosks and possibly a concession stand. It also would double the capacity of the drivers' restrooms.

AATA officials say they'll attempt to relocate services to avoid disruptions during the project.

Also on Wednesday's AATA board agenda is an item on the agency's next steps in determining an extended service plan. The meeting packet also includes a report from Treasurer Ted Annis, who is calling for improved transparency.

Annis is recommending the AATA update its Web site and be more transparent with financial information. That includes adding a complete check register, salaries of all employees, the amount of overtime paid in the past two years, as well as various other financial documents and contracts.

Annis also is asking that all future board meetings be televised - something he says isn't possible in the current cramped quarters in which the agency meets. He's recommending a move to a bigger board room, even if that means meeting in city hall or the downtown library for now.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Wed, Dec 16, 2009 : 7:51 a.m.

Wasn't Ted Annis one of the opposition to the school millage that was voted down?

Anthony Clark

Wed, Dec 16, 2009 : 12:10 a.m.

I must take issue with jrigglem. There are a few drivers who now and then have a bit of an attitude or are less than helpful. I'm sure it is a difficult and stressful job being responsible for the safety of the riders, many of whom are less than appreciative. I have found the vast majority of the drivers to be very professional, polite, cheerful, and more than willing to help people find their way around. However, I do agree that it is ridiculous to even contemplate replacing a building that is barely 20 years old.

Concerned Citizen

Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 10:37 p.m.

The ladies and gentlemen who pilot the AATA buses have to be bus drivers / social workers / tour guides & and are often expected to be mind-readers. It all "goes with the territory"...... and bless them for doing it!!! The vast majority are kind & helpful. Thank you!!! & HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 9:16 p.m.

Interesting. I teach in a building built in 1921, and that's good enough for children, but this facility built in 1987 is not good enough for bus riders. I guess Ann Arbor is dripping in money.


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 7:21 p.m.

Can't have a concession stand, food and drink aren't allowed on the buses. How about hiring more friendly bus drivers, the current ones are always angry and rude. Nor are they helpful. As for building a new transit center, if it isn't going to help ridership don't bother. In a few months we will hear about how Ypsi has no money to continue the bus service but downtown Ann Arbor is loving their new transit center.


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 6:24 p.m.

There appears to be, according to Mary Stasiak of The Ride, about 3 million dollars available of taxpayers money for a new transit center to replace the 22 year old building. The problem is that we all know that the cost will far exceed the $2.7 - $3.7 million dollar estimated price tag.

Mary Stasiak-TheRide

Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 6:07 p.m.

AATA also has an earmark for additional $735,000 in federal funds and the state has reserved $183,750 in matching funds for a total of $918,750. However, these funds need to be put into an approved grant before a new Federal reauthorization bill, or they will be lost to our community. The timing of the reauthorization bill is uncertain, but these funds could be lost if they are not put into an approved grant in fiscal year 2010. Grant approval requires an approved environmental review and this cannot be done until there is a project design.

Lynn Lumbard

Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 5:42 p.m.

I understand that grant money can only be used for specific projects. With $1.6 million federal funds and $400,000 state funds, they should be looking at spending approximately $2 million for this project, yet the estimates are for $2.7 to $3.7 million. Where is the rest of the money coming from?


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 3:31 p.m.

bunny - the BTC does have screens displaying arrival/departure times. You can also get real-time arrival/departure times on your cell phone at (I think that's the right link).


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 2:49 p.m.

A concession stand would only make sense if it had COFFEE, it really should be a barrista stand, maybe do a deal with Sweetwaters to run it/lease the space. I agree, there should be a way to purchase monthly passes with credit card. Perhaps there could even be a automated kiosk for such a thing. Community bulletin board displays, or even one that business can rent to display posters for different things. There should also be an arrivals and departure display with real time ETA's on them, like at the airport. I assume the the buses are equipped with gps? or computers to intergrate such a thing.

Atticus F.

Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 2:03 p.m.

One minute, they're saying they need to cut services to the people in Ypsilanti, who work in our Restaruants, bars, and retail...And the next minute they are talking about rebuilding a perfectly good building at the cost of 3.7 million. What kind of shady mafia kick back is going on here? What a joke. Who is managing this? and where are their priorities?


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 1:03 p.m.

Dalouie - Good points. While I don't believe we really need a new one and dread the extra steps I may have to take in my daily bus commute during construction, I very much welcome the jobs it brings.


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 11:43 a.m.

It would be nice if the "new" transit center also was able to accept credit and debit cards rather than have to go out to Eisenhower and buy monthly passes...which seems to be less than convienant...also a little schooling in "customer service' for whomever you have to interact with at the transit center would also be a nice touch.


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 10:59 a.m.

The money can't be spent on roads either. Buckets, silos, separate bank accounts, whatever you want to call it government funds are restricted. Just like the city cannot spend the art fund money to pay salaries in the fire dept. None of the money came from the general fund.


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 10:55 a.m.

This money can't be spent on the stadium bridges. Comments here seem to stem from the same misunderstanding people have of government budgets. The money is all in silos. The AATA has to follow budget rules just as the city and county do. This is capital money, they can't spend it on service to Ypsi or anything else. As the article says it came in earmarked for infrastructure downtown. If they don't spend it, it goes back into the federal pool so some bus service in Texas or Florida can have a new station. The Blake Center is looking bad and we need the construction jobs. The construction going on around town is a huge boost to the local economy, it is keeping families going.

John Galt

Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 10:47 a.m.

Replace a 1987 building? How about repairing the roads?


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 9:36 a.m.

I've taken the bus on a near daily basis for years and I believe this money could be put to better use. How is the funding available when there is always talk of cutting service between Ypsilanti due to lack of funds? Maybe a small expansion with their larger meeting room and some added information kiosks/restrooms would be acceptable, but a whole rebuild?


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 9:31 a.m.

This Country is built on everything being disposable. Consumerism drives the economy here. A switch to a sustainable economy will not occur until the human surplus is reduced or a mental shift allows for value in human crafting over mass production. I can tell I just woke up...


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 9:22 a.m.

The ability of our local government and quasi-government officials is simply unbelievable.


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 9:18 a.m.

There's something wrong with our state and federal government when our tax dollars (or even worse - China's dollars?) are used to replace infrastructure built in 1987. What was the life expectancy of this building when it was constructed? Perhaps I should apply for federal help to replace my 1977 colonial, after all it needs a new water heater and driveway.


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 9:15 a.m.

They have some of the money they need already. This is a project that has been on the boards for some time. It would seem they should have a budget for the project rather than saying the cost "is estimated at $2.7 million to $3.7 million in total." It would be nice if government and quasi-government would maintain the buildings that the taxpayers have provided for them. Ongoing maintenance and repairs should be included in their budgets and they should be held accountable for taking care of the public assets. Since this is demolish-and-start-over, does the budget include making this a green building? LEED certification sounds like a good thing for a downtown public building. Including additional meeting rooms and storage sounds smart. Getting up-to-date technology for communication sounds smart. More bathrooms is always a good idea. They need to nail down the budget and make it match what they have to spend. Taxpayers are not going to anti up any more money for this. Increasing fares, reducing services, and/or foregoing other maintenance is not going to be acceptable.


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 8:05 a.m.

This isn't the city proposing to spend the money, it's the AATA - a different body.


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 6:53 a.m.

Wow a 1987 era building, that's so old. Why is it that the train station and other highly used building survive for centuries and the City can't find a builder to produce a bus station to last 20 years? Are we admitting poor management and wasteful government spending? The Blake doesn't merit a rebuild request until, at least, 2087. Like Summit's comment, the City needs that bridge on Stadium.


Tue, Dec 15, 2009 : 6:44 a.m.

The City really needs to spend this money on a new bridge over State Street. The Blake Center has been remodeled several times over the years and updated to current standards. Granted, it's not new but it does serve its purpose.