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Posted on Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Express bus services on Packard Road to shave 8 minutes off peak trips between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is gearing up to launch increased bus services along Packard Road between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor starting Jan. 27.

The AATA's governing board finalized plans Thursday for a weekday service expansion that increases the number of buses from five to seven on Route 5 during morning and afternoon peak hours.

The changes also include a more direct express route from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor in the morning and from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti in the afternoon.


Getting between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti on the Route 5 bus along Packard Road will get easier starting Jan. 27.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"In the morning peak, the trips that are coming from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor will stay on Packard the whole way," said Chris White, the AATA's manager of service development.

"They won't do the route deviation that goes down Platt to Ellsworth and then back up on Stone School, so it takes about eight minutes off the trip."

The agency already disseminated information to riders and the public about the proposed service changes and received positive feedback.

AATA officials note Route 5 serves higher-than-average minority and low-income populations on more than three-quarters of the 12.6-mile route.

White said the changes will have a significant positive effect on those populations, including improved access to employment centers in downtown Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan.

"I'm thrilled that we're able to offer expanded service there because we clearly had some overcrowding issues," said Board Chairman Charles Griffith. "We also had some less-than-ideal efficiencies where the route was not as direct, so we're adding essentially express bus service on the No. 5 that will get us from Ypsi to Ann Arbor quicker. We're really glad we can do that."

AATA officials said riders can expect better on-time performance, less crowded trips, more direct and faster trips, and an increase from four to six trips per hour for the portion of the route between downtown Ann Arbor and Packard/Stone School Road.


The current Route 5 from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor includes a deviation from Packard Road. The changes coming in January include a more direct express route that stays on Packard from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor in the morning and from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti in the afternoon.

Courtesy of AATA

Route 5 has two branches — one that goes between downtown Ann Arbor and downtown Ypsilanti and another between downtown Ann Arbor and the Meijer store on Carpenter Road.

Service currently alternates between the two branches with service on each branch every 30 minutes, and service every 15 minutes along the trunk route shared by the two branches. The proposed expansion increases the number of trips from four to six per hour on the trunk route.

On the branch from downtown Ypsilanti, the number of trips will continue to be two per hour, but the trip time will be reduced by 18 percent by providing a more direct route along Packard. On the other branch, the number of trips will increase from two to four per hour.

"We're adding service on the portion of the route that goes just between Ann Arbor and Meijer, so there are going to be two additional buses operating that service," White said. "It means more buses and more capacity. It doesn't change the travel time for those areas."

The extra costs for the service were not included the AATA's adopted budget, but White said they will be offset by lower-than-expected costs for the agency's new AirRide airport shuttle service, which is seeing higher ridership than anticipated. Statistics released in September showed the shuttles between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport were averaging more than 1,000 rides a week.

The total additional cost of the Route 5 service upgrade for the final eight months of the fiscal year is $156,700. The additional local share required after accounting for extra fares and the state's share of costs is $90,700. For a full year, White said, an additional $139,300 in local funds will be required.

The AATA's decision to go ahead with the Route 5 upgrades comes just after the Ann Arbor City Council effectively killed the AATA's plans to create a new countywide transit authority.

The City Council voted 10-0 on Nov. 8 to opt out of the Washtenaw Ride, which would have replaced the AATA, following the lead of most of the municipalities in the county. The council directed the AATA instead to focus on improving services in the county's urban core.

The enhanced service along Packard Road is the second major transit improvement between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, following upgrades earlier this year along Washtenaw Avenue.

In early November, White cautioned the added cost of the Packard Road service increase was a serious concern at a time when the agency's budget is very tight. At the time, he recommended deferring a decision on implementation and including the service change in an evaluation that was beginning to determine sustainable services after the demise of the countywide transit authority.

The AATA has been ramping up services over the past year in anticipation of forming a countywide authority. Without additional funding for countywide transit, AATA officials have acknowledged the current service plan isn't a long-term sustainable approach.

The agency's budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 included taking another $300,000 from its cash reserves to make it through another year with expanded services.

That includes a continuation of the enhanced services on Washtenaw Avenue, as well as expansion of the NightRide late-night, shared-taxi service and AirRide.

Asked whether the city of Ypsilanti might be asked to pay into the expanded Route 5 service at any point, Griffith said it will come up for discussion the next time the AATA renegotiates its purchase-of-service agreement with Ypsilanti, which contracts with the AATA for transit services.

"At this point, that agreement is not up for discussion, so we made the decision without that being considered," Griffith said. "That'll come up soon enough."

Ridership on Route 5 is the fourth highest among all of the AATA's routes, with 621,269 riders in the fiscal year that just ended Sept. 30. AATA officials acknowledged that was a 3.7 percent decline from the previous year, after ridership had grown 35 percent in the previous eight years.

White said the agency identified problems with crowded buses this past year, and on-time performance was suffering as a result. Performance declined with 89 percent of trips completed on time in the morning peak period and 63 percent in the afternoon peak period.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 12:54 a.m.

I'm glad the low costs of AirRide make room in the budget for other services to be expanded. I really think people are underestimating AirRide's ridership, since new ridership numbers haven't been released in several months

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

What percentage of AATA's operational costs are covered by ridership revenue. I bet it is significantly less than 50%. Why are some people getting such huge subsidies to cover their transportation choices? Here is the major story about AATA that is not being covered by and receiving adequate public discussion. AATA is an expensive failure.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:04 a.m.

I'd be interested to know the definition of "on time" they use. I've ridden the 5 daily for the last three years and wouldn't need more than one hand to count the times we've arrived on schedule.

michael Limmer

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 12:42 a.m.

What is really needed is a direct route down Washtenaw/Stadium going east/west without having to transfer downtown or elsewhere.

Ron Granger

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

This is nothing. With practice I can now shave on the bus in under 4 minutes.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 6:17 p.m.

Reading this and the Chronicle assures me that leaders fail to understand what voter NO means. In this case countywide expansion (they failed to mention the Canton and Chelsea service here). "The extra costs for the service were not included the AATA's adopted budget, but White said they will be offset by lower-than-expected costs for the agency's new AirRide airport shuttle service" Here's the AirRide - Michigan Flyer was contracted by AATA to go to Metro which MF buses were already doing very well. AATA guarantees MF the first $250k of fares and then gets the rest for the remaining contract year. AATA also pays $81/work hour (22 hr/day) which is about $57k per month or $650k per year. Fares for October were $60k or $3k over the $57k base and the $250k minimum was met so AATA got $3k. AATA projected $580k in fares but now says $60k x 12 = $720k. So AATA claims it has an extra $100k to spend. Isn't that really only $3k x 6 months remaining = $18k extra for route #5 When the next $250 minimum resets in April and AATA revenue drops to $0?

cornelius McDougenschniefferburgenstein jr. 3 esq.

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

how dare you cloud a feel good story with facts.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

If you want to save 10 minutes on the bus from downtown to downtown between Ypsi and Ann Arbor, take Route 3. There. Didn't cost a dime.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

Route 3 to Ann Arbor is chronically late during afternoon rush.

cornelius McDougenschniefferburgenstein jr. 3 esq.

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 6:52 p.m.

accordig to schedule 3,4,5,all take 45 min.i prefer the 6 it only takes 1 hr.

cornelius McDougenschniefferburgenstein jr. 3 esq.

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

but does #3 have the serene ambiance of the "TRANQUILITY 5"


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

Yes! This is the bus that goes right past my workplace on the UM campus, but I could never use it before because it got there too late. I and my family will definitely use this! Thanks AATA!!


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

If you took the one before that bus you would have been on time.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

I hope they put cameras on the bus...

cornelius McDougenschniefferburgenstein jr. 3 esq.

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 6:43 p.m.

there have been 3 cameras on every bus for 20 years!


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Glad to see this change! I think it will help a lot of commuters.


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

"The AATA has been ramping up services over the past year in anticipation of forming a countywide authority" So let me get this straight. The highly-touted increase in ridership (Washtenaw route) justified the need for a countywide service. But that increase cannot be sustained because it was really just a result of adding more runs in anticipation of there being a countywide authority? So now another much needed service to/from Ypsi, unlikely to be afforded by the Ypsi Council, will also boost countywide ridership numbers. I suppose those numbrs will be used to justify the need for a new $8.1M bus station. "AATA officials argue a new Blake Transit Center is necessary to meet growing passenger demands"


Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

Thanks for the link. I am very, very happy AATA is now doing what the bus service should be doing - moving more riders around locally in an efficient transport system. My beef with AAYA (and DDA) is that those prime duties are too frequently used as advertising excuses for other, more lucrative business benefiting non-service outsiders. Like the near-criminal countywide authority and unjustified (and ugly) $8.1M new Blake building.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

If you followed the action at the AATA Nov. 15 board meeting, David Nacht proposed this Route 5 enhancement to recognize that AATA's primary responsibility is still to the city of Ann Arbor. This increase in service will serve Ann Arbor bus riders on Route 5. A good account of the Nov. 15 meeting is here:

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

More info from the AATA on AirRide ridership: "The ridership for the week of November 18-24, 2012 was a record 1,653 passengers. Most of this was due to the Thanksgiving holiday travelers. The total ridership from April 2-November 24, 2012 sits at little over 32,000 passengers. The last two months fares have covered the local cost."

cornelius McDougenschniefferburgenstein jr. 3 esq.

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

without getting into the serene atmosphere of route 5.if a rider is going to transfer will there be another route leaving 8 minutes early?NOT

David Cahill

Sat, Dec 1, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

This express bus service is great news! Good work, AATA!