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Posted on Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Monorail and streetcars in Ann Arbor? City considers future transit options

By Ryan J. Stanton

It could take up to two decades to establish an advanced transit system connecting the University of Michigan's North Campus, Fuller Road Station and downtown Ann Arbor, a Maryland-based consultant told the Ann Arbor City Council Monday night.

"It often takes five to 20 years to get a system like this in place," said Rick Nau of URS Corp., project manager for the Ann Arbor Connector Feasibility Study.

The study recommends bus rapid transit, light rail, streetcars and an elevated system such as a monorail to meet Ann Arbor's growing transportation needs in the future.

"One of the things I remind people is that you can't get to the end until you start, and so you take the first step," Nau told council members. "And you've taken the first step at this point."


This image of a monorail in Las Vegas was included in a consultant's report to the Ann Arbor City Council Monday night as a future transit option here.

Image courtesy of URS Corp.

Nau offered a detailed report on the north-south connector study during a special council work session, marking the first time since the report came out in February that council members publicly discussed its findings in detail.

The study, which started in 2009, was jointly sponsored by the city, the Downtown Development Authority, the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.

URS Corp. was charged with determining new transit options for a boomerang-shaped study area extending from northeast Ann Arbor, down through the area along Fuller Road where the city is planning a new train and bus station near the U-M medical complex, through Central Campus and downtown, and then south along State Street to Briarwood Mall and I-94.

"We are really building upon a lot of previous studies, some of them dating back to the 1970s," Nau said, noting sustainable transportation, increasing non-motorized travel and minimizing road expansion are common themes among those studies.

"Part of the reason that Ann Arbor is a vital community and is very active is because it does have very good transit service," he said. "And making the transit service even better, responding to the needs as they evolve over time, will help to maintain jobs, stabilize the tax base and provide for an alternative to building more parking in the downtown area."

The connector study references the city's 2009 transportation plan update, which identified congestion problems along Plymouth Road and State Street. Nau said there's significant employment growth expected within the study area, and traffic volumes are forecast to increase by at least 10 percent along the Plymouth, State and Fuller corridors.

"And the long-range transportation plan does not identify widening for any of those routes in the near future," he noted.

Nau's firm focused on four potential transportation alternatives, including bus rapid transit, light rail, elevated automated guideway transit and streetcars.

Using the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study's travel demand model, Nau said URS Corp. was able to determine demand for travel between U-M's North Campus and downtown Ann Arbor is particularly high. The firm is recommending the city consider three transit options to meet demand in that core area: bus rapid transit, light rail and an elevated system.

Elsewhere — such as from downtown along State Street to Briarwood Mall and from North Campus to the East Medical Campus — bus rapid transit, streetcars and regular bus services are recommended to provide end-to-end connections.

Streetcars running on standard gauge tracks and powered by overhead wires have made a renaissance in recent years in a number of cities across the country, Nau said. He pointed to examples in Portland, Little Rock, Seattle and Tacoma. Typically, he said, the streetcars operate in mixed flow on the streets with automobile traffic.

Light rail transit also has been developed in a number of cities recently, Nau said, citing examples in Minneapolis, Charlotte, Dallas and Denver.


A look at the area where advanced transit options are proposed in Ann Arbor.

Image courtesy of URS Corp.

"These vehicles are somewhat larger, wider — they have a higher capacity," he said. "But again, they operate on standard gauge railroad tracks and they're powered by an overhead electrical wire."

A number of communities, Nau said, have turned to bus rapid transit as a lower-cost alternative to a fixed-rail system. He cited examples in Cleveland, Kansas City and Eugene, Ore.

"The bus rapid transit provides for a very similar type of service to a rail transit service, but using a rubber-tired vehicle," he said. "Probably the best example of that is in Cleveland, Ohio. Along the Euclid corridor they've developed what they refer to as the HealthLine, and that connects downtown Cleveland out to the suburbs to the east."

Nau said other communities have relied on elevated automated guideway systems, such as the People Mover in Detroit or the Las Vegas Monorail.

"These types of systems have also been implemented in a number of airports around the country to carry fairly large numbers of people from terminals to other facilities," he said.

Each option would involve significant capital investment, Nau acknowledged, pointing out a new bridge might even be needed to cross the Huron River. His firm's projections show capital costs of $15 million to $20 million per mile for bus rapid transit, $50 million to $60 million per mile for light rail and more than $200 million per mile for an elevated system.

The added cost of operating and maintaining such systems, Nau said, could range from $500,000 to $1.5 million annually per mile. The good news, he said, is the federal government could pay for 50 percent of the project costs.

City officials stressed the feasibility study is the first of a number of steps required to implement an advanced transit system in Ann Arbor.

"It's interesting that we are talking about this and I think we're looking toward the future, but no one should consider it imminent," said Mayor John Hieftje. "It will take considerable planning, and I think this really gives us a spot to kind of stop and think about the next step."

Hieftje asked how congestion problems could be overcome with bus rapid transit. He wondered if there would be a new route alongside Fuller Road and other areas.

Nau said the concept is that bus rapid transit would operate on a "separate guideway." He said the same assumption applies to the other alternatives.

Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, asked for more specifics about the feasibility of the options recommended by the consultant.

For most transit systems, Nau said, fare revenue doesn't cover the entire cost of operations. But for many high-capacity systems like those being proposed in the connector study, the percentage of operating costs covered by the fare revenue is higher, so they're more economical to operate on a per-passenger basis, he said.

In response to questions from Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, Nau acknowledged his firm didn't make operating revenue forecasts.

Taylor wondered if the study took into account that many current users of the system are U-M students who ride the university's buses for free. Nau said it's beyond the scope of the initial study to do a detailed fare revenue analysis and that the study treated all riders the same.

AATA CEO Michael Ford attended the meeting and responded to a question from Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, who asked how a connector system fits with the AATA's newly adopted 30-year transit master plan. Ford said it's one component of the plan.

Briere also asked for more information about how the connector proposal fits with plans for regional commuter rail services. Nau presented a map showing how the transit solutions identified could work in tandem with both the proposed north-south WALLY line from Howell to Ann Arbor and the east-west line between Ann Arbor and Detroit.

"The intent of the connector would be to provide that circulation," he said. "It's often referred to as making that last mile of the trip, if you will. This service would provide for a connection at the Fuller Road Station and it would provide a connection into the downtown area, for example, or up to the North Campus. It would make that connection to the ultimate destination."

Nau said it's anticipated the connector service would include stops every three quarters of a mile, providing "fairly comprehensive coverage."

Statistics cited by Nau during Monday's meeting suggest it's primarily students and university employees that use the buses that currently pass through the area.

Nau said U-M runs standing-room-only buses between its north and central campuses about every two to three minutes during peak periods between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Ridership between the two campuses is about 30,700 daily, he said.

Meanwhile, AATA has about 2,286 riders per weekday along Plymouth Road with 15-minute bus frequency and 2,771 riders along State Street with seven-minute frequency. Primary destinations include the U-M medical center, downtown and Central Campus, Nau said.

As congestion increases, Nau said, bus performance is negatively impacted. He said studies show about 25 to 30 percent of bus travel time is spent waiting at traffic signals.

Eli Cooper, the city's transportation program manager, spoke briefly at Monday's meeting. He said the city has gained a better understanding of its transportation system from the connector study, including new information about the Fuller Road corridor.

"We found out through the modeling exercise that we have as many passengers on transit — both AATA and U of M — along that corridor as we have people in vehicles," he said, adding that's hard to believe when 98 percent of trips statewide occur in an automobile.

"If you go out on Fuller Road, there are as many people moving in buses as there are driving in cars — about 30,000 in each. And that's part of what the basis is for why we wanted to look at: Is our community ready for making a step toward higher-capacity, more-modern transit."


A look at the area of focus for the Ann Arbor Connector Feasibility Study.

Image courtesy of URS Corp.

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 e-mail newsletters.


PRT Strategies

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 8:59 p.m.

Better alternatives here: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Ming Bucibei

Sat, Oct 15, 2011 : 7:49 a.m.

All this is a pipe dream The city is broke The state is broke The federal government is broke &amp; borrowing $ trillions The proposal to spend untold $millions that no one has on pie in the sky is patently absurd!! The mayor and the city council all need to be fired!! Ming Bucibei


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 10:06 p.m.

Dude relax with the monorails. There is no way this City is going from zero rail to a monorail with such a short run. I agree it would be cool and elevated rail solves a lot of planning challenges but among systems that are expensive for good reason, monorails are EXPENSIVE. On the other hand, if we could get federal money from our broke a_s government to spring for it, then great – but don't count on it. …and no, they are awesome and great for cities like AA but they are not a green anything unless you want to talk about denser residential developments reducing the pressure on urban sprawl….which is not exactly a problem these days.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

The Monorail Society Website; <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> MONORAILS are safe. Whether they are of the straddle-beam or suspended variety, modern monorail technology makes derailment virtually impossible. As monorail is elevated, accidents with surface traffic are impossible. Zero accidents with pedestrians or surface traffic translates to no system down time, less liability suits and most importantly, a safer public. Street rail systems with grade crossings (light rail, trams or trollies) can't approach this level of safety, as any study of accident history will show. They're a green energy, quiet, not noises, no steel wheel on rails, just rubber tires, skytrain monorail are best than Ann Arbor Railroad; Amtrak and Norfolk Southern RR make noises the rails because you can't sleep well by trains. I can hear The People Mover train made noises in Cobo build because I am deaf person. Think about it. I prefer a monorail!


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 2:19 a.m.

The great news is that AA has URS as a consultant, one of the best transit planning and engineering firm in the world. Unique is their experience originating NEW transit systems, which is not common. Planning, designing and building rapid or light rail systems is a major task that is not for enthusiastic amateurs or engineers learning on the job. We should be talking about subway type trains – modern, sexy, high service (frequent pick-ups), long hours, quite, clean, safe and economical. This is not high speed rail or monorail like the picture – those ususally run very long distances at high speed with few stops. This is A REGIONAL AMENITY that helps drive economic investment in a community. RRT and LRT's do not pay for themselves with fares. Their value is in the increased regional economic activity they foster with TRANIST ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT. LRT would make Ann Arbor a better place to live as well as raise it to a new level when competing for corporate investment, expansion and relocations. The combination of UM and LRT would make Ann Arbor a powerhouse region offering a unique lifestyle in Michigan that would eventually link to other systems. Bus Rapid Rail is a loser not because it's cheap but because it can diasappear. Private developers will not invest hundreds of millions to locate their development on a bus rout that can vanish over night. LRT is expensive because it's worth the money and will be here for our great grand children. There are not many national corporate search committees looking for a location in the City with the fewest amenities because they think living here will be cheap. Those who think cheaper is better have owned this conversation for far too long and judging by Michigan's place as 8 year national recession leader, their penny pinching plans have not served us well. The time for LTR and RRT in Michgian was 25 years ago - time to wake up.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

NOT subways. Subway type trains, as opposed to street cars or monorails. The type, color and style of trains are extremely important. They must establish an image that will attract riders who have lots of choices - such as whether or not to drive instead. Trains are often photographed by tourists and other visitors. They also last a very long time so if we buy junk on day one, we're stuck with them for decades.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 11:36 a.m.

Shepard145 - Subways? I love the sandwiches, but the actual tunnels that the trains run in cost large amounts of money and getting under the river would be very expensive. Over the river would also be expensive. You are probably talking $150 million for the tunnel from North Campus to the Main Campus with a station on each end. Each additional station would add to the cost.

Larry Krieg

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 1:47 a.m.

The only place where monorails have been seriously tried and are successful is Japan. Many of those lines are being taken out, because they're 30-50 years old and it's hard to get parts for them. That's the situation with Seattle's monorail, tho I think it's still running more as a tourist attraction than serious transportation. The one in Vegas is having big-time financial problems, too. Other elevated options would be worth considering...but way too expensive. We can do the job for less. Linear-induction rail vehicles are being used successfully in Toronto' Scarborough Rapid, Vancouver's SkyTrain, and New York's JFK SkyTrain. (And yes, in Detroit's People Mover, though that's not a stellar example of success...) But they're essentially light rail vehicles on elevated track. You could run regular electric trains like Chicago's El, probably for much less money. @Rusty: Why do you think rail is not for AA??? Once built, it's much more economical to operate because one operator can move 2-3 times the number of people a bus driver can move; and because steel-on-steel requires much less energy than rubber-on-asphalt. When powered by renewable electricity, it produces zero emissions. Many rail transit lines are built for less than 30,000 daily riders. @Naturalize: you're soooo right about this being better than more parking structures! :-) If you do the math, that underground structure is costing at least $72,000 per parking space. @Mayor Heiftje: I understand the fiscal contraints, but now is not the time to &quot;stop and think&quot;. Kicking the can down the road will make the problems worse. Let's see what we can do to keep the project moving forward with a small financial investment, even if the movement isn't lightning-fast.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 11:34 a.m.

Mr. Krieg - If you want a higher passenger to driver ratio and the lowest capital cost - &quot;super&quot; buses are the way to go. They hold 120 to 150 passengers in the 2 to 3 compartments. 1 driver. They have the advantage of being able to run any route, so on Football Saturdays, they could be used to rapidly move people to and from the stadium from outlying parking lots. This line would not have that flexibility.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 12:49 a.m.

For the record, the University paid for 25% of the $640,000 study (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. Whether this is $640,000 worth of information is certainly doubtful, but there it is. The University is the main agent pushing for this project.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

As of this comment, 83% of the 679 respondents to the poll want some form of mass transit other than buses. And yet, the bulk of the commenters, as is normal for an AA.COM thread, see corruption, waste, and mismanagement no matter what the topic.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 1:16 a.m.

because we all know how accurate these polls are. no one would ever vote more than once.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.

Take out the UM students, staff and faculty that merely want to quickly get between Central and North campuses and how many riders are left? Seems the City is simply trying to use these UM riders, on this one very finite segment, to leverage their ridership numbers for federal subsidies for their countywide transit scheme and heavy rail commuter trains. UM is playing along in the hopes that someone else will pay to transport their people between the two large, separate campuses they decided to create several decades ago.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

Maybe I missed it, how much was this study? Mixed feelings, U of M causes most of the traffic around here, let them pony up. A monorail? Seriously. State Street badly needs to widened to accommodate current traffic flow. No, East/West route mentioned in the study. Before we pay for &quot;studies&quot; lets look at other cities. Kenosha, WI installed a streetcar service back in 2000; they are a city similar in size to Ann Arbor. I think one of the other commentators got it right. &quot;Let's focus on improving our already-strong bus system by adding some lines that don't require you to transfer downtown and by adding some late night lines.&quot;

G. Orwell

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 7:03 p.m.

I am sorry to be making this comparison. But, those people and politicians that want this very expensive mass transit are like spoiled children that want this new and very expensive toy they cannot afford (though the kids already have an older model that works fine). The kids will whine and whine until they get it. Then use it a few times and get bored with it. We do not have the money for this because the banks, corrupt corporations and politicians have stolen all the money. Let's get our money back before even considering any of the options. Meanwhile, improve on the ones we have.

Lionel Hutz

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

Other than the government, nobody has taken (or as you said &quot;stolen&quot;) anyone's money.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

&quot;For most transit systems, Nau said, fare revenue doesn't cover the entire cost of operations. But for many high-capacity systems like those being proposed in the connector study, the percentage of operating costs covered by the fare revenue is higher, so they're more economical to operate on a per-passenger basis, he said.&quot; Translation: 'We'll lose a little on each one, and make it up in volume.'

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

Light rail is a preposterous suggestion for Ann Arbor. The metropolitan areas served by light rail are far more dense than Ann Arbor. Even the comparisons mentioned in the study are on a much larger scale. The Dallas area has 6.4 million people. Minneapolis has 3.3 million. Denver has 2.6 million and Charlotte 1.8 million. The Ann Arbor area has 345,000 people. No light rail project exists on a scale this small. If the University wants to stick a train between north and central campus, let the University buy the land and pay for the train. But I'm surprised that any entity interested in conservation has any interest in trains. Light rail on a low-density scale is the most wasteful method, in terms of energy used per passenger mile, of moving people. For rail to be effective, it requires the population density of a city the size of New York or Washington. And finally, this study invokes WALLY, the most wasteful idea ever conceived in this area - and there have been a lot of them. The lies told to keep WALLY alive are reprehensible. That this study invokes it should tell you everything you need to know about these people. Stay away.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

I conducted a similar study and concluded personal jet packs are the future.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

Ann Arbor isn't really that big of town to introduce a monorail. We have public transit, and I'm seeing more and more transit cars throughout Washtenaw in the last few years. A monorail would be a better Idea if it went to Detroit, something that needs a bigger difference. All I know is that I will not want to be paying the taxes for this.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 5:52 p.m.

What preposterous waste of money. It would. be far cheaper to install old fashion electric street cars either on wheels or rails


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

So no east side or west side, north to south. This could be a class motivated thing, not unlike the stupid art.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 5:37 p.m.

Sounds like a fine mode of transportation for the U. Let's hope they foot the bill!


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 5:28 p.m.

To quote Firesign Theatre, &quot;Gee, Mom, isn't that bridge built yet?&quot; Until the city can keep its basic street infrastructure up to at least third-world standards, this sort of thing is just silly.

Saline Bob

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

A monorail would be awesome. Ann Arbor is not considered a major city--yet. But it's a good bet with the U of M here and our proximity to Detroit it will continue to grow into something pretty major compared to most other cities in Michigan. The monorail would be a great connection for U of M students and personell stranded on North Campus. It would make getting around to the U of M Hospitals so much better. Parking is so hard to find around the Medical Campus. Hospital workers would love it. You could shoot over to Downtown and back for lunch. It could be utilized on football Saturdays. To me riding a monorail seems safer (above street level with a nice view), quieter, and a bit more comfortable than buses. Better in the wintertime too. They won't get caught up in traffic jams. Streetcars are nice and quaint but probably better suited for a warmer weather folksy kind of city. Have the monorail run from North Campus to Briarwood. Who pays for it? Good question. I would think the U of M would benefit greatly so their contribution should be significant. Other contributors? Retail establishments, City of Ann Arbor, AATA, government grants, and all of the various users.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

Their own website says the capital cost for any of the options beyond buses starts at $10 million a mile and goes up from there. Given the chosen single line - we are probably looking at an investment of $50 million to $100 million. With 350,000 people in the county - that is about $300 per resident, if a county wide millage would pass. If it is purely city wide, that would mean about $2100 per person in capital costs, plus annual operations, etc. I thought AATA had crazy plans, this is beyond crazy. Most transit networks are just that, a network. A single line is like the people mover, not very useful.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

If we had the money for this study, and added it to, say, $750,000 spent on that thing in front of city hall, would we have been able to get expanded bus service for a year or two? Evening service, for example, or more frequent runs, or additional routes?


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

I prefer bikes! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 4 p.m.

And what about the Washtenaw corridor?? Now that the City Council is pushing their new transit center on PARKLAND on Fuller Rd, all transportation concerns are Fuller Rd and north campus. Washtenaw has been a major traffic/transportation problem area for years, and nothing has happened. Now it looks like it's going to lose again, and traffic will be backed up for miles on Washtenaw.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

&quot;AATA has about 2,286 riders per weekday along Plymouth Road with 15-minute bus frequency and 2,771 riders along State Street with seven-minute frequency.&quot; Comparable ridership at double the frequency.Sounds like the resource allocation could be improved. &quot;He said studies show about 25 to 30 percent of bus travel time is spent waiting at traffic signals.&quot; Another example of how costly it is to have so many lights set to ridiculously long cycles (without traffic sensors).

Captain Magnificent

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

I for one commend our leaders for being forward thinking enough to consider options other than the antiquated &quot;bus&quot; system. For centuries we've heard our elected officials give the same tired answer when they try to deal with our transportation problems- &quot;let's put a bus in!&quot; I'm glad someone finally wised up and realized that a bus is the wave of the past, not the future. That they're considering a monorail shows how exciting a time it is to live in Ann Arbor- Monorails are literally the transportation of the future. If Lincoln Consolidated School District can make a monorail work then Ann Arbor surely can- maybe the two could be linked! <a href=""></a> here's an excerpt from that December 2009 article: Monorails are a futuristic mode of transportation that is restricted to a fixed route, much like a train. However, monorails are more cost effective than trains because they only require one rail, thus reducing the track expendature by half. We have been unable to confirm the origin of the name &quot;Monorail&quot;. According to industry experts, monorails have often been utilized by communites in search of a low-cost and virtually maintenance-free mode of transportation along a fixed route. Once a monorail is installed often the only costs are from electricity and greasing the monorail rail. They require no operator and allow riders to face both forwards and backwards in the passenger cabin.

Joel Batterman

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

This statement in the article is inaccurate: &quot;The study recommends bus rapid transit, light rail, streetcars and an elevated system such as a monorail to meet Ann Arbor's growing transportation needs in the future.&quot; Not true: the study recommends bus rapid transit, light rail, streetcar, and monorail as four *alternatives* for the corridor. It does not call for all of them. As a transit advocate, I'm not sure why the monorail is being considered: my best guess is that UM engineers felt that would be an interesting option. I'd say that bus rapid transit (check out Eugene, Oregon's system) is the best short-term solution for Ann Arbor, and we should end discussion of fanciful monorails that only call the planning process into question. There is a real need for better transit along this corridor, and UM needs to take the lead in advancing sensible options for serving its community, instead of continued parking expansion.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

I'm interested in learning more about what a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Ann Arbor would look like. I've seen it in use in Cleveland (the Euclid St. route mentioned in the article) and was very impressed. But Euclid St. is much wider than most of our Ann Arbor roads, think Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Now compare that to State St. and Fuller Rd. I think it's a great alternative to more expensive rail-based systems, but do we have the space for it? At least a monorail would be elevated.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

U of M talks about a monorail system every couple of years to go between central campus, the hospital and north campus. With 30,000 people riding between the three daily, it would certainly be used. The buses, particularly early in the morning, around lunchtime and the late afternoon are pushed beyond capacity even with routes running every few minutes. A monorail system would certainly help add additional capacity. I don't know that I believe that there is demand for a city-run system. Of that 30,000 that ride along Fuller, I would be willing to bet that 95% of it is University-related. I consider myself a transit-advocate. There are tremendous public benefits to a well-funded, well-designed public transit system, but Ann Arbor's non-UM demand just isn't enough. The University should seriously consider introducing rapid transit, and while the city should support that plan - they shouldn't pay for it.

Brian Kuehn

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

Thanks for the well presented comment.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

If they want some kind of new public transportation, they should consider something like this: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It would probably be cheaper, be more directly responsive to queues, and be a lot more fun.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:29 p.m.

Love it!

Smart Logic

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2:53 p.m.

Well, sir, there's nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-car monorail!

Lionel Hutz

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

So there already.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

Monorail sounds like a nice idea, but its still a number of years off; our public transit system isn't mature enough to handle such an expensive project. I say develop &amp; improve the existing bus system to a reasonable capacity, and in 5 years if that still doesn't ease public transit woes, reconsider the monorail project.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

&quot;And then the City Council bought some dumb stuff.&quot; (Apologies to Steve Martin.) So assume the thing is about 4 miles or so? That's $800 Million. With overruns, call it an even Billion. With that kind of money, you could buy every family in the city a Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf. Which they could drive to, um, Dexter or Ypsilanti, or even Chelsea!


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

Detroiters popped a cork when their people mover was first introduced years ago. Now it is just something that is. I wish they had a people mover that looped around to Wayne State area and the theater district. Rapid Bus or people mover, either way I think this would work for all involved. Great idea. But the one thing I do question is this. How much land space is really going to be needed to get something like this up and running?


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

I believe there needs to be a more efficient transportation system that connects NCRC, North Campus, Medical Campus, Central Campus, and the Stadium area, perhaps with extensions some day to the P&amp;R on Plymouth Road / 23 and Briarwood Mall / Wolverine Tower. Already now it is very hard to get from one end of campus to the other in a reasonable time; the buses are often full and relatively slow. And it's not getting any better as NCRC is coming online, with plenty of folks routinely going from there to the Medical School for a quick meeting or such. Similarly, a lot of engineering students who are mostly on North Campus take classes in LSA on Central Campus, and transportation is a major headache for them. I doubt that just adding some buses will do the trick - a larger scale solution is needed. The monorail would be such a solution - a few other large campuses (like the University of West Virginia) have them and apparently they do work. Also, they add a &quot;cool&quot; factor to campus. As to costs, I believe an estimate for such a system was at one point in the several hundred million dollar range. That's not out of reach - it's comparable to a large building like BSRB. And I believe the benefits of such a transportation system for the UM community would be at least as large as those of another big building. And UM can, and should, pay for this, if it's mostly a transportation system between campuses. If it's extended to serve more city locations, then a municipal contribution woudl be in order as well.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

So mono means one, and rail means rail.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

i call the big one &quot;Bitey.&quot;


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

I proposed a monorail to the Vice President for Research in 1990 in order to promote a way for the medical school and engineering school faculties to engage in prototyping of medical devices, instrumentation, diagnostic tools and pharmaceutical development methods (along with data demonstrating need). I again suggested this to the Executive VP for Medical Affairs and CEO of University of Michigan Health System about 10 years or so ago. Now, with the expansion of the Pfizer facilities and land, and Domino Farms, we have a wonderful opportunity for UM to actually catch up with what the rest of the medical/academic/entrepreneurial communities around this country and elsewhere are doing! Read today's NYTimes regarding UCSF! Maybe this will actually happen before I'm gone from this earth.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2:02 p.m.

&quot;The good news, he said, is the federal government could pay for 50 percent of the project costs.&quot; I think he ment to say: &quot;The good news, he said, is the federal government could borrow 50 percent of the project costs from China.&quot;

G. Orwell

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

&quot;The good news, he said, is the federal government could pay for 50 percent of the project costs.&quot; I love it when these people bring up the federal government when it comes to funding. The 50% is also tax payer money. It's our money. Our politicians dole out money to their insider buddies like Solyndra (bankrupt), Haliburton, GE, etc. and we get stuck with the bill. plus, the federal government is broke. As long as we have the essential Effective transportation services (bus, taxi, cars, bikes), do not take on these massive projects unless they make financial sense. Just common sense.

G. Orwell

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

How about spending it responsibly and on thing that help make our community and this country better. And no more crony capitalism.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

Yeah it is our money, but they already took the taxes out of my paycheck. Somebody's going to spend that money and I don't know about you, but I'd rather have it spent here than Quincy, Illinois.

Peter Eckstein

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

Every morning I wake up and say, &quot;I wonder what we can do to make our city more like Las Vegas,&quot; I am delighted that we now have an expensive group of consultants that will help us find the way.

Go Blue

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:35 p.m.

Guess I would rather see the rapist caught, the bridge fixed, police and fire staff built back up, etc., before we need to think about yet another &quot;pie in the sky&quot; brilliant idea. Gee Ollie...............


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

Yippie, a People Mover for AA! How's that workin' out in the &quot;D&quot; again? Not so good? Well, let's do it here anyway.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:42 p.m.

There needs to be an edit function for comments. My first sentence should read: The reason that the People Mover is significantly under-utilized is that it was NOT designed to be a stand-alone system.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.

<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.

Right, crashing sucess. Try to stay with me now: 7500 rides/day * 365 days = 2,737,500 rides/year. $12,000,000/year to operate let me see now, carry the 1, 6 goesinta 3.....ummm OK, here we have it: $4.38/ ride. but WAIT, the city get $0.50/ride, so they only LOSE $3.88/ride or the City LOSES $3.88*2,737,500 = $10,631,250/year Hey, maybe I should be a high priced consultant! But then I would have to learn to be a yes man....


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:24 p.m.

The reason that the People Mover is significantly under-utilized is that it was designed to be a stand-alone system. Originally, a feeder system from across the city and suburbs was supposed to be built. You would ride the monorail/streetcar/subway/el-rail (all were discussed) down Woodward, Michigan, Gratiot, Jefferson... and then switch to the People Mover to go anywhere downtown. Nobody uses it now because we have to drive ourselves downtown in which case you can just park at your destination. An Ann Arbor system would be completely different, because the University traffic (at least the 30,000 that go between central and north) aren't using cars. You have the demand already without a feeder system.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

Actually the People Mover is doing quite well. I wish they had extended it to the Wayne State and museum district areas. I use it when I am downtown. Very nice indeed.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:33 p.m.

There's a lot of commentary on this story from people who clearly haven't had to make the trip between Central &amp; North Campus on a weekday. Those people should consider exercising some humility and stop pretending like they know everything. By all means let's have the conversation about how much the U should pay. It would be in the U's long-term interest to build a rail line between North &amp; Central even if it had to finance it entirely on its own. The demand is not going to go away as long as North Campus exists.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 2:26 p.m.

rusty nevermind re: the baseless assumptions, I see you were referencing my earlier reply to your post.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

@umich07 there is not enough parking on either North nor Central Campus for every single passenger to drive, and you should know that.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

@rusty what baseless assumptions? what ad hominems?


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 2:39 a.m.

I made the drive from State and Hoover to North Campus as a student nearly every weekday the past two years. Easy drive. Could make it from my residence to the parking lot on North Campus in less than 10 minutes. What we really need to happen is to stop wasting money pretending that a ridiculous monorail would make sense for a city of 100,000. I'd rather see Fifth Ave open again so that I can make it home without having to take a detour.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 4:56 p.m.

The fact that you're crabby does not make others arrogant or mean they don't know what they're talking about. You're the one making baseless assumptions here, and reducing yourself to ad hominems in order to do so.

Ron Granger

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

Why is the majority of the route on the map servicing the University, who pays almost no taxes? If the University wants to pay a billion dollars, it's something to consider. But otherwise, why should Ann Arbor residents go further into debt to subsidize university services?

Dog Guy

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

If wishes were monorails, beggars would ride . . . and aggressively panhandle.

Ron Granger

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

There were billions in profits at stake in Seattle as corporate backers tried to push an expanded monorail on voters. Again and again, seattle voted no. But they kept coming back and putting it on the ballot. It finally died. And that is a city with a well developed bus infrastructure, including electric buses. After the monorail died, what many suspected came to pass - extensive fraud and deception among some of the backers was revealled. It died *hard*. Seattle was nearly railroaded just like the Simpson's episode.

Ron Granger

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

Electric buses, or hybrids, are a far better alternative. Street cars and monorails both suffer from the fatal flaw that they cannot pass around a disabled vehicle. Street car tracks trap bicycle tires. Buses may not be sexy, but they get the job done.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

Any idea of the carnage that would occur if streetcars or light rail was to go down the middle of State Street or North University?


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

What? Our city leaders are behaving as if there is a finite supply of fossil fuel in the world! We simply need to plant more swampy forests, bury them for millions of years while applying massive amounts of heat and pressure. Then we'll have a sustainable fossil fuel source! Our great, great, great, great, great...(insert millions of generations later)...great grandchildren will thank us for thinking so far in advance!


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

If you were to imply that an alternative mode of public transit that uses electricity is eco-friendly, I'd remind you that the electricity comes from power plants that happen to consume finite amounts of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.

G. Orwell

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

The only realistic option, based on cost, is to expand and make more efficient the existing bus service. I do not think we need an over priced consultant to tell us that. It might also make sense to do some type of city only, inexpensive, taxi/shuttle service to reach those areas not suited for buses. These could be small, no frills, electric passenger vans with maximum speed of about 45 mph. Very low cost and effective.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:07 p.m.

What a fantastic idea - looking into modernizing our transportation system. I commend the city of Ann Arbor for hiring someone to look at these options. Sure there are gaps, as any consultant on a project of this magnitude will understand. As one of the 30,000 bus riders daily on Fuller Road, I agree that Ann Arbor is ready and eager for a faster, more modern transportation system. A system like these will increase ridership, free up space in town currently used for parking (or at least decrease the number of massive parking structure projects that hurt already established businesses such as the 4th street lot), and decrease vehicular emissions - a HUGE contributor to greenhouse gases. This is a solution that finally takes responsibility both for our health and for the Earth's! Good job Ann Arbor!!


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

I hate to burst your bubble, but the 30,000 people per day that the study refers to is the Campus Bus System. This bus system is paid for and operated by the University and has nothing to do with AATA or the City. AATA is once again attempting to take over a University function, thus obtaining money not only from the University but add more tax payer money from A2 to the coffers. This is how the M-Ride program works, U-M signs over money that it earns from the National Transit Data Base to AATA, U-M then pays cash to AATA for the difference between what it obtains from the feds and what AATA is owed. AATA then also supplements the cost of the service from the millage money that we pay from 2 mills. AATA additionally collects money from the federal government and the State of Michigan for each passenger they carry.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

Ann Arbor is a tight fitting city with narrow roads and no plans to increase the overall footprint of the city ( as far as I am aware ). For that reason, taking up real estate for dedicated rails does not seem like a good idea. Either more buses, or electric street cars sharing existing roads.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

Actually population density is exactly why rail might be feasible in a city like Ann Arbor, even if it is only a small city.

Ren Farley

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

The city of Ann Arbor recently purchased two historic street cars from Oporto, Portugal with the intent of creating a line on Liberty from downtown Ann Arbor to central campus. How are those plans coming along? Will we soon be able to ride an historic street cars from downtown to central campus? Thanks.

Ricardo Queso

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 12:47 p.m.

The People Mover? Really? &quot;I'm on the road to nowhere.&quot;


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

Riicardo Queso, You shall look - The Monorail Society Website; <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The People Mover is a conventional steel dual rails on a massive wide beam, not monorail. MONORAIL 1. A single rail serving as a track for passenger or freight vehicles. In most cases rail is elevated, but monorails can also run at grade, below grade or in subway tunnels. Vehicles are either suspended from or straddle a narrow guideway. Monorail vehicles are WIDER than the guideway that supports them. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2 p.m.

No!!! People mover is too small and in dead city. Please go back to school.

Lionel Hutz

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 12:31 p.m.

Why build a monorail in a small town with a centralized population around a town center?


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

&quot;Taylor wondered if the study took into account that many current users of the system are U-M students who ride the university's buses for free.&quot;. Nothing is free Mr. Taylor. This cost is built into their tuition bill. U-M is a printing press disguised as a university.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

Let's see. We have limited revenue to pay for our current infrastructure: roads, bridges, water, and sanitary systems. There are federal mandates in place for ADA compliant sidewalks and ramps, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. These regulations require even more resources to stay compliant with the law. So, knowing we have limited resources with too many existing needs, our leaders are blindly plowing forward to establish smaller slices from the financial pie by adding mass transit to the mix? Does anyone realize how much systems like monorails and street cars cost to maintain and how user fees do not come anywhere near the revenue needed to keep the system operating? I know. People don't like to be confused by the facts. Ann Arbor: The 'Leaders and best'. 28 square miles surrounded by reality.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

Ahhh, so you're against clean water and people with disabilities. That's a good start. And you seem sure of the facts. So tell me, what is the cost difference between 30,000 people riding buses vs. 30,000 people riding cars? Be sure to include all infrastructure costs.

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

Monorail or street car would be a very smart way to go and it would encourage sustainable growth of our fair city.

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 3:42 p.m.

I play Sim City as well and my experiences tell me that laying the ground work for public transit is the fastest way to grow your city.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

Anyone who's played SimCity could tell you that buying an elaborate system your city can't utilize to capacity is the quickest way to go bankrupt. [Pardon the video game reference, but the same logical principle applies.]


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 12:15 p.m.

Someone is smoking the good stuff. Comparing Ann Arbor to Dallas, Denver, Charlotte, and Minneapolis smaks of delusional thinking. Typical.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 12:04 p.m.

More toadying to U of M. Does an city the size of Ann Arbor need this? I doubt it! Seems council thinks we are a large spread out city with millions of people to move quickly! Taxpayers have a large enough burden already!

rusty shackelford

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 11:33 a.m.

Rail really doesn't make sense for a town like Ann Arbor--I say that as a transit advocate. Let's focus on improving our already-strong bus system by adding some lines that don't require you to transfer downtown and by adding some late night lines. The late night thing is especially important, I think. I'm not saying every line should run round the clock, but develop some plan to serve people with transit after the absurdly early 10pm. Think of all the people leaving bars, and all the restaurant and hospital employees who get off work way later.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

Rusty, I stand corrected regarding my assumption and I regret jumping to conclusions. But I don't see &quot;buses are more crowded in Mexico&quot; as a very good argument for the current arrangment. Nor do I agree that it follows that overcrowded buses mean the system is working optimally. The question is not just &quot;is it working?&quot; but &quot;is it working optimally?&quot;

Amber Coleman

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 5:24 a.m.

Might I mention that bus service stops at 6pm on the weekends with most buses only running once an hour.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 4:53 p.m.

sellers--existing tech can mitigate most of those issues. Hybrid or overhead wire power, and means for buses to control traffic lights in their favor are already in use in many places. Andy, as a matter of fact I have. I've also lived in Mexico, which makes your idea of a &quot;crowded transit&quot; look like a joke. Perhaps you should stop making baseless assumptions about things you have no way of knowing and actually engage with the merits of the argument. I could just as easily counter (not that you make any actual argument in the 1st place) that full buses demonstrate that the current system is efficient.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

You have clearly never tried to take the Blue Bus from Central to North Campus on a weekday between September and April. If the tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff fighting for space on those buses isn't enough passenger demand to justify rail, I don't know what is.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:12 p.m.

sellers, interesting point. My concern is the enormous amount of money being spent on consultants. Without actual knowledge; my belief is AATA so far has spent in excess of $1m in consultant fees for the 30 year plan that still is a work in progress. This money could have (AND should have) been re invested in the present system to improve the service.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

The problem with bus and rapid bus is that it is subject to the same or similar issues that automobiles are. Traffic lights, congestion, and the added cost of start and stop over time. While AA's bus system is more widely used and respected than neighboring cities, it's not the think different approach that AA needs to keep ahead of the curve. We are 25^2 miles surrounded by reality, we didn't get there by building automotive plants and getting lazy. It's also why we have the lowest unemployment and one of the most sought after locations in the midwest. With that said, I think having a stretch goal while starting small is the perfect approach. Publish, market, and map out that goal and let riders see the goal and keep pushing for it. The market will then help support the future costs.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 11:33 a.m.

looks like the majority is uofm. let them pay their share. like majority of it !


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 11:32 a.m.

It would be nice if they added a East/West solution. Nothing is more jammed up than Washtenaw Ave. I cringe every time I have to go anywheres close to Arborland because traffic is such a mess around there.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

Hey rs, funny you should mention this......Anya Dale who is an AATA Board member is spearheading this soon to be announced study. More $$$$ to waste!

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 11:18 a.m.

I think Street Cars, or Trolleys, could be a good thing. Muskegon has them and I'm pretty sure Tecumseh does, too. They're a fun way to get around town (mostly for summer use, though.) They might add a little charm, they're pretty quaint and neat looking.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 11:16 a.m.

Please find out and post total cost of this study. Really. Please. Also, is this the same study as the one to determine feasibility of trolley/streetcars in Ann Arbor? I recall a study adressing that, but I believe it was 2007 or 2008. Please find out if this is the SAME study or if they did the same study AGAIN. I think that bears some looking into. I'm wondering how accurate this place's numbers are, too. City doesn't have best track record with getting actual real accurate data from consultants. Seems like a lot of recent &quot;data&quot; and &quot;reports&quot; and pushes to justify massive increases in transportation boondoggles. Did they start feeling bad about trying to justify Fuller Road Station with things like 10-year-old studies that &quot;showed interest&quot; in such projects in other cities that wound up not doing it anyway? Or the fact that there's an operating train station right there already? Does anyone else think that's a lot of money per mile, both for development AND for yearly maintenance? Should ANYONE be paying that? Is that really sustainable?


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 11:31 p.m.

Thank you very much, Ryan, appreciated. I do believe, though, that the trolly car study was separate from this one. Was your post both the cost of this study and an affirmation that it was the same one as the trolley car study in the Ann Arbor News, or just the cost? Thanks again for your attention to the readers.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Here's the background you're looking for: <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;GUID=F772E2B8-75A5-4646-A6DC-2D7DA8E5A6CA</a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;GUID=C7AB3867-805F-47BD-9D2F-F8EF9508011E</a>


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:01 p.m.

Just one more example of AATA wasting money that could have been put into improving the bus service. This was just Phase 1 of a more obscenely expensive study, there are 2 more parts to this with a higher price tag for each phase.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 11:16 a.m.

Monorail? It's not for us. It's more of a Shelbyville idea.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

All we need is Homer Simpson at the controls!

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.


Lionel Hutz

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 12:28 p.m.

Well, sir, there's nothing on earth Like a genuine, Bona fide, Electrified, Six-car Monorail! What'd I say?


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 11:10 a.m.

How about hovercraft? I don't think our government representatives are pursuing a long-term vision here.


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 10:46 a.m.

&quot;In response to questions from Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, Nau acknowledged his firm didn't make operating revenue forecasts.&quot; 'Nuff said. Report completed 8 months ago, why did we wait so long to meet? Fiscal year change to pay for his presentation?


Tue, Oct 11, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

A2....this is a strong point, last year U-M carried more than 6.5 NON FARE PAYING passengers. Surprisingly, even though the buses are packed tight, delays due to traffic congestion was pretty limited in terms of number of trips, and time of day/night.