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Posted on Sat, Aug 8, 2009 : 5:45 a.m.

Downtown Ann Arbor Link bus service not expected to resume

By Tina Reed

The downtown bus service meant to link local university students with businesses likely won't resume at the end of the month because the service hasn't secured all of its funding.

The bus line offered rides during the school year between downtown Ann Arbor, Oxford student housing east of U-M's central campus and several other locations in Ann Arbor. For the last couple years, it’s been funded by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

The DDA supported the Link in previous years through grant funding, but hasn't decided whether to extend that grant because officials are taking a closer at ridership and ways to improve the service, said Susan Pollay, the DDA’s executive director.

The service was set to resume Aug. 31. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is holding a drop-in meeting for the public from 5-7 p.m. Monday to discuss the proposal with local residents.

The Link’s operating costs were about $430,000 last academic year.

A representative from the transportation authority could not be reached on Friday, but it did post a notice about the proposed discontinuation of the service on its Web site.

“Since 2005, local funding for the Link has been provided by the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the AATA. After discussing the role of the Link in the downtown area, the DDA decided to discontinue funding for the downtown portion of the route. The DDA is determining whether to redesign a new circulator service at a later date,” the notice said. “With the loss of the connection to the downtown business districts, the University of Michigan has decided to operate service between Oxford Housing and Central Campus using their own buses. Due to the combined actions of the DDA and UM, the AATA is proposing to discontinue Link service.”

Pollay describe the link as an “experiment” in moving people more effectively through downtown areas.When it was first started, local business owners were interested in a service that would circulate downtown.

In the past six months, the DDA began taking a closer look at ridership and is still trying to get a better understanding of who is riding and why they use the Link, she said.

For instance, three-fourths of the riders on the Link identify themselves as students. That could show the service is being used by students to get from one class to another, which was not the intended purpose of the route, she said. But it might also show students are using the route to get to downtown jobs and might need service at later times in the evening, she said.

“This is not as simple as turning the money off or turning the money on,” Pollay said. “There’s an opportunity to do this better.”

U-M is extending or changing some of its routes instead this year, said Bitsy Lamb, manager of transit for U-M’s transportation services. Changes, like offering a route in a different direction or adding a small loop, can make a big difference in ridership, she said.

“This could end up improving a couple of our other routes,” Lamb said.


Carrie Rheingans

Mon, Aug 10, 2009 : 7:07 p.m.

I use the link to get me from parking on the old west side to campus, since there's no affordable parking near campus for students. I also work on the old west side, so it's more convenient to use the link than the Wolverine Tower commuter lot. Also, a lot of grad students live more west of campus than undergrads, in the Kerrytown area, and use the link, especially in the winter.