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Posted on Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 9 a.m.

Streetcars in Ann Arbor? Light rail? Public invited to give input at Connector drop-in sessions

By Ryan J. Stanton


The Ann Arbor Connector project is focused on determining new transit options for a boomerang-shaped area that extends 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.

Image courtesy of URS Corp.

What will the future of transit look like in Ann Arbor?

For a boomerang-shaped area extending from the northeastern corner of the city through the center of town to Briarwood Mall, some hope there'll be a new high-capacity system of some kind.

Streetcars? Bus rapid transit? Light rail?

Those are all options being studied as part of the so-called Ann Arbor Connector project, and Ann Arbor Transportation Authority officials want members of the public to provide their input during a series of special drop-in events being held in the Ann Arbor area in December.

The drop-in events are being held as part of a $1.5 million study that's taking a look at advanced transit options to connect major Ann Arbor destinations, including downtown, University of Michigan's north and central campuses, the university medical center and commercial areas.

During the drop-in events, members of the public are encouraged to stop by anytime and provide opinions on where they travel most frequently within the proposed area and which mode of proposed travel they prefer. A survey will be available for additional input.

Those who wish to attend one of the sessions don't need to stay the entire two hours. Rather, organizers say drop in anytime and the entire process will take under five minutes.

Here are the open hours:

Monday, Dec. 10

8-10 a.m., Blake Transit Center, 337 S. Fourth Ave.

1-3 p.m., Busch's, 2020 Green Road

6-8 p.m., Briarwood Mall, 100 Briarwood Circle

Tuesday, Dec. 11

8-10 a.m., Sweetwaters, 123 W. Washington St.

1-3 p.m., Sweetwaters, 3393 Plymouth Road

6-8 p.m., Briarwood Mall, 100 Briarwood Circle

Organizers said this is the first in a series of public input opportunities and there will be additional opportunities announced in the future.

The AATA is the lead agency on the project and is using a $1.2 million federal grant to complete the $1.5 million study. The AATA is putting up $90,000 in local matching dollars, U-M has committed $150,000, and the city and Downtown Development Authority each are paying $30,000. Those four entities have been partnering on the Connector project since 2009.

A previous feasibility study concluded that a high-capacity transit service in the Connector area is feasible and technologies including streetcars, bus rapid transit, light rail and elevated guideway system such as a monorail could be used.


An example of a streetcar on a track in Tacoma, Wash.

Image courtesy of URS Corp.

The project is now in the alternatives analysis stage where community input is needed to determine a locally preferred alternative that will specify the type of transit technology, service level, route alignment, station locations and cost estimates to implement the service.

The project's technical team will use the information gathered at the drop-in sessions to help determine locations for stations/stops and transit technology.

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, a consultant told the city last year, pointing to examples in Portland, Little Rock, Seattle and Tacoma. In Portland, the streetcars operate in lanes shared with automobile traffic at a maximum speed of 30 mph.

To see examples of streetcars, light rail, bus rapid transit and elevated guideway systems in other cities, download the Connector feasibility report.

As the Connector study moves ahead, the AATA also is getting started on construction of a new Blake Transit Center downtown and the city continues planning a new Amtrak station.

Elsewhere in the region, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments is holding a series of seven public meetings from Dec. 3-15 as part of a major initiative looking at mass transit options for the 27-mile Woodward Avenue corridor from the Detroit River to Pontiac.

SEMCOG is charged with managing a $2 million federal transportation grant that is funding the Woodward Avenue alternatives analysis — with a goal of identitying the most feasible rapid-transit alternative for a study area that includes Detroit, Highland Park, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Huntington Woods, Berkley, Royal Oak, Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills and Pontiac.

SEMCOG also is overseeing the Ann Arbor-to-Detroit commuter rail initiative, which could get started with demonstration trains between the two cities in 2013.

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.



Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

I keeping hearing this song - Money , Money Money -- it 's a hand out to the fed govt. No wonder the suburbs around DC are now the richest in the country. A giant sucking sound- hand outs are us

Rory Williams

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4:08 a.m.

Wow this is a great idea let's spend lots of money on it.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 10:37 p.m.

I think this is a great idea! Ann Arbor may not be a very large city but I actually think there might be the density to support light rail. I know for sure that there is enough people taking the #4 bus and traffic on Washtenaw to justify some kind of elevated rail system. I don't know if that is also true in the area proposed but that is what a feasibility study is for isn't it. We must, as a community, get ourselves into the 21st century or fall behind. Good reliable public transportation is the way of the future, like it or not. Communities who fail to embrace it do so at their own peril.

Larry Krieg

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

I never cease to be amazed at the number of people who know very little about a subject who spout off in comments like this. A shame they don't educate themselves before they vote, too. I suppose it's just as well they've talked themselves into believing the input sessions are a sham. That way, their ignorance will not need to be considered as part of the real public input. 1) Streetcars were mentioned as one possibility, not a foregone conclusion. So why is everybody talking like they're the only option under consideration? 2) How responsible is it for a government - anywhere - to bury their head in the sand and pretend the future will be just like the present? We know one thing for sure: change *is* inevitable. Those calling people who plan for the future "idiotic" and "moronic" need to take a really good look in the mirror. 3) Everybody is so concerned about the cost of a safe, efficient transportation option. Stop a moment and consider the option of doing nothing. Do you really think driving will continue to cost what it does now? Do you really think its cost is low now? Have you factored in the cost of parking and the land it occupies? The cost of the daily carnage on the highways and roads when more and more "induhviduals" are let loose on them? The percent of our ballooning health care costs that is directly or indirectly attributable to automobiles? If all you nay-sayers are so much smarter than the transportation planners, I challenge you to come up with a comprehensive plan that's better, instead of just using scorn to cover up your lack of knowledge and foresight.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 9:48 p.m.

Thanks Mr. Smartguy!

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

Editing "destination necessary to" to "destination density necessary to". The comprehensive plan, 20 years ago, required a third lane on feeder highways. This was planned, then eliminated. Studies show quite clearly that adding highway capacity is the appropriate response when densities are as they are now.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

What's interesting is that you chastise people for name-calling, and then do the same to your opponents just one paragraph later. Yes, we apparently are much smarter than the planners. I honestly think these people are either criminals who have a personal financial interest in this or simply so invested in a cult-like devotion to mass transit that they can't think straight. Because there simply isn't the job or source destination necessary to support a commuter rail system. The studies show this quite clearly.

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

The planning for this has been going on for some time. The city council adopted a transportation plan update in 2009 that called for something like it. There was a major presentation at the UM almost 3 years ago (March 2010) to discuss the need for a connector of this type. I wrote a blog post about it in which some of the types of technology (modes) are described. The reasoning behind the connector is that the UM expects to continue growing and it is reaching some transportation overloads. The connector would link the North Campus (and now the North Campus Research Center, old Pfizer campus), downtown campus, and southern (athletic) campus. All this is partly to accommodate an expected 25,000 more employees. That is the same justification given for the Fuller Road Station and the supposed commuter train that will stop there. I haven't figured out yet how they will get from Fuller to South State, but I'm a little afraid to find out.

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 9:14 p.m.

I liked the gondolas. They would stay above the street traffic.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

I definitely agree there's a serious need for a dedicated park-and-ride closed University transit system. There's the job and destination density to warrant this type of work. But light rail can't be done on thin city streets, and trolleys are more a "fun" touristy diversion and not practical for the type of use this requires. An underground rail system would be impossible to budget. There's really nothing to do other than add buses and try and improve the bottleneck areas (like getting through the med campus area). Or maybe a raised monorail-system for shorter distances, though I'm skeptical of the real costs here. When I was a student, I got a permit for the park-and-ride near north campus. About half my classes were on north campus, and about half on central campus. I used the shuttle bus to go in between. It worked very well.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

The irresponsibility of those touting these projects is staggering. Little Rock's River Rail is a very limited trolley system that only connects two shopping/tourist destinations. It has 15 stops. It is not intended to do anything for commuters. It would be like having a trolley system connecting central campus with Main Street, nothing more. And the metro area is at least twice the size of Ann Arbor's. It's like they googled "trolley" and simply wrote down every hit. If this was part of the $1.5 million spent on studying the issue, we have some serious fraud issues to consider. I think there should be an investigation, and perhaps some criminal charges.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

There is a plaque that stands a block over from KFC, Woodbury School that is now a charter school, that tells the tale of once was a inter transit system that died because of cars. Kind of a nice turn around.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

Air traffic to Ann Arbor via Detroit Metro is just not great enough to support rail efforts from the airport to Ann Arbor, even as an amenity. If it were so, we would see many more competing bus services to Michigan Flyer in Ann Arbor. Michigan Flyer can only sustain itself as an AATA subsidy.

Dave Koziol

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

To those who say UofM should be doing this, please note they are the largest contributor of funds. I think this should be viewed as an effort to combine efforts, and that seems like a good thing to me. The more Ann Arbor and UofM can integrate transportation options, and more the entire community will benefit.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3:54 p.m.

U of M find = U of M funds.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

U of M find still comes from state taxes and student tuition. It doesn't absolve the City, AATA, or University of being responsible or irresponsible in this case, of their spending.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Just some facts: Portland, OR - pop. 593k, metro 2,260k Tacoma, WA - pop 201k, metro 3,500k Little Rock, AK - pop 193k, metro 700k Seattle, WA - pop 621k, metro 3500k Ann Arbor, MI - pop 113k, metro 300k When wlll these dimwits learn that A2 is NOT like these other cities and that mass transit here makes no sense what-so-ever?


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:45 p.m.

Jacob must be a "consultant"

Jacob Faust

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:04 a.m.

Plubius and Macabre, your evaluations of the transit idea are flawed. In the feasibility study conducted a few years back (, they base these comparisons on the number of riders on a given corridor. This is a better metric than population to compare transit systems. For example, compare the cities of Houston (which has little transit infrastructure) to that of Seattle (significant infrastructure). The usage of transit in Ann Arbor is much higher than a city of equal size due to the unique demographics UofM provides to the city. Thus, the conclusion that the system is a "boondoggle" is ill conceived given population as the only metric of comparison.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

It seems so obvious, yet the boondoggle continues. If these people would just travel to one of these cities and look at the areas that would be served, I think they'd gain an understanding of the issues involved. I'm very familiar with Seattle/Tacoma, having lived in the area a while. The densities and traffic patterns are completely different. Even then, mass transit is a huge challenge because of the big lakes and Puget Sound causing traffic bottlenecks.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

So AATA is wasting $1.2 million of Federal money on this transportation study in Ann Arbor. With spending like this it is no wonder that the US government is running huge annual federal deficits and has accumulated a federal debt of $16.3 trillion. When are we going to stop this irresponsible and insane behavior. Our nation can not keep spending and living beyond its means!


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

Roger, That $1.2 Million represent 0.0003% of the 2012 Federal budget. The Fed could fund 100,000 of these studies and that would only get us to about 3% of the budget. There are only about 30,000 cities in the US and most of them will never need to study such a project. It represents 0.0001% of last year's deficit. SonnyDog, Actually money for transit projects comes from a stash created by President Ronald Reagan back in 1983; the Mass Transit Account. A fund that doesn't draw any funds from the General fund and therefore does not contribute to the deficit.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

Don't be ridiculous. We will never run out of Obama Money. He's got a stash.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

OH but didn't you know? This federal money comes from some cosmic source that never runs dry!


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 1:36 p.m. Bus rapid transit provides the same amenities as light rail at a fraction of the cost. Light rail or street rail is a waste of money and resources.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Shepard145- With modern technology, solar power, and electric busses, electric rail and streetcars are moot. Over 40% of electiric power gets lost over transmission anyways even before it would hit the rail or streetcar grid. It's greener to use locally generated solar power and electric busses. Rail and streetcars just take up more space and cost more infrastructure and our town does not have the density to support it. Ann Arbor is not Seattle, and I wish the City powers that be would quit treating it like it is. Ann Arbor is a unique town with its own needs. Right now, those needs include more basics like roads, sewage and water, and public safety. The county transit authority effort failed to pull interest from our county's municipalities. Why are we wasting another $1.2 million for another study? (That would fully fund 4-6 public safety positions for 3 years or repaved a decent chunk of road.) It seems like a lot of consultants are getting rich off these projects. Exactly how are they being picked? Perhaps someone could please share some of the commentary at one of the input meetings.

Jacob Faust

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4:54 a.m.

@ahblid Thank you for getting the facts out! @JK The purpose of the transit studies is to make collect information for our representatives so they can make well informed decisions on pricey infrastructure. The previous study collected data which suggests that a new mode of mass transit will be necessary between UofM's north and central campus ( The need for such a transit system is not a problem of "density," but a problem of transit trips serviced by a given corridor. The number of trips serviced between UofM central and north campus is as high as some corridors in these larger cities.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 10:53 p.m.

JK, First, buses are not more green than rail. In fact according to the US Department of Energy's Energy Handbook, a bus requires 4,118 BTU's per passenger mile. Trains require 2,520 BTU's per passenger mile. As for infrastructure costs, while rail costs more that's balanced by the much higher costs to operate buses. For example, out in Portland Oregon in 2011 according to the National Transit Database they moved 215,384,677 passenger miles by light rail and 219,728,219 passenger miles by bus, essentially the same. Yet they spent $222,887,559 operating those buses and only $93,399,347 operating light rail. And it's that huge disparity in operating costs that offsets the higher capital costs for rail. Adding up both the capital & operating costs for both the buses and light rail for the 16 year period from 1996 through 2011 inclusive, Portland has spent $2.905 Billion all in on light rail and $3.111 Billion all in on buses. If they stop building new lines tomorrow, in less than 10 years that gap will grow by over $1 Billion!


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

If Ann Arbor is trying to think ahead (what it did to not be a rustbelt city today IMO) then it needs to really think ahead. Busses are fine but not a new solution. They stop at the same lights, signals, and congestion that this discussion is supposed to help relieve. Whatever solution comes up - should address the speed problem (i.e. I don't stop at lights) and be easy to modify/move/adjust as the city grows and changes. If you create a great system of moving people, the populations will shift to that demographic. Look how highways changed the landscape from the raillines. Look how airports are doing it now. Detroit will never embrace mass transit because of history and automotive. Many of the other midwest cities suffer the same fate. Ann Arbor is unique in that it has a very active, complete, and used downtown and a small enough sprawl footprint that it makes it feasible to make this work. Don't look to other cities as measures of success, pioneer and make it work here. Think big, and start small and then you are fiscally responsible too. Worried about too much spending on studies, then visit one of these sessions and offer to help.

Jacob Faust

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4:37 a.m.

Sellers, you have it spot on. The only reason Ann Arbor is flourishing in a state that is shrinking is due to its unique culture (and UofM). A mass transit system like they suggest would only add to Ann Arbor's mystique.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

Did you not read the part where what they want is Data about where we drive and a survey that only ask skewed questions?

Unusual Suspect

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

This is pointless. Busses already go to all these locations. If you want to do something useful, create a bus route that goes around the city. Having to go downtown to the hub when you need to go laterally about the city is a complete waste of time.

Unusual Suspect

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

OK, so higher capacity busses. It's not that complicated.

Jacob Faust

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4:31 a.m.

Unusual Suspect, the previous study indicated that transit between UofM's north and central campus is at capacity. You can find the report here: . The issue is not transit around the city, but only with a specific corridor.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

I think it's way past time for all these planning /taxing/spending morons to pack up and move to Holland where they can bask in the glow of rail, trolleys ,bike paths, public art, free drugs and all the other crap they keep trying to recycle on those of us who have to work for a living and don't have access to the $$$$ trough they so freely dip in...


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

Wait a minute...the drugs are free?


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

I am continually amazed at how people, businesses, and government constantly spend money without learning from others. For example, many cities have removed streetcars. Ask them why. Read what they did after and how it worked. Make sure to look at communities that get winter weather and how that impacts service. Adding electrical streetcars and the infrastructure will never happen. Gas streetcars are just buses on a rail. A monorail is a joke. No one wants the unsightly structure. And costs is absurd. Some communities have isolated bus lanes. We saw this in Florida approaching the Florida Keys. No other traffic allowed. Moves very quick.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

A2comments, Yes, many cities did remove streetcars many years ago. Now they're realizing that they made a mistake and are putting them back.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:11 a.m.

@Veracity Oh really? Large cities early in development? How are they early in their development and large? LOL Many here don't "get transit" and confuse it with a personal taxi service that picks them up at their front door and drops them off at their cubical. LOL Yes, transit riders would still have to walk or take other means to get their final destination – the horror. Hopefully there's a bakery near by to help mitigate any health benefits. So you're worried that a light rail car running every 20-30 minutes would impede traffic? Really? LOL Are you worried about trucks or vans for the same reason? Do you think AA will be the first City to build light rail….or maybe we're not breaking much new ground here. …or maybe AA is just that special? LOL Writing the same point over and over will not make it any less absurd. "No significant benefit will be gained by installing light rail or trolley transportation systems." Oh really? Go read my points again (all of which are accurate) and lets chat again after you get 8 or 9 years of education and a few decades of experience. Buses are losers – time for AA to wake up and get off the $1.2 million per copy bus. ...and yes, lets talk about the absurdity of "bio fuels" while we're at it as well! LOL

Jacob Faust

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4:17 a.m.

@Angry Moderate I think you are forgetting that cars stop at stop lights. Light rail would not. Street cars and BRT systems can have timed lights that will give them priority (preventing the need to stop at stop lights). However, I must agree with Macabre Sunset that a new transit system would only be feasible for UofM. Nonetheless, lets raise the level of this discourse.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 12:14 a.m.

Why do so many people feel the need to pretend we are all identical when that is clearly absurd. By almost any measure, most of Ann Arbor is inferior to me so you're in good company. You also misunderstand my point. When it comes to rail based mass transit, those who need to be convinced are those who pay the taxes and have the option of driving their Euro sports sedan to the office every day. If they support a better system and pleased with the service, presumably those who must ride a bus because they are poor will as well. That said, you should consider that Detroit has a superior network of services that cater the demands of the poor 24/7 – think about it.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

@shepard, before you label buses "losers", and look down your nose at the people who ride them, I suggest that you clue into the fact that not everyone can afford a car. to some of us, the AATA is our primary method of transportation. we are not inferior. your snobbery is disgusting to me. also, don't suggest that I and all the other bus-riders leave town. we aren't going anywhere. DEAL WITH IT.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 6:40 a.m.

If only we had the foresight to build a massive underground train station while we were opening up the earth to create the parking lot to nowhere on the library lot. Since I have a few decades of experience and I've long since made it through 9th grade, I've read your "points" and found them lacking in an understanding of how cities develop. This isn't a game where you get to spend a few billion before the tax base is established. Ann Arbor simply isn't big enough for this kind of light rail. A monorail of sorts for the UM to develop internally? Maybe. Something outside of the U? Not even if you added 100 bakeries.

Angry Moderate

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:49 a.m.

Really, you think that a light rail that STOPS to let people on and off doesn't impede traffic more than a car that doesn't stop until it reaches its destination?

greg, too

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3:59 a.m.

If they just want to get a piece of the government money, why not do something useful? Widen roads, add more park and rides to get into downtown, which might help clean up the congestion. If any money is left over, see if they can pool it with other federal funds to widen 94 from 23 to Jackson Rd by a lane or two and maybe find a way to make the 23 interchange off of 94 safer. It seems like a gigantic waste to try and build a rail car system that a.) has been proven to not be feasible and b.) doesn't make a lot of sense for the city when there are a bunch of other projects that would make more sense.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:41 a.m.

Jacob, I got the impression from one of the earlier meetings re: the fuller Station I attended that funding was turned down because of loack of justification or proof of need, which was why the whole thing was being called a "demonstration" project; this was of great concern to me, since it was basically doing the thing we were denied funding for in order to prove the findings wrong. Are you talking about the same thing?

Jacob Faust

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 4:09 a.m.

Greg,too could you please take the time to verify your "facts". The claim a rail car system "has been proven to not be feasible." is false. In fact, the exact opposite was found by the previous phase of the study. .


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3:07 a.m.

During the drop-in events, members of the public are encouraged to stop by anytime and provide opinions on where they travel most frequently within the proposed area and which mode of proposed travel they prefer .A SURVEY will be available for additional input. Do they want our opinions or just where we travel and how? It does not sound like they want to hear from the public at these so called "drop in events" Now if they ever listen to the public THAT will be an event!

Angry Moderate

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3:18 a.m.

It's an odd question too. They spend millions of dollars on consultants and traffic studies, and collect data on the usage of roads and bus routes at different times of day. It's obvious that they already know where people travel and how.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3:02 a.m.

I am sick and tired of all the lamebrain ideas being floated by every Tom, Dick and Mary in this town!


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 2:20 a.m.

I hope that many of you nay sayers who are posting here are able to attend one of the meetings that are being planned to get input from the public about this.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:51 p.m.

Shepard145 - probably over educated -with no practical experience getting the hands actually dirty. Please come tell us why the proposed library/conference center and the underground garrage was in our best interest. The next you will say is Cabbage is good for us- yes it's green but you pass too much- unintended consequences


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:29 a.m.

I will attend the only "meeting" that really matters... the election that will bury this vampire boondoggle and all the fellow traveler zombies from the Hieftjeite cabal who are behind it. If the University wants to become more like Disney World, it can just build the "Tomorrow Land" monorail around the various campus locations itself. They have some nerve, trying to pick our pockets to build their boondoggles.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:17 a.m.

It's not that you're dumb, it's that you don't understand the issues here. That happens EVERYWHERE rail transit is built and it will be the transit authority's significant job to educate as many voters as they can, realizing that many will simply not be educated. Like obama voters, they have a intellectual shield that reflects and defies logic or reasoning. Convincing the hard core is never the objective - they are already lost to forces that live under their foil hats. My recommendation is to consider the completely foreign concept that everyone is not out to get you, you don't posses all the answers today and even experiment with developing an open mind.

Angry Moderate

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 2:34 a.m.

The last 2 times we gave our input, the powers that be wrote op-eds arguing that we are too dumb to have and opinion, and actually mean "yes" when we say "no."

Steven Taylor

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 2 a.m.

Boy, the powers that be in Ypsi/A2 are really pushing these fiscally irresponsible transit ideas to foist upon the taxpayers, how can we finally nip this idiocy in the butt? Do I have to run for office and send these hippies out on their respective transit plans?


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

Please do. It would be amusing to watch you lose in a landslide. I am not satisfied with the current transit system. Many of you arguing against it don't seem to have much experience using our service. I hope the city is looking into providing the smoothest ride possible (such as dedicated lanes, fewer red lights, etc).


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

Buses are better for Ann Arbor because flexible routes and times over the years will meet changing needs. If a bus route from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti becomes more popular, run one or both routes to Ypsilanti more frequently. As a native Chicagoan and now a visitor to that area, I've witnessed the heavy usage of public transportation there. The density in the city is different from Ann Arbor's density. At 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday, I rode a full, double length bus from north Michigan Avenue, express up the outer drive until it started to make stops almost six miles later occurs at 9:30 p.m.. That usage of public transportation occurs several times an hour. It's frequent, fast, and used. Even in that situation, buses work. Trolleys gave way to buses many years ago. Is it too much to expect that those planning improvements to our public transportation actually call Metra (which includes what was formerly CTA or Chicago Transportation Authority) officials and ask why trolley service gave way to bus service? It would be quicker and cheaper than the study proposed now. By the way, minibuses and an expansion of Michivan transportation between Ann Arbor and locations between here and Detroit, as well as between here and Livingston County would be more frequent, more flexible, and used more than the rail service some promote.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

Shepard145 - Many of your bullet points are accurate but apply only for large cities when installation of track was early in the city's development. As planned for Ann Arbor, light rail or trolley tracks would essentially be laid along one route. Many users will still have to transfer to buses or walk distances to get to their final destinations. Like buses that already travel along the route, trips will be prolonged by many stops due to traffic, pedestrians using cross-walks and traffic signals. If parking is readily available at the commuters' destinations then using an automobile will reduce their travel time relative to public transportation. Light rail and trolley cars will impede private vehicle travel along the shared route since they will occupy a lane used by automobiles. Furthermore, the 30-mph speed limit placed on trolley service will slow down vehicular traffic presently allowed to travel at higher speeds, such as a long Plymouth Road and South State Street. Bus travel is presently providing acceptable public transportation along the routes being considered for light rail or trolley service. Buses are more versatile, being able to go around impaired vehicles which could obstruct track. Buses can stop at curb cuts to accept and discharge passengers without delaying other traffic. Buses can operate during major power outages, should they ever occur. No significant benefit will be gained by installing light rail or trolley transportation systems. Therefore, costly investment in these types of transportation will be wasteful and unwarranted. The continued use of hybrid bio-fuel powered buses is the most efficient and cost effective method of providing public transportation in Ann Arbor.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 10:37 p.m.

Veracity, Bus are most certainly not the most "cost effective method of providing public transportation in Ann Arbor. It costs the AATA $1.10 per passenger mile to move people by bus according to the National Transit Database. That's higher than the national average of 90 cents per passenger mile. Light rail's national average is only 60 cents, almost half of what AATA spends on buses. That's not cost effective!


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

So, I see they're at it again - A2's perpetual boondogglers. This is like a video game! As soon as the people shoot down one boondoggle, up pops another one for us to draw a quick bead on. Whaddaya' say, Ryan?! When do we get to take a shot at this abomination at the polls? It may never get that far, as it falls victim to the fiscal cliff negotiations, or the actual "cliff" itself. Either way, these folks need a reality check - this turkey will never fly. Be a lot cheaper to just buy everybody who might conceivably want to ride it a new car.

Rita Mitchell

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

Yes, please go to the meetings that are listed in the article. I suggest that all of us who attend ask questions about cost, routes, and maintenance. If the answers are "We don't know the costs", then we as a community should be wary of proceeding. The map shows a broad swath of potential location for the services. It's not clear how any proposed routes may interact with existing traffic, and whether there is an assumption that park land will be used (please, NO!). I recall attending meetings about the recently defeated Washtenaw County 4-party transportation agreement, at which presentations focused on what sounded like good services, without addressing costs, frequency of services, or the effect on existing public transportation. It is not fair to present these ideas without also giving information about costs against which we can assess benefits to the community. It's not clear that there is a demand for the kind of services described. What data are being used to justify the project? Can existing public transportation be upgraded to address the same needs?

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:10 a.m.

Too much common sense in this response. They don't care about the cost - they will just keep proposing this until someone hands them a blank check (Hiefje's trying his best).


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3:57 a.m.

It's not about cost, honey - it's about the future of the City.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

Bus transit is not permanent so has no value with respect to density and planning. Permanent rail based transit in the City is a win win win. It offers the following: a. a critical transportation option for high quality, high performing transit option for those who drive cars into the City every day, b. it would inspire transit oriented development in the City, c. satisfy an expectation for many companies who would consider relocating from states/countries with mass transit, d. detach student, urban workers and residents from the requirement to rely on cars/parking to access the City, e. a huge advantage during large events like the Art Fair and football games, allowing large numbers of people to move around the city with relative ease, f. provide a link to a regional system connecting Metro Airport, Detroit, etc. if one day Michigan gets it's act together. g. done right, rail transit fosters improved property values and massive private investment - in the range of 9 dollars for every public dollar. Keep in mind that it is an amenity - it is not a self supporting for profit business. It's value comes from all the good it does for a city in other ways so often confuses the masses. many of those writing here who think that the fewer services AA has, the better off it will be. ...tell that to Chicago. There – print that off and I'll send you some addresses for transit station locations and you mail me a check for only $1.3 million and we'll call it good. The idea that this is still being "studied" is moronic. There are volumes of studies – mostly by dim wits and well meaning amateurs – that all come to the same conclusions. Time to stop talking about it and start laying track!!


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 10:32 p.m.

Macbre Sunset, Actually as I noted above in another post, Ann Arbor has a population of 114,925 and a population density of 4,093.9 people per square mile. Salt Lake City has a population of 189,899 and 1,678.0 people per sq/mile. Salt Lake City has 3 light rail lines, with a 4th to open early next year. They also just broke ground on a Streetcar line this year. SLC buses in 2011 moved just over 6 million more rides than light rail did, 21,560,358 by bus and 15,333,491 by light rail train. But they spent 3 times as much on those buses as they did on light rail, with $107,815,451 for buses and $34,821,026 on light rail.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

I agree. While AA's bus system is one of the better ones in the region (midwest) and it's ridership per bus make's Detroit's look like a joke, busses don't really handle traffic issues. They help with those who don't mind taking longer to get to work and those who don't have a car/license. The problem with busses, they have to stop at the same lights, the same rail crossings, and get into the same congestion.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 6:36 a.m.

This would be true if Ann Arbor were about five times larger than it is. There simply isn't the density or the volume to support the cost of these projects. Would it do good? Probably. Would it do enough good to justify even one tenth of its cost? Not even close. As it is now, it's simply a feel-good toy for a bunch of entitled caboose liberals.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3:56 a.m.

Speaking of amateurs. Chicago's high cost of living was caused by the L rather than democrat mismanagement (see Ann Arbor)? LOL Sure thing - 23 skidoo. Maybe I'm wrong and the fewer amenities AA offers, the more the City will prosper? LOL NOT. News flash - few tax paying citizens with a choice will ride a bus because it's low class transit they find repugnant. Fact O Life. From a planning standpoint, buses have no value except transporting the poor and as connector to more regional forms of transit. Time to get off the bus. If you think "flexibility" is the main priority for transit, pretend we also know nothing about planning cities and buy more parking structures at $62,000 per car. LOL

michael Limmer

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 11:30 p.m.

Not only do tracks eliminate flexibility, but all of this seems demand another group of managers to move the same number of people around that currently exists. Instead, why don't taxpayers demand the merging of all bus systems in the area? Why have AATA, U of M, the hospital, and the schools all having their own fiefdoms?

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

"Bus transit is not permanent...." OR better put.... Bus transit is flexible. It can change to accommodate need.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

Absolute bull... want Chicago's cost of living too?! Move to Chicago. No one in his right mind here wants anything to do with this boondoggle.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

Another colossal waste of money. This proposal is like a vampire. No mater what the voters want, it just refuses to die.

Linda Peck

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

What the heck? We vote down a library and a millage for art, and surrounding communities don't want bus service to come here, and now this? Where is the room on the street for this? Take the bus or drive a car or ride a bicycle or walk. Those are all good methods of getting somewhere. We don't need a trolley, too. Apparently, there was an expensive study done in 2008 that said this. Who would benefit from conducting another study? What consulting firm? Who are they friends with? Sheesh!


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

Hmm...most of that area is UM problem, not the city or the county, let them deal with it. I'd be happy to drop on and voice that opinion.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

Right, because UM does nothing for our community. Boy, I wish our largest employer would just relocate and leave us alone. Oh wait, you mean if they leave we no longer benefit from their presence? Oh, now small businesses are closing and property values are bottoming out? Oh, our satellite communities of Dexter, Saline, and Ypsialnti are becoming depressed? Hmm, maybe this stuff benefits more than just the University. Nah, nevermind. I hear Rush Limbaugh. I LOVE that guy.

Basic Bob

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 11:50 p.m.

Right, I thought our busiest corridor was Washtenaw.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

Your Party Masters have spoken, you Ann Arborites who smugly vote a straight party ticket. Until you replace the Masters, they are going to keep trotting this stuff out until it passes....


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

easy123, Do you drive? Because if you do, then you too are a "user." Sorry! But it's true. We drivers only manage to cover 51% of the costs of our highways via fuel taxes and other direct fees. With annual combined State & Federal spending hovering around $200 Billion a year, that's a $100 Billion subsidy to drivers. That would pay to run every bus, train, monorail, ferry, automated people mover, and demand response service in the US for 4 years. And that's just highway spending!


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

DiscoStu - Using our money - because you do not contribute - you use


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 11:36 a.m.

Stay with your torch and pitch-fork brethren while we consider growth and transportation issues (imagine that, it actually is important to consider transportation during growth rather than way, way after the fact) .

Ron Granger

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

"What will the future of transit look like in Ann Arbor?" Millions spent on a study, but no mention of bicycles and protected bike paths. I guess they just aren't exciting like a People Mover.

Ron Granger

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

People who don't bike to work shouldn't tell people who do bike to work what is possible. Minneapolis didn't get the memo. It has been ranked as the #1 bike city in the US. Someone should tell those people they can't do that because of the weather. I know people who bike to work every day. If there is a foot of fresh snow, all the better.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Or maybe the planners just realize that with the rainy/snowly climate, the short dark days of winter, the hot, humid summers, and the student population that carries about 40 pounds of books around all day, mass bike transportation WILL NEVER HAPPEN here. Not surprisingly, there are people that focus on things are demonstrably popular and heavily used where they are available (that would be streetcars, all over the world, they are popular) and work to encourage people to make use of them because they actually have the novel characteristic of making sense....

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

I would encourage all commenters to attend one of the drop-in sessions. They have made opportunities at many different places and times. The purpose of this leg of the study is to find out what mode (streetcars, BRT buses, etc.) are most accepted/feasible and this is a chance to weigh in with your opinions. Some of the comments here are about the route. I think that is under consideration too. Note that the "boomerang" map dates back to at least 2010. There are many questions about it, that's for sure. Here is a chance to learn more and express your opinion. No, I'm not on their payroll!


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

They are public servants. They do not care what we think.

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

Like it or not, these public input sessions result in data collection. The data will be used to make decisions, or at least to justify them. Commenting anonymously on an online news feed only relieves your feelings. Your comments will not matter to the process itself. I don't personally support the connector plans, but I'm going to be there to put in my two cents and also to find out what is being said.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3 a.m.

Many here have already "expressed "our opinion!


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 5:18 p.m.

Streetcars in Ann Arbor. What could possibly go wrong?


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

SonnyDog, If we're going to argue "So, why implement a system that relies on people to "obey the law and follow the signs and signals" then we might as well just ban driving all together. The problem isn't with the trolley, streetcar, or light rail train. The problem is giving out driver licenses to people who either won't obey or can't understand the rules that they must obey.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

But, ahblid, we know that half of drivers, not to mention pedestrians and cyclists, are below average. So, why implement a system that relies on people to "obey the law and follow the signs and signals", when there is so much evidence that shows that they clearly do not? Yes, if all drivers were competent and paying attention, there would be no accidents with trolleys. I realize that this is oz, but, why mix the trolleys and cars needlessly? The folly trolley tracks will take up space on our already narrow roads, and will inevitably result in car/trolley collisions.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

5c0++ H4d13y, It's only unsafe when drivers refuse to obey the law and follow the signs & signals.

5c0++ H4d13y

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

Dare I say, "Unsafe at any speed".


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

It is scary that something like this is the best our "educated" have to offer!

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

Another $1.5 million boondoggle study. And still with the worst boondoggle of them all, WALLY, featured. The people who keep spending our money so recklessly should be held criminally accountable.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

Great idea and initial plan.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

NECESSARY? Likely NOT! Officials of the AATA are proposing major investment in a new transportation system as part of the Ann Arbor Connector plan. Changes would be boomerang in shape, invoving East Plymouth Road through North Campus passing by the University Hospital and proceeding down State Street through Central Campus/Downtown to Briarwood Mall. Depending on the type of surface transportation utilized the cost of construction will likely range from a few million dollars to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. AATA proponents favor major changes in transportation for our city in order to accommodate growth in travel along these routes that they expect over the next twenty years. Before deciding on the best means to expanding transportation the demand for additional services should be carefully assessed. In this regard, the population of Ann Arbor in 2011 is estimated to have been 114,925, only a 0.9% increase from the previous year (see: The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) predicts little population growth by 2030, estimating the population to be 116,270 at that time (see: In absolute numbers, then, Ann Arbor will gain only 1,345 citizens (or 1.1%) in the next 20 years. AATA proponents for expanding transportation may claim also that demand for services comes from commuters living in other communities in Southeast Michigan. However, SEMCOG estimates that population in all of Southeast Michigan will only grow by 368,200 people, from 5,033,085 to 5,401,285 or 7.3%, in the next 20 years. Even with this small change in population no one can anticipate how many new residents to our region will commute to Ann Arbor, leave their vehicles at a park-and-ride commuter lot and then use Ann Arbor's transportation system.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 4:24 a.m.

Yea, and LETS GET RID OF THAT MACKINAC BRIDGE WHILE WE'RE AT IT! Bridges are no good and I have the web sites to prove it! Herbert Hoover would never go near anything made of that new "steel" everyone's bragging about. If it wasn't make from wood, he would rather go around it! Tarnation and 23 skidoo.

Ron Granger

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

I am a big fan of alternatives to the car. However, I see most of the stops seem to be University destinations. How much is the University proposing to pay for this? Why aren't they paying for consultants? How many highly compensated people and consultants are we paying at AATA to just dream up new system expansions?


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

At first glance, the map of this proposal looks like a gerrymandered congressional district drawn with partisan vigor. At second glance, it looks worse. This is about an 80 percent UM transit scheme, and they already have a transit department. Let the U build it.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

I think people have made it clear they do not want a new Amtrak station at Fuller park! A new station should be constructed on the outskirts of town not in the middle. Put it on the outskirts people coming to work- which is why this is needed right? reduce street traffic- can then take the mode of transportation to the down town area, not the other way around

Elijah Shalis

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 3 p.m.

I would suggest buses that run to 10pm on all days. The city is too small for any kind of rail system, let U of M pay for it.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

Basically in a nut shell, this is the plan! AATA must get U-M to eliminate their bus system, then AATA can charge U-M tons of money to fund this and other off the wall schemes. Study the Connector plan, this will eliminate 95% of U-M's bus routes, replaced by the connector routes. None of AATA's routes that run in the same corridor are eliminated, only somewhat "realigned"

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

Ironically, there is a poll elsewhere on this site asking whether we think Ann Arbor is a small town. Nothing says "small town" like street cars, light rail and a 110,000 seat stadium.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

"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, a consultant told the city last year, pointing to examples in Portland, Little Rock, Seattle and Tacoma." when one looks at data for those cities in terms of population and area they are all considerably bigger than Ann Arbor. So I'm not sure how relevant that information is.


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

Craig, Actually Tacoma isn't much larger than Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor has a population of 114,925 and a population density of 4,093.9 people per square mile. Tacoma comes in with a population of 200,678 about 75,000 more and a population density of 3,990.2 people per sq/mile. Little Rock comes in with 195,314 and 1,623.5. Salt Lake City is yet another good example, with a population of 189,899 and 1,678.0 people per sq/mile. And Salt Lake City has 3 light rail lines, with a 4th to open early next year. They also just broke ground on a Streetcar line this year. If a city with just 75,000 more people and a much lower all important population density can support 4 light rail lines and a Streetcar, then Ann Arbor can support at least 1 line.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

They also have much larger highways serving them. Until the highways have 3 or 4 lanes, rail is a costly and inefficient way to move people. That's why there isn't a city in the country Ann Arbor's size that has rail.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

I believe it was in 2008, when Ann Arbor News was still a paper, that I was frustrated with the city spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a trolley car feasability study. And I see from this article, last year some consultant said soemthing about trolleys as well. If I recall, the 2008 feasibility came up with no, it's not feasible (surprise surprise). Was this just a different area? Are we spening millions of dollars examining the feasibility of trolleys on one streetk, then another few hundred thousand on a different street? So are they just repeating the same study over and over? I'm seeing a lot of money go to studies, and the studies seem pretty similar. I also notice that in the report, the justification for some new transit system is based on forecasts, but also says that the major cities cited believed their numbers justified a new transit system, not that the transit system they put in place wound up having some kind of provable payoff that made it worth it: "This level of ridership is well within the range of what other cities have determined to be supportive of advanced transit technologies." These studies seem like they might come from the street/transportation budget (bucket), right? SO FIX THE ROADS!! HAVE YOU DRIVEN ON THESE ROADS? FIX THE ROADS!!!!!

average joe

Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

RU- Seems appropiate that this plan is shaped like a boomerang. It keeps coming back around....


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

@RU, the point here is that the powers that be at AATA want this "mega pot" of (taxpayer) money. Providing Transit Service is low on the AATA priority list. AATA has not yet received nor is in understanding of the message that was sent recently when the County Wide Master Transit Plan floundered. AATA again, still, and always will be funding Consultants to tell us what we need, and should pay for according to the AATA wish list.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

So how much of a tax increase will be required to support this project? Since AATA riders do not pay the full cost of their bus usage then "someone else" will again be asked to pay for this expansion of service. Didn't we just have an election to determine the mood of the voters on tax increases? Maybe AATA should be spending money on improved services now instead of expensive studies.

Dog Guy

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

19th Century Ann Arbor's streetcar system connected a busy train station to business, residential, and rural areas. Preliminary work was done by Rep. James Ashley, the builder and president of the Ann Arbor Railroad, for an unneeded second streetcar system. Crank up Mr. Fusion and charge your flux capacitors to 1.21GW. I'll wait here and now until you get back.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

As a westside resident this provides no benefit for me. Arboriginal has already stated the second part of my comment/analysis.


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

I fully support the U building a new transportation system for itself!


Mon, Dec 3, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

How is a tax supported institution spending money on this different that any other tax funded entity. with that said - it would be nice if U-M could use it's endowment to make whatever is decided better?


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 11:38 p.m.

Like the Blue Buses that already run 20 hours a day?

rusty shackelford

Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

I'd settle for buses that run past 5pm on a Saturday and/or are frequent enough not to be packed beyond capacity.