You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Mar 4, 2010 : 11:25 a.m.

University of Michigan plans forum to discuss 'future transportation' options for Ann Arbor

By Nathan Bomey

The University of Michigan is about to take another step toward its transportation future.

U-M announced this morning that it plans to host a panel of "future transportation" experts to discuss ideas for how to better connect the university's central, north and medical campuses.

The March 10 event comes after U-M President Mary Sue Coleman announced last fall that the university would start the process of considering alternative transit options by hosting a high-profile forum in early 2010.

U-M executives have said they're willing to consider a variety of options, including perhaps light-rail, an aerial tram, trolleys or other options.

Community members are invited to share suggestions during the forum, which takes place from 7-9:30 p.m. March 10 at Stamps Auditorium on U-M's North Campus.

Coleman said last fall that the university's $108 million acquisition of the 174-acre ex-Pfizer campus adjacent to North Campus accelerated the university's transportation planning process.

The forum comes after Google co-founder and U-M grad Larry Page pitched his vision for a "personal rapid transit system" on Ann Arbor's campus in a discussion with Coleman in spring 2009.

The forum includes experts on a variety of technologies, including: Mark Fuhrmann of Minneapolis Light Rail; Hugh Kierig of the West Virginia University's personal rapid transit system; Chris Perkins of Unimodal Personal Rapid Transit; Jim Spakauskas of Bombardier; Michael York of Cleveland Euclid Corridor; Randy Woolwine of Doppelmayr.

It's unclear whether the university is willing to dip into its vast financial resources to fund a major transportation infrastructure project.

But U-M is actively coordinating a separate initiative with the city of Ann Arbor in which officials hope to construct a transit station on Fuller Road.

That station could ultimately connect rail commuters, the bus system, drivers and bikers. U-M has agreed to pay 78 percent of the costs of constructing the station, which could cost between $40 million and $45 million.

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or or follow him on Twitter. You can also subscribe to Business Review's weekly e-newsletter or the upcoming breaking business news e-newsletter.


Phillip Farber

Mon, Mar 8, 2010 : 11:42 a.m.

The University would be wise to avoid high-tech gozmos like jpods and monorails in spite of their installation at a few college campuses. We have an existing infrastructure that could be leveraged as @kenUM suggested above. I don't disagree that there are maintenance costs associated with roadways and that paved surfaces are made from oil. But high-tech systems have their own costs that more basic bus rapid-transit systems would not be subject to. We don't have to maintain an entire road system to make BRT's efficient; only the roads on the bus routes. And it's clear that we're going to have to let go of some portion of our existing inefficient road system of private autos anyhow since we already do not have the revenues to maintain its full extent.. Quito, Ecuador -- not exactly a first world country -- has already shown how successful a BRT system can be.


Fri, Mar 5, 2010 : 8:01 a.m.

If anyone have been to Morgantown West Virginia to see their system - you would be astonished at how quick and efficient their people mover system is - I applaud UM to think out of the box and consider such a system. It would be a great addition.


Fri, Mar 5, 2010 : 1:25 a.m.

PRT systems like JPods (, to add to the list of links above) are potentially sustainable forms of transportation due to their light weight and being powered by electricity, which can be supplied by renewable sources (or nuclear as an extended transition technology -- see Bill Gates' TED talk on U-235 processing potential.) Ann Arbor would be at a distinct economic advantage if the U were to invest in such a system, which could be expanded over time to extend beyond campus. Our current system of asphalt (i.e., petroleum) roads, requiring sweeping several times per year and plowing and salting/sanding in winter, traveled by heavy, gasoline-powered vehicles is unsustainable, as may be electric cars, in part because they wouldn't be affordable to many people. Sustainability relies on social equity -- many more people, including children and elderly, could ride a PRT system than could afford or be able to drive cars -- in addition to economic vitality and environmental quality (to reference a widely used model.)


Thu, Mar 4, 2010 : 6:50 p.m.

@aabikes U-M Transit already covers the athletic area; COMMUTER SOUTH to CRISLER ARENA every 10 minutes 630am to 830pm then every 15 minutes 830pm to 130am Monday thru Friday from North Campus to the athletic buildings ( While these other ideas are cool and trendy,does anybody have the slightest clue as to how much Light Rail or any of these other ideas costs? People scream about tuition rates now, have any idea how much tuition would be raised if U-M went with something like this. A good example is to look at the grant that the City of Detroit received for the small light rail project that is going to be attempted along Woodward Ave. If you want to improve transportation between Central and North Campus we should be looking at a BRT priority lane along Fuller road with the ability of changing the traffic lights as the bus approaches the intersection. While I agree that transportation needs some improvement; U-M needs to invest in articulated buses and improved frequency of the Campus bus routes. The other problem with any type of Light Rail, Trams, or other fixed guide way system is that it is FIXED. These systems can not be changed without huge cost and planning, the current system may not be the sexiest, but it is capable of being changed at a moments notice.

Adam Jaskiewicz

Thu, Mar 4, 2010 : 5:03 p.m.

aabikes, maybe... I'm just picturing scores of maize-and-blue football helmet-shaped gondolas bobbing along a cable above the Power Center.


Thu, Mar 4, 2010 : 4:40 p.m.

I'm sure we have the engineering knowledge to install several strategically placed trebuchets to fling people to their destinations.

Adam Jaskiewicz

Thu, Mar 4, 2010 : 2:27 p.m.

An aerial tram? Seriously? That seems more like a novelty/tourist thing than a practical transportation option. Light rail seems to be the most straightforward solution. Maybe elevated or underground so it doesn't have to interact with traffic. While we're at it, put another line down Jackson/Huron/Washtenaw from Depot Town to Zeeb.

Nathan Bomey

Thu, Mar 4, 2010 : 12:45 p.m.

The university's press release is now online:

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Mar 4, 2010 : 12:17 p.m.

Given the number of people who work at the university, this is the kind of issue that mass transit can solve. Much better than wasteful ideas like WALLY or the trains between here and Grand Rapids that run at 200 mph.


Thu, Mar 4, 2010 : 12:05 p.m.

I love the ariel tram idea to help connect the Main Campus and North Campus.