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Posted on Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

Concerns surround Fuller Road transit center as project moves to Ann Arbor City Council for approval

By Ryan J. Stanton


The proposed Fuller Road Station Phase I project, shown here, includes a parking structure with accommodations for bicycles and buses.

A proposal to build a new transit center along Fuller Road was met with some resistance Monday night during a special work session of the Ann Arbor City Council.

While some council members, including Mayor John Hieftje, appear to be in full support of the $43 million Phase I project, it's evident some still need convincing — including Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, and Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward.

"It seems to me that we're moving ahead on something that may not be of service to the community," Anglin said. "I'm not interested in providing parking for the university."

The city's long-term vision for the area south side of Fuller Road — just east of East Medical Center Drive and in front of the University of Michigan medical campus — includes an intermodal transit facility with accommodations for trains, bicycles, buses and pedestrians.

But a new train station isn't expected to happen until future phases. The first phase of Fuller Road Station, which the council is being asked to approve now, includes a five-level, 977-space parking structure with five built-in bus bays and 103 bicycle parking spaces.

The university is paying for 78 percent of the total project costs, and thus would get rights to 78 percent of the parking spaces in the structure.

A contract between the city and the university to move forward with the project is expected to come before the City Council for approval by March.

"The idea of having a multimodal transportation center at this location is one that was born at the city, and not the university," Sue McCormick, the city's public services area administrator, stressed to council members Monday night.

Anglin said he's not yet convinced the city should pump $10 million into the project. He said he has concerns that the project would be located on a footprint that — though it has been a paved parking lot for many years — is technically zoned city parkland.


City Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, made known his concerns about the Fuller Road Station project Monday.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"We have a beautiful site there and we'll be destroying it by putting this large structure there," he said, adding he also is concerned the city may be relying on overly optimistic population growth estimates from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

"We've recently found out in the recent census that we actually have lost population, sadly," he said. "And the 2035 projection of us growing is a SEMCOG projection that probably is no longer sustainable, so I don't think that assumption can be continued to be worked with."

Eli Cooper, the city's transportation program manager, gave a lengthy presentation Monday night in which he summed up the reasons behind the project.

"Ann Arbor is a growing regional employment center," he said. "Approximately 20,000 new jobs are forecast to come here over the next 25 years or so. As a result of that employment forecast, significant transportation issues have been framed."

Cooper said commuter rail has been recognized as a means to bring workers into the city of Ann Arbor. He said that has many attractive attributes, including lower reliance on automobile travel, less energy consumption, reduced air pollution and reduced need for parking.

He said great strides have been made on the Ann Arbor-to-Detroit commuter rail initiative, as well as a proposed Ann Arbor-to-Howell connection known as WALLY. In the midst of those efforts, the federal government has put a significant amount of money behind a high-speed rail initiative for the Ann Arbor-to-Chicago corridor.

Cooper said another element that led Ann Arbor to consider building a new intermodal transit center was a closer inspection of the current Amtrak station at 325 Depot St. It's the busiest Amtrak station in Michigan, handling nearly 150,000 riders per year, he said.

"By many measures, it's inadequate today and will become increasingly inadequate as we move forward," he said. "The site along Depot Street and Broadway is constrained. Road access is poor, there's limited parking, and the parking that exists is a difficult stretch away."

Cooper added that Amtrak anticipates doubling its ridership over the next 20 to 25 years, which will only worsen the congestion problems.

"With respect to the primary road that the Amtrak station sits upon, there are daily backups," he said, demonstrating the problems on a map. "Think about adding another couple hundred commuters and/or high-speed rail to this mix, throw in a couple of buses, and you could understand why this is truly inadequate for serving a high-capacity transit system."

Anglin took a shot at the traffic figures city staff has been using to support the project, questioning the relevance of the 30,000 transit trips that occur daily along Fuller Road.

"The 30,000 rides back and forth are students on buses from the main campus to north campus," he said. "They're not stopping at Fuller Road. They're going right past it."

Hieftje noted it was by unanimous vote of the City Council, including Anglin, that the city has reached this point and moved through design phase of the project.

Cooper and other city officials who have been pushing the transit center concept for the last two years continue to refer to Fuller Road Station as the future "gateway" to Ann Arbor. 

U-M Planner Sue Gott spoke to that Monday night about the Phase I project.

"We wanted to make sure that this facility would complement the future train station as a landmark," Gott said. "So that led to thinking architecturally about this building being somewhat of a backdrop, so that the real foreground statement can occur when the train station is designed and implemented in future phases."

Gott said the university sees the project as "an opportunity to support the city's vision, which we share, for a transformative facility that really brings Ann Arbor into the new century."


U-M spokesman Jim Kosteva talks about the need for Fuller Road Station at Monday's meeting.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Cooper presented a map showing nearly 40 locations throughout Washtenaw County where there are public lands adjacent to the Norfolk-Southern Railroad. He said a countywide search for a transit center site turned up Fuller Road as the most ideal location.

"What we found with this particular site is it's adjacent to the University of Michigan medical complex, which is one of the primary anchor industries within our community," he said. "With over 17,000 workers coming and going daily and over 2 million visitors a year, we see the walk access from the Fuller Road Station site to the medical campus one of the key elements."

U-M spokesman Jim Kosteva clarified that there actually are about 18,000 to 20,000 employees daily going to work at the university's medical campus. He said the university as a whole has seen a net increase of about 4,500 new full-time positions in the past five years, and U-M leaders expect the medical campus to continue to be a center for job growth.

"Those are big city numbers right there, and this is probably the most concentrated employment center in the region," Hieftje said.

"That's correct," Kosteva responded. "I can't think myself of another area throughout much of the Midwest — outside of major metropolitan areas like New York or Chicago — where you have that level of concentration of employees that are located within such close proximity to a single point of intersection with a railroad line."

Cooper said 14 citizen meetings have occurred to date on the Fuller Road transit center project, including meetings where public input was taken on the various phases.

"The first level of the Phase I facility will have 18-foot-high ceilings. That allows for the entire footprint of this facility to serve as a transit interface," he said. "Buses can operate inside and under the roof within the entirety of this Phase I facility."

Cooper said the beauty of the Fuller Road Station design is that it has the ability to accommodate another 500 to 600 vehicles through future vertical expansion of the parking structure.

Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, wondered about the potential impact on traffic along Fuller Road.

Cooper said a roundabout likely will be built at the intersection of Fuller and East Medical Center Drive. If that's done, in the year 2035 — with full buildout of both the transit center and the nearby Lower Town neighborhood — the city has nothing to worry about, he said.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Sat, Jan 15, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

They can call it a "transit centre" all that they want. It's just a parking structure. If UofM wants to build themselves a parking structure, they should do so with their own money. What it might be, someday, maybe, if we can borrow some more money from the Chinese, does not change what it will be when it is built: a parking structure.

Corey Fellabaum

Fri, Jan 14, 2011 : 9:54 p.m.

Both the university and the city should pay 50-50 because then the university can share equally and not take most of the parking structure. The current Amtrak station is small and needs more room. Their is not parking that is on or close then across the Broadway Bridge. And parking on the streets is only for a 2 hour limit. Depot st is in bad condition and also most of all downtown streets. We need more transportation options in the Ann Arbor Area. We need an option of transportation to different cities in Michigan like a statewide mass transit service(Light rail, train, or bus).

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Jan 14, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

@LiberalNIMBY I asked Gott to clarify that statement and she offered this: "The master plan for the Fuller Road Station site, as approved by the Ann Arbor City Council in 2009, calls for the future train station to be the focal point for the entire development and will be located on the downtown end of the site. Because the train station will be designed in the future, the Phase One Intermodal Facility has been planned in a flexible manner that will support a range of possible future designs for the station."

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Jan 14, 2011 : 11:38 a.m.

What I'm not seeing in this discussion is the tie-in to UM transportation planning with the structure. Regardless of what Sue McCormick says, UM has been engaged in planning for its transportation needs for some time. It has a problem with very high traffic between the North and Central campuses. The Fuller Road Station is shown as a nexus for high-capacity transport such as a light rail system. See the Connector Study site, I reported on the UM transportation forum of nearly a year ago on my blog at The city's role has been supported partly by our mayor's love affair with the WALLY idea (the northbound train to Howell). See My best understanding is that this has repeatedly failed to win grants and earmarks, yet we continue to put in local money and planning for it. I don't think we have been told where the $10 million from the city will come from. Perhaps reporters have that information?

Kai Petainen

Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

krc... good question. I don't know. will they keep the yellow/orange lots with the same shuttle services? if so, how long into the future will they keep it? how long will it be before they phase out some of the closest yellow/orange lots to the ann arbor downtown? i would be quite surprised if there are any yellow/orange lots in a brand new beautiful state of the art parking/transit lot.

Kai Petainen

Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

krc... good question. I don't know. will they keep the yellow/orange lots with the same shuttle services? if so, how long into the future will they keep it? how long will it be before they phase out some of the closest yellow/orange lots to the ann arbor downtown? i would be quite surprised if there are any yellow/orange lots in a brand new beautiful state of the art parking/transit lot.


Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 4:55 p.m.

@Kai, just where are the people who can't afford Blue/Gold parking going to go??


Thu, Jan 13, 2011 : 4:55 p.m.

@Kai, just where are the people who can't afford Blue/Gold parking going to go??

Kai Petainen

Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 10:26 p.m.

The transit center sounds like a parking lot to replace 3 cheap parking lots. It also sounds like an opportunity for the school (and perhaps the city) to make some $. There are certainly some pros/cons to this proposal. Business-wise it might make some sense. Convert 3 cheap parking lots from yellow/orange to one big blue/gold parking lot. Employees will want to park in new lot. Stop shuttle service, save money? Sell the shuttles, find other jobs for the shuttle drivers, save money? Save $ on snowplowing and lighting? From my quick calculations, if you convert those spots to blue/gold, it'll pull in at least $500000 more per year from parking fees. Environmental-wise: It seems odd to build a large-scale parking lot next to a river. I said enough about this already. PR-wise it sounds bad: "Tree Town reduces emergency services, Scenic River receives $40 Million Parking Lot" "A2 Parks in a Transit Center and Transits to a Parking Lot" "Kayakers Ticketed for Mistaking Parking Lot for Campsite" But why 977 spots? I'm not sure, but I'll tell you how I got 974 spots. That's only 3 off from 977. Transit centers NC78 and M75 are serviced by shuttles to the hospital: Today, the parking lots were full of cars. I saw no one playing baseball, so I presume most were working. Neither was anyone launching fireworks (roman candles?) straight into/at the ducks/geese resting in the Huron River (I saw some folks doing that the other night). Using Google maps satellite view, I counted: 251 parking spots in NC78 474 parking spots in M75 249 parking spots in M71 = 974 parking spots. My calculation is off by 3 parking spots. Which might imply that the transit center will almost replace 3 parking lots and it will be almost full of cars from the 3 lots. I could see how this could help a lot of employees, and create some money for the University -- and that would be a good thing for them. I can see from that perspective, how that is beneficial and good. But please: 1. Call it what it is -- a parking lot. 2. Update the enivornmental report and be mindful of the environment. The environmental report does not have the spill from last year in it (that happened near the site), and so (it would seem) that the environmental report is not up to date. Also, were any other tanks removed in 2010? Will phosphoric acid for cleaning be completely banned (if it isn't already banned)?


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 4:25 p.m.

I am not sure how many parking spots are available at the current train station, but if i am correct the city would own about 200 of these parking spots. Is that less then the current amount of spots at the train station, and if not is it a big upgrade. What/Who are the city spots for????? And if we are trying to increase rail riders are they enough? Even avoiding all of this why are we paying for U of M? A way to fix the budget would be to extract the money U of M has not given Ann Arbor for fire dept service. Although they are not obliged (this is somewhat of a state/political issue. However there probably is standing for a lawsuit... )I think the request must be made continually, and ann arbor should make it known that U of M will not be covered by their fire department. It is unfair for a local population to let a gigantic state entitiy freeride on this service. It may seem a bit dramatic, harsh, and even a little bit of high statkes poker, but u of m should be given a choice to pay money (their share based on a % of land owned) for the aafd service over the past few years and from this time forward or face the fact that aafd will not respond to their properties. If a U building catches fire, let it burn, but protect the interests of those non U buildings surrounding it. Some will argue this is cruel and "what if its the hospital?" but for a university endowed with over $7,000,000,000 ( i havent checked this number lately) paying for its share of the fire bill is a tiny expense. Additonally if the city were to recieve this money, especially the payment of past expenses, we would be able to fill some of the budget gap with it.... But instead the city is spending 10M to build u of m a parking structure...

Rita Mitchell

Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

Speechless, Yes, indeed, the parking structure is proposed for the Fuller Road Park specifically because when UM proposed building a parking structure in the Wall Street area to support staff and patient parking near the eye center, neighbors resisted. I would have done the same if such a proposal were made to build a parking structure near my home, so I agree with that neighborhood's reaction. What I do not agree with is the city proposing use of park land for a parking structure (see above: "...they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot."). As a matter of fact, the city was active in developing the idea, with the Regents' blessing, during 2008-2009. Now, what we have under consideration, and with a significant amount of our tax dollars spent in planning to date, is a parking structure that will take up park open space that belongs to all of us. Yes, I know it's been used for a parking lot for some years. That's the slippery slope. Originally, parking at Fuller Park was based on a temporary arrangement with the University. Now look what's happening: We could get a parking structure that will last 75 years. We citizens will own the structure and be responsible for its maintenance. The University will get to use it. Is that the "highest and best use" of our park land? Is that how we should treat the Huron River valley, the green corridor that is a unique feature of Ann Arbor? Do we really want to use it to store cars? A parking structure is hardly a "green" feature. I recall that only this year the city proposed using Almendinger and Frisinger parks for "temporary" football parking. Beware of temporary parking arrangements.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

Peter E - thank you for the corrections. I did mistakenly exclude the principal payments, so lets try this again. (reference source page 132 of 6/30/10 financial report on city website) So the '02 to '05 debt service average (principal and interest) averaged $3.570 mil per year. Fiscal year 2010 total principal and interest paid equalled $6.118 mil or an increase of $2.548 mil (a 71% increase in debt service). Also, on page 64, total principal and interest payments estimated for 2011 show $6.811 mil (11% increase over 2010).


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

In better times, the debate over this structure would appropriately revolve around issues that could determine whether of not the proposed investment is worthwhile. These would include the utility of a partnership between the city and U-M; the planned location in a park near both the river and the hospital; the most optimal site for a future transportation hub; the ability of Fuller Rd. to handle additional commuter traffic at rush hours; and so on. But these are not better times. Didn't we just read a thread where the city administrator informally brought forth a menu of possible line items for the council to consider placing on the chopping block? It makes no sense to engage in rhetoric that menacingly waves the budget ax at city programs, services, and (especially) staff pay, only to then turn around and blithely promise $10 million to the university to help them build additional parking. Also, it isn't at all clear that the stated vision for a transportation hub will ever come to pass. There's no guarantee it won't quietly devolve into 'vaporware.' Lastly, for some time now, there have been rumors that the proposed Fuller structure has been partly driven by a desire to keep U-M from imposing parking structure(s) on the Wall St. neighborhood near lower Broadway. The city shouldn't spend much more than a dime on this structure unless a city income tax or a Headlee override falls into place first. Or unless federal transportation grant money becomes available to offset the city's portion.

Peter Eckstein

Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

I really appreciate the help from blahblahblah showing the increase in city debt and debt service. I only question the math. If the 2002-2005 debt service was 1.031 million dollars and is now 3.298 million, my math suggests an increase of 220% over this 5-7 year period. If this definition of debt service only includes interest, what about repayment of principal, as in all pre-Countrywide home mortgages? And I am still concerned about the future implications of retiree pensions (probably funded, but how well?) and health care (funded at all?) Let's stop, take a deep breathe, analyze the implications of the numbers for the future of the city, and then see how much we can "afford" yet another structure.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 1:33 p.m.

If this is really going to be an intermodal site with a lot of people coming in via train, then the 103 bicycle parking spots are way underdone. With at least 2 electric scooter companies in Ann Arbor now, we can expect that scooters will be a preferred way of getting around in the community in addition to bicycles. I would think that we should be looking at 300 or more spots, and encourage bicycle use downtown, similar to the way the Dutch do it. Also I see nothing on electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging. It is in the plan? Green Town - Smoggy design?

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

Here's an e-mail from Eli Cooper to Council Member Stephen Kunselman in response to some of Kunselman's concerns from Monday night: Councilmember Kunselman, Thank you for allowing the opportunity to provide additional information regarding the relationship between the elevation of the top of rail and the base of the Fuller Road Station (FRS) Intermodal Facility. The top of rail sits at approximately 770. The base of the Fuller Road Station Intermodal Facility is planned to be built at 772. The difference between the back of the building and the top of rail is approximately 2 feet. Please note, typical low-level rail platforms are provided at 18 above the top of rail. Therefore, the elevation at the rear of the FRS Intermodal facility, 772, and the top of the rail platform, 771.5, are within less than one foot of one another. The difference will provide a minimal slope to assist drainage. The Fuller Road Station Master Concept Plans drop off loop and the entrance to the future train station adjacent to the drop off loop will be at a similar elevation, approximately 772. There will be no change in grade or ramping needed for rail patrons visiting the train station or Intermodal Facility to access the rail platform. I trust this helps clear any confusion. If you would like to see the drawings, very detailed, I would be happy to make them available for your review. Please let me know if you have any further questions or require additional information. Respectfully, Eli Cooper


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 12:13 p.m.

Just sell the land to the UM for their parking structure. The streets in AA on the west side of town are horrible. Miller and Dexter east of Maple are shot and a bunch of the side streets in the Haisley neighborhood are almost gravel. Whatever the city could get from the sale of the land could go into reconstructing those streets. We do not need any more $10 million dreams while we are thinking of cutting Police, Fire, and winter street maintenance.


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 8:55 a.m.

I no longer live in Ann Arbor but if this is supposed to demonstrate fiscal responsibility the city is in a lot of trouble and it just continues a process that demonstrates poor decision making.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 8:51 a.m.

"Cooper said another element that led Ann Arbor to consider building a new intermodal transit center was a closer inspection of the current Amtrak station at 325 Depot St." Perhaps I missed it somewhere... but does Amtrak want this to be built? If so... did they have a representative at the meeting, to present how they view it favorably? It would seem odd to claim building a bus/car/train station and not have Amtrak not say anything about it? Didn't Amtrak get money to fix up the station that is already in place? Why spend $ on the old place, if a new one is being built?


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 8:18 a.m.

It seems to me that the only benefit is to the University. They get free land owned by the taxpayers of Ann Arbor. In the meantime they can spend their money buying other properties that will be removed from the tax rolls. What's good for the U is not always what's good for the city.

average joe

Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 7:10 a.m.

So, The u of m kicks in 78% of the cost to build it. Who gets the bill to staff the meter booths & for maintenance, & who gets the reciepts from parking fees. More importantly, since the people trying to 'sell the idea' are "looking toward the future", when the structure needs minor/major repairs, will the u of m kick in 78% of those costs as well??, or is their donation a one time deal, with a lifetime of parking spaces? Jim Kosteva states that the medical center is a growing employment center, but has to include the entire u of m (college too) to inflate his hiring numbers to make it sound like the proposed parking garage is needed for ALL of their new hires. As for the City planner's future projections, did they ever 'plan' on companies like Phizer & others to leave town?


Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 12:37 a.m.

"...paved paradise and they put up a parking lot..." Seriously, when is city government going to stop spending money they don't have? As an Ann Arbor taxpayer I find this outrageous. They lay off firefighters and police left and right, streets are crumbling under our feet (or falling on our heads as the Stadium Blvd. bridge is) and the attitude seems to be: "Whooopee! Another parking structure!" Reminds me of an old Sylvester and Tweety cartoon where Granny is sitting in front of the fireplace saying: "Oooh, it's chilly in here!" and tosses another wad of cash on the fire from the "Money To Burn" bin.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 12:34 a.m.

"Cooper presented a map showing nearly 40 locations throughout Washtenaw County where there are public lands adjacent to the Norfolk-Southern Railroad. He said a countywide search for a transit center site turned up Fuller Road as the most ideal location." And of the 40 locations, how many are right beside a river? Would it read (note sarcasm)... "He presented a map showing nearly 1 location throughout Washtenaw County where there are public lands adjacent to the railroad and the Huron River. He said a countywide search for a transit center site turned up Fuller Road and the Huron River as the most ideal location. It could serve as an ideal docking place for kayaks and viewing unsolved spills." What measures/barriers will be in place to protect the river from oil/gas/acids/cleaning agents that might be used/leaked/dumped from the structure into the river?


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 6:46 p.m.

In terms of fiscal responsibility, everyone should remember that the police and courts building council vote was made after the Pfizer announcement. With Pfizer gone, guess who is Ann Arbor's largest private employer? Borders! 700 + employees No cause for concern here, just build another parking structure and spend another $10,000,000 the city does not have.


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

Well said Mike Anglin! In addition, I believe there is a serious conflict of interest for any council member (the mayor, etc.) who is employed by the U of M and voting on such a project that basically gives away city property for the majority benefit of the U of M (their employer). If a council member was employed by a developer for instance looking to develop this property they certainly wouldn't be allowed to vote, so what makes this scenario much different?

Rita Mitchell

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.

If the city was serious about supporting sustainable options, it would not support giving away park land to build yet another parking structure, which will serve as a car-magnet. Where is the incentive to reduce auto use, when a Fuller Road facility is provided to store a car? Since Ms. McCormick indicates that the city initiated the idea, was there a discussion with the citizens? I recall that in 2008, voters said that a ballot referendum is required for the sale of park land. An agreement to build a parking structure that will last at least 75 years is essentially a sale of park land, and should be presented to the voters for a decision, not planned and presented as a done-deal. Those planning a parking structure at Fuller Road have not addressed the precedent-setting issue of essentially giving away park land. Once an agreement such as this is made, beware the status of your favorite park; there will be no protection from "repurposing" park land for any purpose proposed by any developer, be it UM, the city, or a private entity. Which neighborhood park is next?


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 6:14 p.m.

Peter E - " But I would like to see an outside audit of just how much debt we now have.." According to the city's last financial audit (June 30, 2010) per the city website the answer is: "Long-term debt. At the end of the current fiscal year, the City had total bonded debt outstanding of $242,480,773. Of that amount, $161,210,825 comprises debt backed by the full faith and credit of the City. The remainder of the Citys debt represents bonds secured solely by specified revenue sources (i.e., revenue bonds).The Citys total debt increased by $41,506,631 or 19.4 percent during the fiscal year." Digging further, the city's "debt service" or interest paid on outstanding debt averaged about $1,031,000 per year in the years (2002 to 2005). Currently debt service is now up to $3,297,914 per year or an increase of about 68% versus the 2002 to 2005 period. This is due to a building spree which includes among other things: 2006 $22,000,000 Building facilities bond 2008 $27,000,000 Police and courts bond 2009 $49,000,000 Library lot parking structure bond Don't forget the smaller $3,500,000 debt on the old YMCA lot, which comes due in 2014. Sorry I do not have the time to look up the pension and health liabilities and shortfalls.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

Ryan -- Is it possible to clarify this statement: "We wanted to make sure that this facility would complement the future train station as a landmark," Gott said. "So that led to thinking architecturally about this building being somewhat of a backdrop, so that the real foreground statement can occur when the train station is designed and implemented in future phases." Does this mean they're thinking of building something in front of the decidedly non-gateway-looking structure? Or by "backdrop" does she mean that a spiffy "AMTRAK" sign will be the future redeeming "foreground statement"?

Tom Joad

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

Can I park my private jet there?


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

Hieftjeism at its worst! The Hieftjeites never met a dollar they didn't have that they didn't want to spend! They have never had a delusional "vision" that they didn't confuse with reality, be it greenbelts or growth projections. I can't wait until the new Congress starts taking the various punch bowls fueling these delusions, off the various tables. If we're lucky, all the Hieftjeites will throw themselves from the top of Hieftje Hall, grasping the air for more dollars to spend!

Dog Guy

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

The city hall mob talks out of both sides of its mouth: Ann Arbor is broke, yet there is unlimited money for pet projects with kickbacks. There will be no citizen vote on this transit station. The current train station is walkable, but a new train station is only for the physically fit with bicycles. The city hall pack is marking its territory with large, ugly sheds to be named after themselves. The majority of Ann Arbor voters are, as I am, tax parasites who care only that public money is spent on whatever.

Peter Eckstein

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

I'm not sure that a long-time parking lot represents prime Ann Arbor parkland, but I don't remember where the $10 million for the city's share is supposed to come from. If the U wants to buy that plot for $10 million and then have the city use it to round out "its share" of the costs, fine. But I would like to see an outside audit of just how much debt we now have--including pension and retiree health care, but also our beautiful new city hall addition, Argo Pond, etc., etc. I'm sure that some local CPAs and economists would be willing to serve on a volunteer basis on a short-term city commission to analyze this problem. In the meantime, let's put a moratorium on new city capital borrowing to see just what kind of debt we are leaving to our children and grandchildren.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 3:14 p.m.

if we dont have the density to support intermodal facility, so be it. just dont try to convince us that the U of M hospital is the new gateway to Ann Arbor and will be the central node in our future with rail. I cant even describe word of mouth to an out of town commuter what exits to take to find the place, just follow the blue signs with an H.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

@AnnArBo: I'm pretty sure the "city parking spaces" are intended more for people in the city driving to the train to take it elsewhere (e.g. Chicago). Basically, replacing the current Amtrak station parking down the line.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 2:31 p.m.

@ Joel Batterman: This is not about a parking structure for the University; they can build one a block away on Wall Street with no problem. It is about a consolidation of resources between the city and the University into one project. Parking at the outskirts of the city and adding more shuttle buses to the University does not help the environment-it does not decrease the number of cars on the road and pollution overall. The University parking problem and the environmental issues are separate arguments. Relocating the bus hub or adding a commuter train DOES get cars off the road and therefore can decrease pollution. The parking structure is phase 1 of the project. If the University is not involved with the transportation center, the city will have to pay for the entire cost of the transportation center (an additional 75%) which the city cannot afford to do. I view this as the city using the university to get something that is extremely unlikely without their help. Yes, the University will benefit by having a parking structure a block closer to the medical center versus down on Wall Street, but the ends will justify the means; there could be less pollution and less traffic congestion if phase 2 is constructed. This is what I think both sides want from this project. It is a win-win for all. Dont let the perfect be the enemy of the good.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

@xmo: While there may well be an argument that the number of bike spaces is not set appropriately, climate is not that reason. Plenty of people bike year round in Ann Arbor. Just look at the roads every day. Also, you can't just look at direct costs. Every bike on the road is one less car, with attendant savings on the size and wear and tear of the city's road infrastructure. @AnnArBo: There are lots of commuters using alternate transportation who quite happily give up the "freedom of their cars," whether for purposes of exercise, cost, environmental concerns, or choice of lifestyle. All that said, however, I think it's very useful to look at which subset of potential commute patterns are likely to happen. If you work at the hospital and live in Dearborn, then some combination of drive/walk/bike in Dearborn and train to the hospital seems very convenient. If you work downtown and live in Dearborn, then some combination of train to the hospital and either bike or one hop bus connection to work seems viable. If however, you work on the periphery of Ann Arbor (i.e. hard to get to via bus or bike), then it seems very unlikely that you would use the transport center, no matter where you live. The real question is what % of people are willing to consider using some form of transportation other than their car, and then whether the combination of train/bus/bike/walk provides a simple, quick way to get from where they live to where they work that allows them to save money on parking or gas or car ownership and/or meets their lifestyle choices. If it significantly increases total commute time, then it's probably not very viable, even if the cost of car ownership goes way up.


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

Anybody doing the math? For 10 million the city gets access to like 200 parking spaces that are on the edge of town? I still don't see people who work downtown or surrounding Ann Arbor willing to give up the freedom of their cars and our road system to ride a train to a central station, then take a bus that will drop you off hopefully somewhere near where you work.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

@Edward Vielmetti I appreciate your comment about the ambient lighting in the County administration building. I believe, however, that the web-site would come across more professionally if the photos were Photoshopped to correct for the color imbalance before posting. I bet the people in the photos would like that as well!

Joel Batterman

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

I absolutely support a transit center, but I don't support a new 1000-space UM parking garage, which is what's been at issue here. In general, I think you'll find that most of the people who've spoken against the project in the past might support a transit center and train station. But that's not the issue, which is why the poll question isn't too helpful. A new 1000-space, $40 million commuter parking garage just isn't in the best interests of the City or the University, either. Building more and more parking garages isn't an effective transportation strategy; it's enormously expensive, environmentally unsustainable, and it just creates more and more congestion. UM needs to look at what peer institutions are doing and find a better way to use the existing vacant parking it has at its outlying lots. Thousands of UM commuters already use park-and-ride lots. If UM invested just a small sum in better transit service and a more flexible parking management system, many more would choose to do so, instead of having to hunt down an expensive central-campus spot. This is the 21st century, and as a UM student, I want UM to be "leaders and best." UM needs to recognize that there's a much better way forward. For that to happen, though, we need to re-frame the discussion. Students and Ann Arbor residents are beginning to organize around this vision, under the banner of the "M Go Green / A 2 Green Sustainability Coalition." For more information, see our website at


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

$10 million from the city when it's got huge financial problems now? This is a University project, almost entirely to the benefit of the university yet the city is going to spend $10 million it does not have? So we'll cut police, fire, parks, etc. so we can spend $10 million to help the rich university that isn't paying for the services it uses from the city? Truly incredible.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

I like the transit center but maybe we could save some money by eliminating the 103 bike parking spots. (You cann't use the bike spots 365 days a year due to the climate.) A few more PAYING car parking spaces (which can be used 365 days a year) might help pay this thing off a little quicker.


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

I've noticed that photos credited to Mr. Stanton in recent articles have poor color quality - the people are too red. Is there anything you can do about this?


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

CM Anglin says " "We have a beautiful site there and we'll be destroying it by putting this large structure there," This is not a beautiful site, it is a paved parking lot that lies between fuller road and the railroad tracks. It is a piece of land that was considered so inconsequential by the parks commission 15 years ago that the parks commission traded a lease for this piece of land in a deal with the university in order to save a couple of trees near the VA hospital. Lets not kid ourselves there is no "park" use for this land. If environmentalists truly want to get people to leave their cars at home they would push for a bus hub near the medical campus with express routes. But no, instead some local, so-called environmentalists waste their time arguing against a parking structure that is phase1 of the transportation center project that will be built on a paved surface, on a small strip of grass that is on the edge of a park. A parking structure that is really not additional parking added to the environment because the university already had plans to build it one block north on Wall street. It is just a relocation of parking with the city benefiting because now the University will cover much of the costs of the entire transportation center. I see it as a win-win. City residents benefit by having decreased pollution and decreased traffic congestion throughout the city by having a bus hub/train station there. If the fuller road station has future plans for a bus hub or future train station, I am all for it. Any one who calls themselves an environmentalist will realize that the potential to remove many, many cars from the roads in the near future is more worthwhile to the environment than a strip of grass that lies next to the railroad tracks. All those saying otherwise are anti-development and anti-university IMO.


Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 1:04 p.m.

this is a parking structure for the university...if the city does not have the density for an intermodal facility in its city center, why would we then fund capital investment for the university and their parking woes? this is nothing more than a parking solution for the university. the mayor and his university contacts are throwing out demographic data directly and solely associated with the university hospital 24 hour staff. this does nothing to generate the critical mass for other business synergies and economic development that are related to intermodal facilities in downtown centers.

Marshall Applewhite

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

The idea is a good one, but that is quite an ugly building. I'd think they can come up with something a bit more futuristic looking.