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AATA routes promising: ''U'' buses still must remain separate

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published January 14, 2002

On a campus that extends for miles and in a city where most students don"t have cars, University students are keenly aware of the difficulties of getting around town and campus. Any improvements in transportation, however modest, are sure to be welcome. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority plans to add four new routes which will shuttle people between Main and State streets. The new "circulator" route will fill a badly needed gap in AATA"s current system, which doesn"t provide easy access between these two main shopping and entertainment areas. The new route was also added with the hope that it would decrease use of cars by visitors to the city and offer a way for people to access areas of the city where parking spaces are difficult to come by.

This route is not a new idea. A similar shuttle service operated for a while in 1961 and in the "70s. Since then, changes in Ann Arbor have increased the number of visitors to the city, further exacerbating the problem of already scarce parking. While the new buses are a welcome addition, AATA should not view this change as a stepping stone to annexing the University bus system it should keep routes efficient, affordable and independent of the University.

The new buses should be cheap and run often enough to provide an economically viable and convenient alternative to car transportation. With the buses planning to charge only a nominal fee, it appears that they will be very practical. In addition to running lines between State and Main, AATA would be wise to consider expanding the route to the South University area, another prime business district. Whatever stops they decide to include, the route should be clear and well designed to ensure ease and popularity of use similar services in the "60s and "70s failed because not enough people used them.

The degree of success or failure the route will enjoy is not contingent on whether AATA and the on-campus system are merged. Nor should the route be created with the goal of enticing the University into a merger opposed by its students.

Last year, negotiations occurred in private it wasn"t until requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act that the public learned about what the University and AATA were considering. The new bus route should not be further cause for AATA to press on with its merger plan.

It is clear why AATA is so eager to merge with the University. By integrating or merging AATA with the University"s bus system, AATA would dramatically increase its service and receive close to a million more dollars in public funds. AATA gains, but the University loses quality bus service and student employment. The merger may also prove more costly for the University in the long run.

While the current on-campus service could be improved, eliminating it or transferring it to AATA would only make it worse. Ohio State and Columbus instituted a plan similar to the one which has been suggested and the level of service decreased dramatically. On such a large campus, bus service is crucial to tying the University together and making it accessible compromising such service in any way would cause major problems.

If one of the major motivations in offering this new service is to acquire University bus routes, AATA should think again. AATA should view the new routes as a way to provide its customers with a needed service. If they are properly implemented, the routes will be a useful addition to current routes and help students and others take full advantage of all that Ann Arbor has to offer.