University of Michigan officials and Ann Arbor residents met Thursday evening to discuss the University’s proposed Transportation Operations and Maintenance Center, slated to be built on Green Road between Hubbard Road and Baxter Road.
The meeting yielded a large turnout of residents hoping to gain a deeper understanding of the potential issues with the new center, which will serve as a bus depot where North Campus buses will be stored and receive maintenance.
At the meeting, residents expressed several main areas of concern, including environmental impact on the surrounding area and potential traffic issues. The local neighborhood association has created a site with information on the proposed facility. Ann Arbor resident Dan Beard told officials that he thought the University hadn’t not fully consider the consequences of its actions.
“It’s really disturbing that the University is consolidating its pollution output so close to low-income housing,” Beard said.
University Planner Susan Gott said the center’s location was determined to be the most logical proposal because of an increased number of people riding University buses and subsequent need for a larger vehicle storage facility.
“The existing facility … is not meeting the current operational needs and therefore a new facility will incorporate space that better incorporates better buses than could fit into the original facility,” Gott said. “The reason this location is selected is to try to bring the beginning trips to where the early morning and evening demand is. There is an efficiency for relocating onto North Campus.”
During the meeting, City Councilmember Jane Lumm (D-Ward 2) also spoke out against the proposal. She said she thought there was another option the University could utilize to increase bus count without affecting neighborhoods — the city’s Wheeler Center, a garage which she said is currently under capacity.
“We have a state-of-the-art garage facility, the Wheeler Center,” Lumm said. “What the city could do for the University is to offer an incredible collaboration opportunity. All of our vehicles are maintained at the Wheeler Center. It sounds like an excellent collaboration opportunity.”
In response to concerns, University officials discussed several benefits of the proposed facility.
For students, the new center will mean the opportunity for increased seating on each bus, Hank Baier, associate vice president for facilities and operations, said.
“We currently cannot service articulated buses at our current facility,” Baier said. “We can transport more passengers between North Campus and Central Campus, which is our biggest student demand.”
The center’s future North Campus location will also mean buses will no longer need to drive from the current facilities’ South Campus location to North Campus each morning to begin their routes, meaning less fuel will be used, Baier added.
“The more people we put per trip, the better our emissions characteristics, so it also helps us with our environmental goal,” he said.