The Detroit Connector, a bus service connecting Ann Arbor to Detroit, will now provide service seven days a week, instead of four, and open full-time service to the public Oct. 30.
The bus service, which used to serve only University of Michigan staff, faculty and students, will include stops at the Central Campus Transit Center, the University of Michigan Detroit Center and, newly, at the University of Michigan at Dearborn campus. Service hours are also being expanded, with new hours on Fridays and Saturdays beginning at 7 a.m. and ending at 1 a.m.
The bus was piloted in 2013 after student demand was assessed via survey. The initial results of the survey indicated over 75 percent of possible riders were 'very likely' to use the service if it were provided. The bus was a free service with a suggested $5 donation, and Mcard holders were able to bring four guests on the trip per day. There was also a rudimentary reservation system for the bus rides in 2014.
The service has faced a tenuous future in recent years; in July of 2015, University officials were planning to cancel funding for the service by the end of 2016. However, Central Student Government passed a resolution to encourage the University to extend it back in April of 2016.
Riders can now make reservations online and one-way trips range between $6 and $10. Students who have Pell Grants will be able to use the Connector for free. University students and faculty who participate in community service and class activities in Detroit will have reduced fares.
Chief diversity officer Robert Sellers, vice provost for equity and inclusion, spoke on the bus service in a press release.
“The University of Michigan is deeply committed to creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus environment,” Sellers said. “The Detroit Connector helps us break down existing barriers and better connect the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Detroit communities. By expanding service and opening it to the public, the Detroit Connector can improve access to the region’s numerous research, academic and cultural opportunities.”
The Detroit Connector has operated from donations, grants and some funding from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Detroit Center since 2013. The buses are wheelchair accessible and include Wi-Fi, restrooms, electrical outlets and bike storage on board.
Craig Regester, associate director of the Semester in Detroit program, is one of the two central originators of the proposal for the Detroit Connector with the U-M Detroit Center. He said he hopes the expansions will build ridership that will be mutually beneficial to all.
Feedback from students, like LSA junior Jenny Ghose, has been positive.
"I used the Detroit Connector a ton during my freshman year when I was really homesick and went home once a month. For the past couple years, I have used it when I go home for the weekend, about twice a semester," Ghose wrote in an email. "I have been hoping for extended hours since I first learned about the connector during my freshman year. The original hours were better than nothing, but extending the hours really expands the realm of possibilities for students like myself who rely on the connector to go home or for students who use the connector to go back-and-forth to events in Detroit. It really provides a great service for students from the Metro Detroit area and connects our campus to all of the great things going on in Detroit these days."