By Matthew Jackonen, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 19, 2013
Eastern Market or Campus Martius Park on a Saturday morning? Soon, students will have the option.
Beginning Oct. 5, a new University-sponsored shuttle transit service will begin taking students from Ann Arbor to the University’s Detroit Center — with stops at Eastern Market, the Cultural Center, Downtown and southwest Detroit under consideration.
The primary aim of the service is to provide the University community with a more efficient option for getting to and from Detroit, where the University has devoted significant financial and educational resources in recent years in an attempt to broaden student experiences.
The University’s Detroit Center and Semester in Detroit Program announced that a pilot service will be available free of charge on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the fall semester.
Addell Austin Anderson, the director of the University’s Detroit Center and co-director of the MDetroit Center Connector, said the continuation of the service beyond the fall semester isn't guaranteed, but she is “optimistic” about securing funding for the winter semester.
“It’s all going to depend on how successful we are to get riders,” Anderson said. “I feel optimistic because we have gotten a huge outpouring of support and people that are interested.”
Funding for the project almost entirely comes from a $45,000 grant from the Transforming Learning for the Third Century fund — a project of the Third Century Initiative, a University program to explores innovative teaching opportunities.
Anderson also emphasized that this project is fulfilling a need that many University affiliates and Detroiters have had for a while.
“This is something that has been a long time coming,” Anderson said. “There has been some frustration that there hasn’t been an easy way to get (to and from) campus and Detroit.”
Anderson added that the service will be beneficial to both Ann Arbor and Detroit residents in that both can more easily enjoy the benefits of the two cities, calling it a “two-way street.” She hopes the service will provide new opportunity to “get off campus and go see what’s going on” in Detroit.
Another shuttle service to the Dearborn area is also under consideration.
The first shuttle to Detroit will leave Ann Arbor at 8:15 a.m. on Friday and the last shuttle will return at 8:45 p.m. On Saturday, the first shuttle will leave Ann Arbor at 8:00 a.m., and the final shuttle will return at 11:00 p.m. The tentative schedule was formed based on an online survey filled out by University students and staff.
LSA senior Hayley Sakwa, one of the student leaders who worked on the project, said the shuttle program’s organizers consulted with the CSG Commission on Detroit Engagement and the newly-reformed Detroit Coalition in trying to gauge student interest and determining when there would be demand for the service.
“You can’t expect the Detroit Center to reach out to all the student groups (focused on Detroit) on campus,” Sakwa said. “Unless we make it easy for the administration to include what we have to say, I don’t think they’ll be able to include the students voices and opinions in their decision.”
Sakwa added that while the commission has some concerns about the funding for the program, given that it has a limited time grant, she is hopeful that it will continue past the trial period this fall.
LSA junior Michael Baroody said the service is long overdue.
“As an institution for higher education we have much to learn from Detroit,” Baroody said. “For me personally, having been involved with the campus farm in the past, I see a huge potential for partnerships and programs with Detroit's urban agriculturists.”
Baroody said it would help students appreciate what the city has to offer the University and students.
“While there are partnerships with Detroit already in place … this will most definitely foster a new level of interest and appreciation for this great American city,” Baroody said. “Having only been to Detroit once or twice, I can't wait until this takes effect.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this story misspelled LSA senior Hayley Sakwa's name and incorrectly identified the Commission on Detroit Engagement.