On Tuesday, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township passed a 0.7-mill tax increase to expand transit services. The mileage passed with a 71 percent majority in Ann Arbor, 83 percent in Ypsilanti and 62 percent in Ypsilanti Township in favor of the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority’s proposal. Expanded services are expected to begin in August just as the fall semester begins for students. Major renovations to the AAATA will be phased out over several years in order to help with a smooth transition. Passing the millage was a commendable move that will increase transportation for those who most need it. However, the AAATA must ensure that the millage funds improve transit services in a way that will positively impact citizens and ease transportation for the entire county.
The millage is expected to increase bus hours on nights and weekends, help purchase more buses with better fuel efficiency, improve bus stops, redesign routes and expand dial-a-ride services. The AAATA intends to hire 60 additional bus drivers increasing job opportunities for surrounding residents. Furthermore, AAATA is seeking to expand transit into other areas including Saline, Pittsfield and Scio Road Townships in order to create a more comprehensive transit service.
The expansion of transportation services provides numerous benefits. Increasing The Ride’s frequency will motivate students to use public transit, providing an opportunity to take better advantage of off-campus resources. With students’ busy schedules, waiting for a bus to go grocery shopping can be inconvenient. Therefore, increasing frequencies of busses helps to reduce time waiting at bus stops. Expanding bus routes and hours will also decrease car usage, providing a positive externality for the environment.
Improved public transit will help connect the Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor areas, providing economic benefits to both communities. The proposal includes a new route that will be added to Ypsilanti this year, and 2016 will mark major redesigns of current Ypsilanti and western Ann Arbor routes. Given Ypsilanti’s higher population of lower socioeconomic citizens, public transportation is vital in allowing access to Ann Arbor where many citizens work at a lower cost. These methods of inter-connection will enhance the lives of many residents in the area.