Following the success of the first step of the M-Ride program — to provide free rides on city buses to students, faculty and staff with valid Mcards — the University and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority are now expanding the program to encourage students, faculty and staff to take advantage of public transportation.
Beginning yesterday, the AATA added 8,000 hours of annual bus services. Fourteen routes have been modified, and one new route has been created in order to improve the frequency of trips and service on and around campus.
The plan was designed not only to improve service to on-campus locations, but also to allow people on campus to have greater access to off-campus venues, such as grocery stores, malls and restaurants, said Mary Stasiak, manager of community relations for AATA.
“(This) allows for people to live pretty much anywhere they want and have frequent service,” Stasiak said.
Many students said they welcome the changes because it will make their lives easier.
“As a student who depends on the AATA to get around, extended hours really will improve my quality of life,” said LSA junior Sarah Armstrong, who lives off campus.
AATA had the help of University students in deciding what routes to expand or modify. There were four forums, in which AATA representatives and University transit officials accepted student input. AATA also sent over 400 e-mails to faculty, staff and students, to which it received an overwhelming response.
“When we surveyed our passengers last fall, we got almost 100 service improvement suggestions for about 80,000 hours of service. We had to prioritize those 80,000 hours down to 8,000 that our customers felt were most important,” said Dave Miller, Director of Parking and Transportation Services at the University.
Most of the route changes impact weekday peak hour times — 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Specifically, many of the changes increase the frequency of bus trips at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The additions also provide riders with later service on weekdays.
Bryan Smith, an Ann Arbor resident who is a student at Eastern Michigan University, takes AATA’s Route 5 to get to and from school.
“The bus comes once (every) hour late at night, so it would be better (to have) more frequent bus times (at night),” he said.
AATA has also added more connections between their buses and University buses at several on-campus locations — including Pierpont Commons, C.C. Little, the Michigan Union and the University Hospital.
Adding more connections makes it easier for someone to transfer from AATA bus service to University service, Stasiak said.
“I think the real benefit is that these are service hours people asked us to add,” she said.
Brian Budzyn, an Engineering sophomore who takes the Bursley-Baits commuter bus, said that more bus routes and times will help to expedite his commute.
“More bus routes and times would make it a lot easier to get to and from class,” he said. “It’s not a lot of fun (to wait) when it’s 10 degrees out,” Budzyn added.
Engineering sophomore Cathy Burk also agreed with Budzyn.
“A lot of times the bus wait is longer than 10 minutes, and it would be nice to have more frequent buses.”
The added routes make up a 4.5 percent overall increase in AATA’s annual service hours, Stasiak said.
The M-Ride program is a five-year agreement between the University and AATA.
The program costs $1.8 million per year, $700,000 of which comes from the University. The Federal Transit Administration provides the rest of the funding, Stasiak said.
For more information about specific route changes, students, faculty and staff can visit www.theride.org.