Beginning Aug. 1, University students, faculty and staff with
active M-Cards will be able to ride Ann Arbor Transportation
Authority fixed-route buses for free.

Janna Hutz
Ann Arbor residents board the No. 5 Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus on March 15, 2003. After Aug. 1, Mcard holders can ride the fixed-route buses for free. (MIKE HULSEBUS/Daily)

The AATA’s Mride Program is a five-year agreement between
the AATA and the University and will replace three current
arrangements between the two parties — the employee bus pass
program, the Park and Ride program and enhanced services on Route
36, along State Street.

Buses that are part of the AATA’s regularly scheduled
fixed routes are included in the agreement, both during weekdays
and weekends.

But the program will not include special services that the city
offers seasonally — such as the shuttles that run from hotels
to the Art Fair in the summer or football stadium on Saturdays in
the fall.

“If you would want a mental image of the bus systems in
Ann Arbor for students, think of a wheel. The University buses form
the hub of the wheel, running between Central, Hill, North and the
medical campuses,” said Diane Brown, spokeswoman for the
University’s facilities and operations.

She added that the city’s buses act as the spokes of the
figurative wheel, because they service areas outside of the
University’s campuses.

Some places that are on the AATA’s fixed bus routes
include Briarwood Mall, the Kerrytown Farmer’s Market and
Wolverine Towers.

Brown said the AATA’s Mride Program will cost about $1.8
million, but with no added cost to the University, which will
continue paying $700,000 per year to AATA.

The additional $1.1 million per year to cover costs for the
program will come from federal funds. According to AATA Executive
Director Greg Cook, University officials have been gathering
passenger statistics and financial information for the past couple
of years.

They then submitted this data to the National Transit Database
program, and beginning in 2003, federal funds were made available
through the Federal Transit Administration.

“This is a win-win situation, for both the University of
Michigan and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority,” Cook
said. “U of M is not paying anything extra, and we are
bringing taxpayers’ dollars back to Washtenaw County to fund
this project.”

David Miller, the University’s director of parking and
transportation services, said the program would help the entire
campus community.

“We expect this benefit will help our off-campus students
travel to campus more easily, help our on-campus residents access
retail and entertainment venues and reduce our parking demand by
staff and faculty,” Miller said in a written statement.

LSA senior Jacob Burress said he currently uses the Park and
Ride program, which allows students who have parked in a commuter
lot to ride the city buses to University campuses without
charge.

“I’m planning on coming here for grad school, and I
think then I’d probably use the city buses more because I
don’t like the parking situation in Ann Arbor,” Burress
said. “I’ll probably use the buses to come from home
each day.”

Brown said the University is planning to collect further data in
the fall in regard to passenger feedback and patterns in usage.
This information will be used to provide additional services.

Plans for these services may include extending hours or routes
or increasing the frequency of buses at stops. Cook said these
enhanced services will begin in January 2005, after the data has
been collected.

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