The University is currently in negotiations to expand its transportation services on campus through a partnership with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.
The negotiations will affect transportation options for all Ann Arbor residents, as future plans include additional buses and routes to and from campus.
“We”re certainly in discussions to utilize them to our full advantage,” Director of Parking and Transportation Services Patrick Cunningham said.
An article about AATA in this month”s issue of Mass Transit magazine said a plan calls for the University to transfer between 30,000 and 90,000 hours of service each year to AATA.
But one University bus driver, who requested that his name not be printed, said the University only runs about 100,000 hours of service annually.
The driver said because students are not union workers, student jobs could be in jeopardy if the University agrees to transfer service hours.
“We serve students, we employ students,” he said.
Facilities and Operations spokeswoman Diane Brown said drivers should not be concerned about their jobs.
“Positions may be consolidated, but we don”t want to give the impression that someone could lose their job,” she said.
Brown stressed that negotiations are in the early stages and nothing has been solidified about service hours.
“There is discussion that some of the hours that are given to part-time drivers might be part of what AATA picks up, but those discussions are still in early negotiation stages,” she said.
Brown also denied rumors that the entire University bus system could be eliminated.
“We just ordered buses and we”re planning on ordering more,” she said. “We will continue to look at ways to make it more efficient.”
University Parking and Transportation Services officials plan to meet with employees Saturday to discuss the negotiations with AATA.
The University”s relationship with AATA has intensified through the years, as AATA has become more involved with the transport of students. In addition to serving remote lots such as the joint commuter lot on South State Street, the AATA has helped the University in transportation crunches.
Brown said the University established an agreement with AATA last summer when a bus maintenance garage burned down. Increasing its agreements with AATA would also create more efficient routes, Brown said.
“It would be different if our campus was closed, but we have city streets running through campus, so it”s a major thoroughfare,” she said.
Brown said new routes would increase the number of stops on and near campus and accommodate the needs of staff and students who live farther away. By expanding routes, the partnership would extend University bus services to much of Washtenaw County, Brown said.
“Students come from parts of the county that aren”t two miles away,” Brown said.
Cunningham said he has heard a persistent complaint about AATA and the University bus service not operating as one system. Cunningham said the University does not serve off-campus areas as well as it could.
“We want to align our services to get the ability to take a bus from home or school or work or to take a bus from a remote lot,” he said.
Cunningham said the services would remain free in order to encourage students to use the bus system.
“We”re trying to get more students using the University buses instead of cars and congesting parking,” Cunningham said.
LSA senior Chris MacKechnie, a driver since 1996, said the issue is politically sensitive and could eliminate the jobs of students who need to work in order to eat and pay their tuition.
MacKechnie said it would be difficult for a combined service with AATA to accomplish change because of unfamiliarity with student needs.
“Students wanted better weekend bus service, air-conditioning, and year-long service and we accommodated them,” MacKechnie said.
“We”ve been serving students since 1960 and we have experience in knowing what to fix,” he said. “The University bus system is an efficient system and the proposed plan for better service can be accomplished in the current framework.”