With summer quickly approaching, students may now have an easier time finding their way home at the end of the semester with the assistance of AirRide — a newly launched service that provides daily roundtrip bus transportation from the Ann Arbor area to the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.
The program — a collaboration with Michigan Flyer, a branch of the Indian Trails Motor Coach transportation service — will stop 12 times daily at the Blake Transit Center and the Kensington Court Hotel, located off of State Street, as well as four times at the University’s Central Campus Transit Center. Tickets range from $6 to $20 a person, depending on age and how far in advance a ticket is purchased.
At the official announcement of the service at the Kensington Court Hotel on Friday, David Nacht, a Law School alum and AATA board member who spearheaded AirRide’s development, lauded the service’s affordability and consistency of service to the crowd of about 40 people.
“This is a big deal,” he said. “You’re not going to wait two or three hours. You need regular services, and you need to know that and rely on that. We’re offering that.”
Nacht said demand from University officials was an important factor in the service’s introduction, noting that he surveyed the deans of the University’s schools and colleges to find out the biggest barrier to attracting prospective faculty and graduate students.
“Number one or two on every dean’s list were transportation issues,” he said. “The University is the number one driver of traffic to and from our community from this airport, and so, this is very much designed with the University in mind.”
Under current plans for the service, AirRide may offer airport-bound riders parking for up to 14 days at the Fourth Avenue and East William Street parking structure and at the Kensington Court Hotel for $2 per day. It would also potentially share bus stops with the Detroit SMART bus system.
While the buses will stop more frequently at the two off-campus stops than they will at the Central Campus Transportation Center, AATA officials said they expect University students to take advantage of the service.
AATA board chairman Jesse Bernstein said the service could be a “perfect opportunity” for students’ parents to shuttle between Ann Arbor and the airport, adding that AirRide came to fruition partly from the University’s encouragement of the plan to service their faculty and staff.
“They’re very supportive, because they want to get their people to the airport back and forth cheaply and efficiently,” Bernstein said. “They’ve been very cooperative.”
A variety of political figures were also present at the announcement, including U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.), state Reps. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) and Rick Olson (R–York Township) and Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje.
Dingell said the cooperation between the parties involved in AirRide is a contrast from the polarized climate in Washington, D.C.
“This is just one example of how this community works together,” Dingell said. “I wish, perhaps, as I come back from Washington, I could come and say that Congress is doing as well.”
Olson added that AirRide is an important addition to the city, noting that it serves as fulfilling a “missing link.”
“(In) every other city in this county, when you want to get to downtown or wherever, there are alternate ways of getting there,” Olson said. “Ann Arbor doesn’t have that other than a cab, and that’s a costly way, and it’s also not an energy efficient way. Ann Arbor and Detroit — it’s an anomaly when it comes to major cities in the United States.”
Kirk Steudle, director of the state’s department of transportation and an attendee of Friday’s announcement, also praised the service for its fulfillment of Republican Gov. Snyder’s transportation message this fall.
In an interview in September, AATA spokeswoman Mary Stasiak said the proposed service was not intended to compete with AirBus, an airport shuttle sponsored by the Central Student Government that runs during breaks for University students.
“(AirBus) service plays a very, very important role when there are a tremendous amount of passengers traveling between the airport and Ann Arbor at really high-peak periods, and we don’t see ourselves replacing that at all,” Stasiak said. “In fact, we would encourage people to use that service.”