Recognizing the need to reform transportation and accessibility in Ann Arbor, the City Council met last night at City Hall to discuss the creation of several programs.

Paul Wong
Passengers board the train at the Ann Arbor train station on Depot Street.

Among the proposals was the implementation of a commuter rail from Ann Arbor to Detroit Metro Airport. In its most preliminary stages, the train would stop in Ypsilanti and at Greenfield Village on its way to Detroit. Officials plan for the rail to pick up and drop off passengers at 30-minute intervals. A ride would cost $0.14 per mile, unless patrons purchased a regular user ticket for a cheaper rate.

Greg Cook, executive director of Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, said the plan has great promise, though several problems still need to be addressed.

“The cost of getting to the airport is not a factor right now,” he said. “What is a factor is that the airport wasn’t built to handle mass transportation vehicles.”

To fund the construction and administration of the rail, Cook said that AATA is soliciting the federal government for money and wants to discuss a county-wide millage with Washtenaw County officials.

Cook added that he expects completion of the rail before 2006, when Detroit will host the Super Bowl, demanding greater transportation facilities.

In addition to improving transportation out of the city, councilmembers discussed the reformation of the city’s infrastructure for greater accessibility. One idea heavily discussed was the encouragement of bicycling to reduce traffic.

Urban Planning Prof. Jonathan Levine offered a presentation to demonstrate how Ann Arbor could benefit from the use of bicycling as a major means of transportation. He cited the success of Boulder, Co. and Madison, Wis., noting their implementation of road lanes specifically for non-motor transport and storage facilities to protect unused bicycles.

“The first thing (to be implemented) is the most expensive thing – the establishment of a bicycling network,” he said. “Isolated facilities don’t do anyone any much good.”

Both mayoral candidates said the proposals had significant promise.

“Rail transit to the airport and the communities to the east of us seems essential to the goal of making this a modern community,” said Mayor John Hieftje, who is running for re-election next month on the Democratic ticket.

But Councilwoman Marcia Higgins, the Republican candidate for mayor, said she was concerned that the vagueness of the plans might indicate that they would not come to pass.

“I didn’t hear anything new about linking these ideas together,” she said.

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