Ann Arbor seems to have developed a split personality regarding buses. This fall, The Link — the purple bus that circles downtown Ann Arbor — may see part of its route discontinued. But at the same time, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is adding a new commuter bus route to nearby Canton Township. These changes are sending mixed messages about Ann Arbor’s commitment to mass transportation. While establishing a new bus route is commendable, shutting down the buses that service downtown would be a blow for students and staff that rely on free, easy transportation. The city of Ann Arbor shouldn’t cancel this important bus service. Instead, it should continue to provide affordable mass transportation options to residents and workers.

At Ann Arbor’s Downtown Development Authority board meeting on June 3, the $70,000 grant that funds The Link wasn’t renewed. When The Link service, which is ordinarily suspended in the summer, restarts this fall, it’s likely that most of its route will be removed. Only the eastern loop — which services the University and Oxford Housing — will remain.

But while the DDA cut funding for The Link, the AATA announced on June 11 the formation of a new commuter bus route between Ann Arbor and Canton Township. The route is funded by a U.S. Department of Transportation grant and will open by late August. The bus will be available for only $125 per month. For University employees, there’s another perk — the University will cover half this cost.

While Ann Arbor is making strides by adding the new commuter bus route to Canton, it’s also taking away busing options within the city that residents and students rely on. There is no fare to use The Link buses, making them the ideal transportation option for Ann Arbor residents and workers downtown. For the University students and staff that choose to live in Kerrytown, The Link ensures that travel around Ann Arbor is an affordable option.

But the consequences of losing The Link are more far-reaching than just the cost for passengers. Without the buses, residents and workers downtown will be forced to drive in an already congested area. This will increase street traffic and strain on parking spaces. And a good public transportation system cuts down on air pollution caused by cars. Cutting bus routes like The Link that help reduce pollution is counter-productive to the goal of an environmentally-friendly transportation network.

The new commuter bus route to Canton is addressing all of these problems on a larger, regional scale. There are already plenty of commuters on the roads traveling to and from Ann Arbor every day, contributing to traffic, parking and pollution problems. About 3,000 University employees live in Canton and two of its neighboring cities, Plymouth and Westland. With the new bus route’s fare being offered at a low cost, getting to Ann Arbor will be easier and cheaper for these commuters.

There is no question that buses like the new commuter route to Canton are good for the people, the city and the environment of Ann Arbor. The city should give itself more mass transportation options by keeping The Link’s purple buses running once students return for school in the fall.

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