Public transportation around Ann Arbor and the Detroit area could potentially get a much-needed face-lift in the coming years. The Ann Arbor Transit Authority has released three options for new mass transit plans, which include adjustments to public transportation options throughout Ann Arbor and a “smart growth” plan that would incorporate travel between Ann Arbor, Detroit and the surrounding areas. When discussing the proposals, the AATA should aim to improve public transportation and infrastructure around campus and the Ann Arbor area. Members of the community should also utilize the environmentally-friendly transit options once they become available.

According to a Jan. 27 article, the plans currently being reviewed aim to improve public transportation not only within Ann Arbor, but also between surrounding cities. Each of the 30-year plans — which will be voted on in March — include a shuttle service from Detroit Metro Airport to cities in Washtenaw County. Smart Growth — the most comprehensive of the three mass transit proposals — will further increase the availability of public transportation between Ann Arbor and cities in the metro Detroit area. The AATA released estimates this week that state that the cost of the new services range from $120 million to $566 million, according to a Jan. 31 article. Last night, AATA project coordinators met with community members at the Ann Arbor District Library to discuss the proposed changes.

In the Smart Growth proposal, the AATA laid out plans to build a high-capacity transit system, create “high frequency” services within the most active areas in the county and listed street cars, trams and rapid bus transit as possible options. These services would cut wait times for passengers and increase available transportation within cities. It’s currently an expensive struggle for people without a car, or those who are trying to avoid using their car to get to the Detroit Metro Airport, and these updates could hugely expedite that process. While also keeping cost in mind, the AATA should consider a plan that will help connect Ann Arbor with surrounding cities.

The selected plan also needs to explicitly address the needs of University students and provide on-going transportation between campus and the Ann Arbor area. It’s not very easy to get around Ann Arbor without a car — which many students don’t have — and the AATA needs to approve a plan that addresses that concern. By providing students ample travel options, the AATA can make getting around campus easier, while also reducing the environmental impact of people on campus.

Once a plan is finalized, students and Ann Arbor residents need to take advantage of the comprehensive transit system. According to AATA Project Coordinator Michael Benham, the current transit mode share — the percentage of public transportation used compared to other vehicles in Ann Arbor — is at a mere 6.2 percent. With the increase in available public transit, along with proposed expansion of carpool programs and bike paths, Washtenaw County commuters, including University students, need to reduce their dependency on cars and utilize more eco-friendly travel options.

With an end to the county-wide debate over the ideal transit plan in sight, the AATA should consider the transportation needs of students. In turn, students must also take advantage of the ‘green’ transit options available and restrict use of gas-guzzling cars in favor of public transportation.

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