The Ride is getting an upgrade. Recently, an increasing number of riders have frequented the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority buses. In response, it has decided to improve its main bus stop facility. At an Oct. 10 press conference, Ann Arbor city officials discussed renovation plans for the Blake Transit Center, one of the main hubs of the AATA in downtown Ann Arbor. Rebuilding the Blake Transit Center will benefit the city by encouraging the use of public transportation. AATA shouldn’t lose momentum here — the city should follow this improvement with further expansion of the public transportation system of Ann Arbor.

According to a Daily article on Tuesday, Congressman John Dingell (D–Mich.) helped secure a $1-million federal grant — the State of Good Repair Grant — for the construction of a larger, $4-million, 2-storey Blake Transit Center. CEO of AATA Michael Ford stated in an interview with the Daily after Sunday’s press conference that the remaining $3 million for the project will be funded through different sources, including state dollars and district grants. Charles Griffith, secretary of the AATA board of directors, also said at the press conference that about 5,000 people use the Blake Transit Center on a daily basis and the demand for public transportation in Ann Arbor is growing at a rate faster than the statewide growth.

Public transportation is an often-overlooked part of the city, but it has a large impact on the environment and economy. Besides providing affordable, convenient travel options, increased public transport will help to reduce road traffic and the amount of air pollution caused by cars. And public transportation is vital for Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti residents who can’t afford their own transportation.

An increase in the size of the Blake Transit Center should also create a few new jobs in Ann Arbor. Building the new transit center will create business for contractors and construction companies. A larger building will require more employees like janitors and office staff. And since the rebuilding of the Blake Transit Center is being funded by government grants and not solely from municipal funds, the construction won’t drain Ann Arbor’s bank account.

But the AATA bus system could be better. Thousands of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti residents depend upon AATA to get to and from work. And for many University students, AATA is the only way to venture outside the boundaries of campus. While expansion in the form of this renovation is welcome, the AATA should look to increase the number of routes that it offers and destinations available. Increasing the frequency of buses would also be beneficial. And AATA should also bring back the full Link bus service that was eliminated in 2009 due to a lack of funds.

The new Blake Transit Center’s facilities will make using public transportation more pleasant for area residents, which should entice them to increase their use of AATA buses. AATA should continue to improve its facilities and service to aid the economy and the environment.

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