Not only will Ann Arbor’s public transit system be getting a facelift in upcoming years, it will also be reducing its carbon footprint.

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority announced on Tuesday that it will receive a $2.7 million grant from the Federal Transportation Administration. The funding will be used for infrastructure improvements to the Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor and the addition of 10 hybrid buses to join the 31 currently operating in the city.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.) wrote in an e-mail interview to The Michigan Daily yesterday that the addition of hybrid buses will reduce harmful gas emissions. The new buses, along with the Blake Transit Center updates, will create more jobs in the state, Dingell wrote.

“This funding will play a critical role in expanding and enhancing transportation options for Ann Arbor to help us retain, create and attract jobs to Washtenaw County,” Dingell wrote. “Both of these projects will help the AATA operate more efficiently and effectively, working to better public transportation and economic security for Southeast Michigan.”

The addition of the 10 hybrid buses will bring the total number of TheRide buses to 78, including the non-hybrid buses. The grant for the purchase of the buses comes from the Clean Fuels Bus and Bus Facilities Program, which supports the increase of clean fuel technologies for transit buses.

However, AATA isn’t the only transportation service planning an environmentally friendly revamp. As part of the University’s new sustainability plan, the University will add seven hybrid buses to serve the campus community.

Construction on Blake Transit Center, located on East William Street and South Fourth Avenue, is scheduled to begin in spring 2012 and will triple the space from 2,000 square feet to approximately 6,000 square feet. The project is estimated to cost $5.5 million.

The $2.7 million grant will be divided into $1.013 million for improvements to Blake Transit Center and $1.697 million for the cost of the 10 hybrid buses.

The $2.7 million is part of the $4.195 million that has been allocated to AATA for the project thus far. In Oct. 2010, AATA received a $1 million federal grant for the Blake Transit Center renovation. AATA has also applied for an additional federal grant to aid the project.

Dingell wrote that updating TheRide and other modes of public transit are integral to the lives of Michigan residents.

“As travel time is becoming a key quality of life issue for Michigan workers, public transit is an accommodating transportation option to provide access to jobs and school while alleviating car congestion,” Dingell wrote.

This $2.7 million federal grant follows last week’s announcement that TheRide plans to expand its services between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. AATA spokeswoman Mary Stasiak told The Michigan Daily last week that the proposal to extend the TheRide’s services and make transportation more efficient in the next few years is in response to the needs of Ann Arbor residents. The proposal also includes the creation of a shuttle from Ann Arbor to the Detroit Metro Airport.

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