What has two wheels, four tires and chugs along a track? The answer is Ann Arbor’s proposed Transportation Master Plan Update, which was approved Tuesday night by the City Planning Commission. The plan features myriad improvements to city transportation options that focus on convenient, environmentally friendly alternatives to owning a car. Better mass transit options are essential for maintaining the city’s walkability, protecting the environment and maintaining socioeconomic diversity. City Council should uphold these ideals by swiftly passing the Master Plan.
The new 20-year update will be the first serious revision to the city’s transit infrastructure since 1990. It aims to encourage city development and create higher density residential living through expansive public transit overhauls. The plan proposes to improve local highway interchanges, create more bicycle lanes, build new train stations and construct an Ann Arbor-Detroit rail line that will eventually expand to incorporate Dexter, Jackson and Chelsea in an effort to reduce transportation congestion.
This new vision for transportation is among many other programs being funded through the Obama administration’s Omnibus Appropriations Act. The $410 billion provided by the act will delegate funding in packages to local applicants for projects to renovate and modernize areas vital to city infrastructure.
And developing better options for mass transit is crucial to maintaining Ann Arbor’s walkability. There simply isn’t enough available parking for every student to have a car — and the spaces that are available should be saved for commuters. Decreasing traffic and allowing for easy transportation across the city is important for all residents. Developments like bicycle lanes are great ways to propose alternatives for getting around.
Better mass transit systems are also necessary to combat the effects that urban sprawl can have on socioeconomic diversity. A city like Ann Arbor demands that those on the fringes of the city have the same access to downtown businesses and University institutions that other residents have. The plan will also link Ann Arbor to other cities via rail lines — a vital way to promote interconnectedness between different cities.
Another example of city efforts to improve transportation options is Zipcar. Although relatively new to the rental car market, Zipcar has become quite popular and useful among students and Ann Arbor residents alike. By covering the cost of insurance, gas and initial parking, Zipcar offers students an alternative to bringing individual cars to campus. It is this very expediency that the Downtown Development Authority is hoping to advance by supporting the company’s purchase of their latest cars. City Council should recognize the great potential that ideas like this have and support these efforts.
An Ann Arbor transportation overhaul will work to counter the growing congestion and pollution within the city, while effectively creating a more sustainable infrastructure for the future. Improving public transit and pedestrian traffic ways, along with offering more personalized options such as Zipcar, is at the very core of a community already invested in green technology and sustainable living.