For the thousands of students returning to campus, Ann Arbor
seems different not only because of the young fresh faces eager to
dominate campus but also due to the many changes that took place
during the summer. While people noticed the re-routed downtown and
two-way traffic, which have led to some slight congestion downtown,
most have missed out on two of the most exciting additions.

Mira Levitan

Earlier this summer, after facing budget obstacles and low
ridership, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority was forced to
close some lines that reach neighboring towns, Dexter and Saline.
Riding on the heels of this loss, however, arrived a new line
catering to commuters in need of a quick trip downtown and to
campus.

The Link, funded through the Federal Transit Administration,
promotes environmentally sound public transportation. The 18-month
Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant has provided for the five
buses that take turns running the routes. Three buses travel
24-minute loops between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. allowing for passengers
to get on a bus every eight minutes for a fare of just 25 cents.
Not only are the posh, state-of-the-art buses air conditioned
during the summer and heated during the winter, but they are also a
part of AATA’s fleet of low-sulfur buses.

Most notable about the Link are AATA’s efforts to familiarize
residents with the purple buses: AATA has purchased advertisement
space in local papers, placed banners on main roads and is offering
rides this month for free.

Not only does the Link help children and special cardholders
reach dining and entertainment venues on a dime, but the AATA
offers weekly rides for seniors in nursing homes to get around town
for grocery shopping or for a movie matinee.

My excitement comes not just from the 24-stop route, but for
what this could mean for the expansion of public transportation in
this state. After former Gov. John Engler’s 11th hour veto of the
Detroit Area Regional Transit Authority, area government officials
have been working on overdrive to revive a similar transit program.
They have, however, faced numerous problems due to bickering and a
dearth of cooperation with Macomb County. DARTA has been limping
along in its efforts to unite the two inefficient bus systems in
the area and needs a boost such as a success in a neighboring town.
Following in the footsteps of Ann Arbor, the Detroit area should
finally be able to attain an effective transportation system.

The summer is known for drawing large crowds for bourgeois
events such as the monstrous Art Fair; however, the community felt
at events such as the nightly concerts and movie screenings for Top
of the Park, a three-and-a-half week gathering located on the roof
of the Fletcher parking lot, is the true character of the town. All
too often students forget that this campus is just one part of a
vibrant city that is famed for its legacy.

The Downtown Development Authority’s Citizens Advisory Council,
the City Planning Commission and the City Council helped extend our
knowledge of the history behind several corners around town. Due to
the Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibit Program, one can read up on
the first Borders bookstore or the financial district on Main
Street or student activism on South University Avenue by just
walking around. The University was also instrumental in providing
material for the project, as the Bentley Historical Library
furnished many of the photographs and stories found on the
lithographs. The historical plaques located on main corners are
noteworthy themselves as they are the product of a 15 year
collaboration of dedicated councils.

These two additions have brought to Ann Arbor residents
knowledge of the history surrounding us and an effortless means of
accessing downtown locales. They will hopefully also herald
partnerships in lagging cities around the state to promote similar
endeavors.

Since taking office, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Detroit Mayor
Kwame Kilpatrick have repeatedly focused on the need to attract
younger residents. Ann Arbor has maintained its vibrancy as it is
somewhat of a pod distanced from its neighbors because of what it
provides its residents. Its dedication to offer educational and
engaging events must be emulated in order to provide a quality of
life for the rest of the state that is comparable to the one
enjoyed in the bubble known as Ann Arbor.

Chirumamilla can be reached at
“mailto:schiruma@umich.edu”>schiruma@umich.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

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