For the past three years, I have been a
resident of Ann Arbor’s student ghettos, but for my last
semester, I am commuting to classes. Finding parking is quite a
task, as the University does not allow parking permits for freshmen
and sophomores, and offers only distant paid lots for juniors and
seniors. Earning a parking spot at some apartment complexes can
cost upwards of $100 per month. Students are thus forced to become
less reliant on their own vehicles and more dependent on public
transportation.

Sravya Chirumamilla

It would be disastrous to have such limited parking without the
numerous bus systems the city and University offer. The University
and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority have had a partnership
to provide faculty and students free access on The Ride so that
they can reach some businesses and parking lots around town. Since
Aug. 1, faculty, students and employees are able to ride all fixed
routes for free.

The Mride program is a $1.8 million per year venture that is in
place for the next five years using mostly federal grants and
without increasing student fees. Members of the University
community can reach their destinations without the hassles of
traffic and finding parking. The city will benefit from less
congested roads as well as from the federal funds. These funds will
make current routes free as well as help the AATA expand services
beginning in January.

Similar innovative plans brought The Link to the city last year,
allowing for a low-fare route that linked Central Campus, Kerrytown
and the Main Street area. The AATA helps create a cosmopolitan city
simply by offering efficient bus routes, which are mostly
nonexistent elsewhere in this state. Ann Arbor leads other
communities by focusing on public transportation: During the Aug. 3
elections, 13 cities voted to increase millages to support public
transit.

Still, few students explore the city’s many parks, stores
and eateries beyond walking distance. A travesty, considering the
eclectic choices the city offers further away from campus. Students
now have the opportunity to experience local recreational
facilities instead of being limited to the corporate behemoths
taking over the city’s main streets. They can dine at the
many diverse venues, such as the Aut Bar, a café and bar
directed toward the gay community. The surrounding community offers
a wide variety of nightlife besides Scorekeepers, be it the Wooden
Nickel’s Greek night to Good Night Gracie’s martinis
and live music. Museums such as the Yankee Air Museum are unique to
the area and allow residents rides in historic aircrafts.

Besides the opportunity for students to explore the city, this
partnership between the AATA and the University gives hope for a
more intelligent conversation about the issues affecting young
adults.

City officials are recognizing that without students and the
University, Ann Arbor would not be the intellectual center it is
today. The University is the most important aspect of the city and
students infuse it with novel and diverse ideas: enterprises such
as Big Ten Burrito and Euphoria Oxygen Bar are great additions to
the city. They add more to the city’s quirky character than
expanding franchises, such as Potbelly’s Sandwich Works and
Noodles & Company, whose bland foods have infiltrated State
Street just within the last year and a half.

Michigan has failed to maintain educated young adults after
graduation, leading to many economic, social and political
troubles. Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s cool cities initiatives,
announced in 2003, concentrate on Prof. Richard Florida’s
ideas of creating lively centers by promoting technology, talent
and tolerance. The University utilizes student voices to help make
cities throughout Michigan cool. Sponsored by several real estate
and law firms, the University and the Urban Land Institute Real
Estate Forum have created five $2,000 scholarships for graduate
students. The state is also doing its part by appropriating $2
million in grants for 20 cities to stimulate ideas for the state.
Granholm’s proposals, voters’ decision to increase
funding for transportation and the University’s support of
student ideas provide a viable means to improve the current exodus
of skilled youth.

 

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

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