Let’s Talk Transit

Like many out-of-state students, this holiday break I flew home via Detroit’s Metro Airport. I got to the airport using MSA’s airBus service. According to the Airbus website, they will operate 29 trips to the airport and 24 trips from the airport back to Ann Arbor during this Winter Break. Assuming every trip is 80% full (not unreasonable, since many trips to the airport totally sold out) and each bus holds 50 people (an estimate, tour busses are about that) then the service will provide 2,120 “rides” either to or from the airport. Most likely the figure will be higher: during Thanksgiving break, some of the return trips were totally full as well. The success of the service is no doubt due to the hard work of its organizer, U-M undergrad Neil Greenberg, but also because the service provides a much-needed, inexpensive service. With comfortable tour busses, no boot.

I find it odd that such a successful and obviously needed service is operated by undergrads through the student government. They do a fine job, but both the University’s transportation service and the Ann Arbor Transit Authority must be slightly embarrassed: here is a transit “amateur” who has developed a service to do exactly what they purport to do – provide needed transportation services. Here’s what I had to say about it way back on October 24:
“It’s an embarrassment to the University that this financially sustainable and much-needed service must be organized by undergrads through the auspices of student government: the administration should, like many other colleges and Universities, run a shuttle to and from the airport on a regular schedule, with extra trips when demand requires.”

I’m not aware of any reason why the University hasn’t operated a similar service either now or in the past, and I hope the example set by airBus convinces them to begin regular shuttles to the airport. I know that the AATA has refused to operate such a service because the administration of the Detroit airport has insisted they pay fees to operate regularly scheduled service to the airport – something almost never done for other bus systems at airports across the nation. Back in September, fellow blogger Richard Murphy posted a letter to the editor from the Ann Arbor News suggesting the AATA operate an express shuttle to Detroit’s Metro Airport. He opined the AATA should begin operating such a service, and then contest the fees later. I agree: I don’t particularlly care how unreasonable Ed Macnamara’s cronies are being, transit comes first. The AATA is a non-for-profit service, and while charging a fee might be unfair, refusing to provide a much-needed transportation service because of a petty disagreement seems more unfair.

Also, you may wonder why the Daily hasn’t asked Transportation Services why they don’t offer airport transit year-round. It may just be they’re too busy looking for “problems” with the service at actually think about the underlying issue: the only way to get to or from the airport without a car (or friend with a car) shouldn’t be a $50 cab.

Author: Rob