The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) is gearing up to make improvements to the nearly 25-year-old Ypsilanti Transit Center (YTC), and transit users are weighing in with numerous ideas for the project.
Since the beginning of October, AAATA staff and their consultants, Wendel, have been collecting and evaluating input from riders to identify alternatives for improving the YTC. The existing YTC at 220 Pearl St. could be renovated or an entirely new facility could be constructed, but nothing will be determined until the study has concluded. Riders were asked to share their wants and needs for the YTC at the first of two public input meetings on the topic on Monday, Oct. 23, at Eastern Michigan University College of Business' Gary Owen Building, 300 W. Michigan Ave.
AAATA community relations manager Mary Stasiak says the AAATA wants to overhaul the YTC because of the facility's age and rapidly increasing ridership. YTC usage doubled between 2011 and 2016. Stasiak says the AAATA has been talking about making improvements to the transit center for quite a few years, but securing the funding to do so has always been a challenge.
"It’s important for us to be planning for the future and planning for what the community needs going forward," Stasiak says.
Susan Sherwood is a senior associate principal at Wendel who's serving as project manager for the YTC study. She and her colleagues are aiming to collect input from a wide range of riders. Riders who couldn't attend the first public input meeting have been encouraged to participate by filling out an online survey, which will be open through Nov. 3, or sending an email to email@example.com. Wendel consultants were in town last week collecting input from riders on AAATA buses and at the YTC.
"We’re trying to make sure that we’re getting all classes of citizens, all age ranges, people from all of the zip codes," Sherwood says. "It’s never going to be a perfect science, but it’s really about making the opportunity available and doing the best you can to try to get them to talk to you."
Concentrate spoke with YTC users, both at the public input meeting and in a recent visit to the YTC, about their desires for the station's future. Many riders expressed a desire for the YTC to have the same amenities as Ann Arbor's recently rebuilt Blake Transit Center, like wider platforms and covered outdoor waiting areas to protect riders from inclement weather.
The issue of safety and security at the YTC also comes up repeatedly among riders, although they're of mixed opinions on it. Some riders shared concerns over safety and security at the YTC, while others believe safety and security used to be an issue at the facility but isn't so much anymore.
Ypsi resident Ashley Thompson uses AAATA buses several times a week to get to work. She doesn't really see the need for any improvements to the YTC because she thinks the money could be invested in more important things, like raises for the bus drivers and security guards or infrastructure improvements so the buses have an easier time getting around town.
"Honestly, I am so satisfied with everything," Thompson says. "There's always security guards. I feel very safe. They have cut down a lot on all of the wildness from the high school kids after school. They actually crack down a lot."
Ypsi resident Bill Teepen relies on AAATA buses and his bike to get around since he doesn't have a vehicle. He likes the location of the YTC because of its convenient location in the middle of downtown Ypsi. But at the public input meeting he offered numerous suggestions on how the YTC could be improved, including improved ADA accessibility, automatic openers on every door, and visual and verbal route information for the hearing- or visually-impaired. Teepen would like to see a larger waiting area with additional seating and better acoustics so it's not as loud when there are lots of people inside.
"I’d like to have at least three stories: the main ground floor where everyone sits and waits, then the second and third floors with shops and restaurants," he says.
Ypsi resident Treda Guyton uses AAATA buses almost every day to get to various places, including physical therapy appointments, St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, and the Secretary of State office. She wants the YTC to have vending machines, a convenience store, or fast food restaurant so she can pick up a quick bite to eat, as well as change machines so she can break bills into quarters to use for bus fare. She thinks some of the existing amenities inside of the transit center could also be improved.
"Make sure the heat is thoroughly good for the winter and upgrade the water fountain because it's terrible," Guyton says. "You have to put your mouth all the way down on it now to get the water."
While the study is being conducted, the AAATA plans to address some of the most pressing concerns, like safety, security, and cleanliness. Some immediately attainable amenities, like a screen with arrival and departure information or a charging station for portable electronics, could be added before Wendel consultants share their recommendations for improvements to the YTC.
The second public input meeting will focus on the results of the study and determining alternatives for the facility. The date and location of the second public input meeting hasn't been announced yet, but it will likely be held in early spring.
Sherwood says the final product could be far more ambitious than anyone expects, noting that Wendel has worked on transit facilities that incorporated unconventional amenities including museums, credit unions, libraries, and daycare facilities.
"We try to encourage the community members to think big and think broad because when you bring a new development potential to an area like this, it can be very transformational both for the individuals and for the community at large," Sherwood says. "It can bring more presence, ... more people, and more activity."
Brianna Kelly is the project manager for On the Ground Ypsi and an Ypsilanti resident. She has worked for The Associated Press and has freelanced for The Detroit News and Crain's Detroit Business.
All photos by Doug Coombe.