Blog: Michael Benham

Lots of hands have been raised in the talks about where our feet will go around the Washtenaw County of the future. After 50 town hall meetings, the Transit Master Plan is coming soon. Michael Benham, AATA's special assistant for strategic planning, talks about public input on the plan and the shape of transportation to come.

Post 2: Sneak Preview – A Transit Vision for Washtenaw County

In my previous blog, I described the extensive public outreach program that TheRide (Ann Arbor Transportation Authority) used to publicize our planning process and to get people involved.  I described the many meetings and the hundreds of people we spoke with.  So what did we do with all that input?  You are about to find out.
TheRide is now putting the finishing touches on the Transit Master Plan designed to guide transit improvements throughout the county for the next thirty years. Here is a preview of what you will find in the plan.
Countywide Door-to-Door (D2D) Services:   Although the County currently has services that serve our seniors and people with disabilities, these services are very incomplete, with large areas of the county not covered, and  limited days and hours of service where there is service.  The Countywide D2D service would cover the entire county and would establish a consistent standard for service everywhere in the county, providing a transportation lifeline for the people who cannot or prefer not to drive.
Flex Ride:  This service would be available to ALL residents of Washtenaw County, providing a transit option for anyone who wants it.  Flex service would take you to and from the nearest fixed-route service (train or bus), or if no fixed route exists, Flex service would take you directly to your destination.

Enhanced Western Washtenaw Value Express (WWAVE) Services:  Under the Plan, the services provided by WAVE would be enhanced to provide greater frequency, longer hours and weekend service.  Residents of Chelsea and surrounding communities would enjoy greater mobility, and better connections into Ann Arbor.
Express Services:  Express bus service, similar to that already provided from Chelsea and Canton Township, would connect the major population centers to the heart of the urbanized area.  These commuter-oriented services would provide Manchester, Saline, Chelsea, Dexter, Whitmore Lake, and Livonia-area residents with a fast and economical alternative to driving
Community Circulators:  Modeled after the Chelsea Community Circulator, additional local circulators are proposed for Dexter and Saline, providing connections within those communities between residential areas and jobs, shopping and recreation.
Urban Bus Network Improvements:  The Plan will contain many proposals for improvements and  extensions to the existing urban bus network in and around Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.  Such improvements will include later hours, more frequent service, weekend services and so forth.
High Capacity Transit:  Two corridors have such heavy transit travel already that they are being proposed for introduction of high capacity service such as a bus or light rail line.  The Washtenaw Avenue corridor service would greatly increase connectivity between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, while providing a stimulus for economic development of the entire corridor.

The Ann Arbor Connector would link together some of the highest density areas of the region – UM hospital, North Campus, Central Campus, downtown Ann Arbor and points south including Briarwood and Avis Farms.

Commuter Rail Connections:  Commuter rail would be introduced on existing railroad tracks.  One line would connect Ann Arbor to Detroit while the other would connect Ann Arbor to points in Livingston County, offering commuters options other than their cars for making longer distance trips to and from points outside the county
Airport Service:  The Plan also calls for initiation of an express bus service to Detroit Metro airport from points in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.  By connecting using the other services in the plan, virtually any resident could get to the airport by transit.
Park & Ride:  The Plan envisions a significant expansion of park and ride lots intended to intercept drivers before they enter the densest parts of the region, providing bus services into the core urban areas.
The Plan will offer additional transit services and also heavily emphasizes the importance of biking and pedestrian facilities.  All of the above are designed to work together to efficiently provide an extremely high level of transit access for the entire county.
Want to hear more?  Want to express your opinion?  Attend one of our public meetings in May when we will release the Plan for public review.  I think you will see that we've been listening.