Is streetcar service possible for Ann Arbor?

Could a streetcar line be in the cards for Ann Arbor? It’s a distinct possibility according to the Ann Arbor Connector Feasibility Study.

The $250,000 study outlines ways to beef up the transportation options on a crescent moon-shaped line. It would connect the Plymouth Road exit for U.S. 23 to downtown. It would also travel further south along South State Street to Briarwood Mall.

Eli Cooper, the transportation coordinator conductor for Ann Arbor, notes that route is already heavily traveled by bus riders, often to the point of standing room only. It's also looking for similar improvements along Washtenaw and Huron avenues.

"It's really a connector study," Cooper says. "There are a lot of technologies that we have to explore."

Those range from enhanced bus service (think longer buses that carry more passengers) to bus rapid transit (buses with their own lanes) to streetcars to light rail. The main difference between streetcars and light rail is that streetcars are smaller and often cheaper to put into place.

Cooper estimated the cost of enhanced bus service at $10-$15 million, bus rapid transit at $30 million, streetcars at $100-$150 million and light rail at $250 million. That just includes building the 10 mile line primarily along Plymouth and South State.

The committee reviewing the proposals is made up of representatives from the city of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and University of Michigan. The committee will review the proposals and make a recommendation by October.

Source: Eli Cooper, the transportation coordinator conductor for Ann Arbor
Writer: Jon Zemke