There's good news afoot for Ann Arbor residents seeking an alternative way to travel to and from Detroit.
The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA), in partnership with the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA), is proposing a new pilot express bus service connecting Detroit and Ann Arbor.
"We are really excited to work with the RTA to connect the two communities with this service," says Mary Moonin, AAATA's manager of community relations. "The project directly supports connecting the two communities by providing mobility choices where limited options exist today."
Operated by Michigan Flyer, the route will run hourly between downtown Ann Arbor and downtown Detroit with limited stops. The service will run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week, with reduced trips on weekends. Riders can expect to pay $12 for a one-way fare.
"Reservations can be made up to 15 minutes in advance and are highly recommended to guarantee that individuals get a seat," Moonin says.
Advance reservations will cost $10, and a book of 10 tickets will be available for $80. The fare for senior citizens and people with disabilities will be $6.
Riders will enjoy deluxe seating featuring arm and foot rests, individual lighting and climate controls, restrooms, WiFi, USB charging ports, cupholders, overhead storage bins, and bicycle storage.
Moonin says the initiative has been a priority for both communities for quite some time, but until recently there has not been adequate funding for such a service.
Citing citizen requests as the impetus, RTA spokesperson Mario Morrow explains that the RTA's board of directors identified the necessity for the bus route in late 2018. In 2019, they secured state and federal grant funding of approximately $2 million annually for three years. The RTA started working with AAATA late last summer and fall to complete a federally compliant procurement process to select a vendor to provide the proposed service.
Details of the proposed service were outlined in two public hearings, one in Detroit and one in Ann Arbor, on Jan. 8. Participants were invited to learn more, ask questions, and share their comments and concerns. Fifty people attended the Ann Arbor hearing and 135 attended the Detroit hearing.
"We had a very nice turnout. Our online participation on social media and direct comments and questions was very high as well. We are excited about the positive interest, overwhelming support, and great ideas and comments," Morrow says.
Morrow reports that most people were enthusiastic and a number of the attendees stated that the proposed service was long overdue. There were requests for stops in Dearborn, the University of Michigan campus, and also midtown Detroit.
The next step involves compiling all public input and presenting it to the RTA board of directors for consideration.
"The RTA will review the outcome of the public hearings and hopefully give the general manager their blessings to move forward," Morrow says. "At that time, we will determine start dates and begin promoting the service."
While an official launch date has not been decided upon, Moonin says the RTA and AAATA are hopeful that service can begin in early 2020. She expects the service to resonate with many locals.
"It's going to be so much easier for individuals who are concerned about the cost of commuting or want an option other than driving," she says. "It's going to make a real difference to have a real end-to-end express service going directly to the two communities."
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos by Doug Coombe.