The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) will host multiple virtual town halls to share updates to its Temporary Service Plan, its Title VI program, and new mobile ticketing system, EZFare.
In August, AAATA rolled out a Temporary Service Plan, removing 16 out of 34 routes from its services to focus travel on essential destinations and reduce overcrowding during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting Nov. 22, AAATA will restore services in western Ann Arbor as a modified version of Route 26, where there is currently no transportation option.
Additional updates on Nov. 22 include expanding FlexRide East in Ypsilanti to cover areas of former Routes 45 and 46 on the weekends. Route 62 will be suspended until Jan. 18, 2021, while University of Michigan students are on winter break.
Bryan Smith, AAATA's deputy CEO of operations, says the updates are focused on covering areas that had gaps in service and that AAATA will continue to evaluate how changes are received in the community.
"The world has changed so much with the pandemic," Smith says. "Many people don’t have to go into the office, and can work from home 80-100% of the time. I don’t have a prediction for the future. We're more focused on getting comprehensive coverage."
AAATA is also in the process of rolling out the first of eight new replacement buses, purchased in 2019 through a new contract with Nova Bus. The Nova bus features USB charging ports, larger windows, and more spacious seating. Virtual tours of the new bus are available online, and Smith says the bus will begin service this week.
As riders experience the new bus, feedback will be collected to help AAATA make adjustments to the other seven buses that will arrive in 2021.
"What we're mainly looking for is: Does this new bus work for [the public]?" Smith says. "We want to know what they like and what else they'd want to see."
TheRide will host its first town hall covering the updates today, Nov. 4, at noon and 6 p.m. A schedule of town halls and the list of Nov. 22 service updates can be found online.
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Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of AAATA.