How do U of M Dearborn and HFCC students get to class without driving?

Nearly 10,000 students are completing the fall semester at the University of Michigan-Dearborn next month. With only 3,976 parking spaces for students on campus and harsh consequences for those not following the rules (if you park improperly or without a pass the fine is $80),

Metromode wondered: With far more students than parking spaces, what options exist besides driving?

So we took a look at some of the options and spoke to a few students who get to school without the use of their own four wheels.

Option #1: Live on campus

One option is to live “on” campus. UM-Dearborn has been a commuter college since it opened 60 years ago until the Union at Dearborn, the college’s first student housing complex, opened in 2013 across the street from the main campus. It is located in a former office building near Fairlane Town Center and can hold up to 603 students who can easily walk across Evergreen Rd to class.

The University also recommends the nearby apartments Fairlane Woods and Fairlane Meadow. These two apartment complexes are further from campus and given their sprawling design, students might be more inclined to drive rather than take the shuttle bus. However, driving is not the only option.

Option #2: Take a shuttle

U of M Dearborn offers free shuttles with three routes, MAIZE, BLUE and WOLVERINE, which make frequent weekday stops at Fairlane Meadows, Fairlane Woods, Fairlane Center Campus, The Union, the Administration Building and the University Center. Saturday shopping trips to Kroger, Randazzo’s, and Patel Brothers are offered in the morning and in the afternoon. Shopping riders arrive and depart from each store as a group. All Riders must present their valid UMID card as their boarding pass. The full schedule can be found here.

What if you live further away?

Option #3: Take the Detroit Connector

If a student or employee needs to connect to or from the University of Michigan’s campuses in Detroit, Dearborn or Ann Arbor there’s a bus for that!

In 2013, U of M launched a connector bus route between Ann Arbor and Detroit. The line was originally grant-funded by U-M’s $50 million internal grant campaign, the Third Century Fund, and was free to students and employees. It originally ran on Fridays and Saturdays, making stops at the UM-Detroit Center on Woodward and Martin Luther King Blvd as well as downtown Detroit, Eastern Market, and Southwest Detroit. In 2017 a stop was added at the UM-Dearborn campus in conjunction with service expansion which included weekday service that was available to students, employees and for the first time, the general public. Detroit Connector buses are wheelchair accessible and include amenities such as coach seating, individual climate controls, in-seat AC outlets, WiFi, restrooms and bike storage.

Joel Batterman, U-M Ph.D. student in Urban and Regional Planning, and co-chair of the board of the Motor City Freedom Riders is a frequent rider. He catches the bus in Detroit, behind the DSO parking structure on Brainard, to reach Ann Arbor and takes his bike with him. Buses can accommodate up to 8–10 bikes at no extra charge. The cost is $6 for one way and $12 for a round trip ticket. Riders are encouraged to make reservations online, especially on weekends when students return home to visit their families. According to Indian Trails, which operates the UM Connector, adding the weekly service in 2017 has caused ridership to increase by 21% and the early A.M. ridership from Dearborn to Ann Arbor has nearly doubled, increasing by 87%.

Batterman would like to see the Connector offer a discounted monthly pass and add an additional direct route between Ann Arbor and Detroit, as the trip currently takes 90 minutes with the stop in Dearborn. The bus stops on campus near the University Center. Our Lieutenant Governor, Garlin Gilchrist, used the Detroit Connector to commute from Corktown to Ann Arbor for work three days a week as recently as 2018.

Option #4: Take public transit

What are the other ways to reach U of M Dearborn? There are two public transit providers, DDOT (Detroit) & SMART (suburbs) which have routes in the area but don’t serve the campus directly.

Jasmine Sizemore is in her Senior year at UM-Dearborn as an English major, is Treasurer of Zeta Phi Beta and Student Life Editor at the Michigan Journal. She often utilizes both bus systems to reach school from her apartment in Eastern Market. She takes a bus from her apartment to the Rosa Parks Transit Center at Cass and Michigan Ave. Then she transfers to the Michigan Ave bus #2 and travels to the transit stop on the east side of Fairlane Town Center. The Fairlane transit stop is a mile east of campus so she walks through the mall or around it if it is closed. If she gets up early enough and the schedule lines up, Jasmine will take the SMART bus, #200 Michigan Local, which stops near The Union at Dearborn. Then its just a short walk across Evergreen. That bus only runs to downtown Detroit and back during peak hours.

SMART and DDOT buses use a shared payment system called DART. The base fare is $2 for adults, is good for 4 hours of unlimited rides and can be paid in cash, pass or using the DART mobile app. 24-hr, 7 day and 31-day passes are also available. Discounted fares are available to those who qualify. Here are the system maps for each bus system: SMART - DDOT. Bus riders can use TransitApp to plan their rides and track buses.

Jasmine doesn’t mind taking the bus but she has encountered her share of delays along her commute and wishes that the DDOT buses would stop closer to campus. According to Interim DDOT director Angelica Jones, up until a few years ago both #46-Southfield and #60-Evergreen used to serve the campus directly, but ridership was very low and the service discontinued.

Jones says that resuming service in the future is on DDOT’s radar but there are no current plans to extend routes like #2-Michigan or #1-Vernor to campus. While the walk from the Fairlane transit stop is inconvenient, it's not impossible to reach the campus by riding local public transit.

Henry Ford Community College

There is a public bus stop on Evergreen in front of the campus. DDOT bus routes #46-Southfield and #60-Evergreen stop here as well as SMART route #250-Ford Road. These routes primarily serve the west side of Detroit so east side riders would have to transfer to utilize these routes. It is possible to reach the UM-Dearborn campus from here too but there is no direct sidewalk.

Other Mobility Options

There are two more options for students to get around. Dearborn utilizes a bike-sharing service called Zagster. Bikes are available in East and West Dearborn, U of M Dearborn campus, John J Dingell Transit Center and the Henry Ford Museum. Membership costs $20 a year, trips under 2 hours are free then cost $2 an hour after that. Another option is Zipcar. U-M students can use a car for $9.50 per hour which includes up to 180 miles per day. Membership costs $15 a year. Cars can be found at The Union and Fairlane Meadow apartments, downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor.
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