U-M and AATA to provide unlimited bus access through AATA'S MRide Program
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—University of Michigan students, faculty and staff will be able to ride Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) fixed route buses without paying a fare beginning Aug. 1.
The five-year agreement, valued at $1.8 million per year, will pay for fares and increased service, according to Dave Miller, U-M's director of Parking and Transportation Services, and Greg Cook, executive director of AATA.
The new agreement will replace three successful current contracts between U-M and AATA—employee bus pass program, the Park and Ride program and enhanced services on the Route 36 along State Street—at no additional cost to U-M. The bulk of the contract expense, $1.1 million annually, will be provided by federal funds earned by U-M transit operations' participation in the National Transit Database program.
"We carry 4.5 million passengers a year on our U-M transit system," said Henry Baier, associate vice president for U-M facilities and operations. "In 1999, the University began participating in the National Transit Database program by submitting passenger data and financial summaries. As a result, additional federal funds through the Federal Transit Administration became available to our region beginning in 2003. U-M, in cooperation with AATA, chose to use the funds to expand transportation options for the U-M community."
Under the agreement, U-M will continue to pay AATA $700,000 per year for transit services that bring passengers from throughout the AATA service area to the University campus. AATA's MRide Program will be available to active U-M Mcard holders any day of the week, on any of AATA's regularly scheduled fixed-route services.
"We are very pleased to be able to offer this enhanced benefit to our University community while not increasing our costs," Miller said. "Active U-M students, faculty and staff simply will be able to show their MCard and access AATA's MRide Program. We expect this benefit will help our off-campus students travel to campus more easily, help our on-campus residents access retail and entertainment venues, and reduce our parking demand by staff and faculty."
Cook also sees the new program as a benefit to the larger community. "AATA is excited to be expanding our long-standing partnership with the University of Michigan," Cook said. "Not only will active U-M faculty, staff and students benefit, but so will AATA riders and the entire community. The expected increase in ridership will make AATA service more productive, especially during the midday and evening hours where we now experience excess capacity."
Additionally, the contract calls for AATA to provide enhanced service beginning January 2005 based on University customer feedback and usage patterns. Plans include adding at least 8,000 annual service hours to the fixed routes through extended hours, increased frequency or route modifications.
"This new program will allow AATA to provide additional service for all our riders," Cook said, "which also will help people who work non-traditional hours. Until now, we haven't had enough demand to warrant more frequent midday or later evening service. We expect about 5,000 additional rides per weekday by the fall of 2005."
Miller expects increased bus ridership to reduce the existing parking demand pressures on and around campus. "AATA's MRide Program sets in place an industry-proven, effective way to increase the numbers of employees and students who take the bus from neighborhood homes to the campuses. That's what AATA does best. We will continue to do what we do best—transport passengers among and between our campuses. The two systems complement each other very well. We're looking forward to the results."