The need for more parking is a frequent demand in automobile-dependent Southeast Michigan. Last year, newly elected Student Government President Jelani McGadney and Vice President Jeffrey Chicoine took a fresh approach to this demand: to offer EMU students, faculty and staff the chance to buy a discounted Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) bus pass.
They reasoned that each person using the bus would receive a free parking space, avoiding the need to build more parking. The Board of Regents and President Susan Martin backed the plan.
In 2010, EMU added a free AATA shuttle service between Rynearson Stadium and the main campus, and continued the free shuttle between the main campus and the College of Business.
Last August, a subsidized AATA bus program began. EMU students, faculty and staff now pay $40 for a 30-day AATA pass, 30 percent less than the regular rate of $58.
The pass, available at Pierce Hall and the Parking Office at DPS headquarters, is good for all AATA routes any time, helping students travel between home, school and work. AATA supports the project with a ten percent discount, with EMU paying $12.20 per pass, according to Mike Hague, executive director of business services at EMU. About 75 people per month buy a pass. Hague also said he and the parking advisory committee would evaluate the discounted pass program at the end of this year.
McGadney said, “We have to move in a direction away from cars to public transportation for our campus, and for the country. Transportation allows for other change and enlivens the community, as people are better able to get around. There is no argument about the benefit of using buses.”
He pointed out that the passes enable all students, including international students who might not have cars, to get around the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor area for any and all purposes.
McGadney admitted that cost is an element, but mentioned, “that it can be overcome.”
An example he suggested was to have a transportation fee that would lower the price of each hang tag used to park a car, to help cover the cost of the bus pass.
The university demonstrated its commitment to improving both transportation and parking by relocating the
parking administration from the Department of Public Safety to the Business Services Department about 18 months ago, according to Hague. This change, he said, allowed Public Safety to focus on its core mission, and enabled the university to think more holistically about parking and transportation.
Hague explained, “The strategy for the Rynearson shuttle was to make free parking available and to relieve some of the congestion on campus. While campus has never been full where there was no parking available, it is crowded during the first two weeks. The free shuttle option really frees up space on campus. Parking is an auxiliary [activity] so it needs to generate money to maintain the lots [rather than being covered by the university’s general fund].”
He continued, “In the past there has not been a master plan for the maintenance, repair and replacement of the lots. Recently, Physical Plant and Parking [departments] have been working together on a long-term master plan and will continue to fund [with parking-generated revenue as available] the lot replacement. Money was set aside for maintenance this year and that is why the lots looked so good at the start of school. Parking’s long-term plan is to have the lots in very good shape in the next ten years. There are no plans for any large new lots.”
Hague pointed out the Bowen lot improvements this year, and spoke of a plan to “crack seal” and restripe each lot every three years. All parking lot improvements are paid for with parking revenue (including hang tags, paid lots and bus passes), he said. The shuttle service, which is free to students, but costs EMU $280,000 per year,
is very popular. Hague estimates that there are 1,000 shuttle riders a day.
The shuttle service consists of two buses that continually circulate from about 7:30 a.m. until about 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and stops at 6 p.m. on Friday. There is no Saturday or Sunday service. EMU students who use the shuttle park for free and ride to class or work in less than 20 minutes.
The newer shuttle, Route 34, takes eight minutes to run between the Rynearson stadium park-and-ride lot and main campus, serving Bowen Field House, Halle Library, the Student Center and Westview Apartments. It uses Huron River Drive, Oakwood and East and West Circle Drives. In 2011 8,820 people rode this shuttle, according to AATA.
The older shuttle, Route 33, circles the main campus clockwise in 20 minutes, starting at the Ypsilanti transit center, using Michigan Avenue, Ballard, Cross, Oakwood, Huron River Drive and several streets on the east side of campus. It serves the College of Business, Boone Hall, McKenny, Halle Library, the Student Center, Towers Residence Hall, Best Hall and the Ypsilanti Transit Center. The number of riders on Route 33 was 109,763 in 2011, up from 78,631 in 2007, according to AATA.