Public Transportation: Let’s Step it Up!

Posted on May 8, 2014 by Sarah Craft
Commuters board an afternoon bus in Ann Arbor.

Commuters board an afternoon bus in Ann Arbor.

Curb Your Car in Ann Arbor

May is the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority‘s annual Curb Your Car Month and residents are encouraged to walk, bike or take the bus instead of drive throughout the city.

Marketing for the AAATA's Commuter Challenge.

Marketing for the AAATA’s Commuter Challenge.

As part of the initiative, local businesses compete in the Commuter Challenge by logging employees’ alternative commutes to work. Competing against similar-sized organizations, participants have the chance to win prizes like gift cards and free lunches. More than 2,000 commuters participated in 2013’s challenge and already more than 700 commuters have registered this year.

Soon, it will be easier for even more employees to get to work by public transit. At the May 6 local election, 71% of voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township passed a 0.7-mill tax increase to expand transit services, which will put more buses on the road, expand hours, redevelop and add routes, and broaden a digital ride service.

A National Trend

The broadening support for public transportation is not unique to Ann Arbor. Communities across the country are seeing residents push for better transportation options.

The Rockefeller Foundation recently surveyed millennials, and found that 86% said it was important for their city to offer low-cost public transportation options. Millennials aren’t just saying what they want, they’re acting on it: Young people are purchasing fewer cars, driving fewer miles and moving to cities that offer effective public transportation options.

Ann Arbor residents recently voted to expand bus routes and service hours.

Ann Arbor residents recently voted to expand bus routes and service hours.

But millennials aren’t the only ones interested in driving less; baby boomers are leaving their suburban homes and relocating to areas with better walkability, public transportation and cultural experiences.

Cities acting on these findings are learning that effective transportation not only attracts and retains residents, transit-oriented development can boost economic activity and new development.

For example, Cleveland’s bus-rapid transit (BRT) system, HealthLine, has generated $114 for each dollar spent on the project. Frequent public transit users save more than $9,000 a year – meaning they have more money to go out to eat, buy goods and support local businesses. Although transit-oriented development is challenging to plan and implement, it certainly pays off.

Take Action

A national bill could make it easier for communities to do development around high-capacity transit lines. Under the act, eligible government and public-private partnerships would have access to low-cost loans or loan guarantees to support economic development near transit.

Do your part to support the bill and transit-oriented development by contacting your Senators.

Drivers and riders share the road in Ann Arbor.

Drivers and riders share the road in Ann Arbor.

Even with this spring’s cold, wet weather, Ann Arbor residents are committed to curbing their car and using alternative means for getting to work. With any luck, these “alternative” means of walking, biking, and taking the bus will no longer be “alternative,” but the norm. Our cities and regions should use Ann Arbor’s success as momentum for planning more effective and widespread public transportation throughout the state.

Useful Articles or Reports Mentioned in this Blog

Want more talking points? Visit our Placemaking Transit page for additional research and statistics or contact me directly with questions.

Sarah Craft is an Information & Policy Research Program Coordinator at the Michigan Municipal League. She can be reached at 734-669-6328 or [email protected].

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