Without a personal car, Ann Arbor’s transit options limited to bus system The Ride, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and pedi cabs, don’t engender the close-proximity community vibe characteristic of getting around by subway. Though the concept of a subway in a city the size of Ann Arbor seems laughable to any big-city outsiders, one resident wants to explore what that might mean.
Ann Arborite John Umbaugh created a speculative Ann Arbor subway map inspired by his time on the Tokyo Metro while living in Japan. “It was almost like it was a public square,” he said. “I feel like the public square aspect of society is not there.”
Umbaugh made the map to both highlight some of the important locations of Ann Arbor as well as to hang it in his home. When friends took interest, he decided to share it on the Ann Arbor Reddit thread. The concept map sparked conversation among Ann Arbor’s online community members about the nature of public transportation’s value to citizens of cities.
While Umbaugh didn’t know with absolute certainty what about the map resonated so much with people, he explained why he personally thought it was significant (and cool). “We are having a lot of uncertainty nationally and for me it helps to take a step back and look at the institutions we have locally and derive hope from them.”
Umbaugh is not a city planner and the map isn’t meant to be seen as a blueprint for a literal subway, but as an idea that represents a quality he wants amplified. “I like all cities to become more effective cities,” he said. “I don’t want Ann Arbor to necessarily be a bigger city, but one that creates more connections between people, for people to have more opportunities to run into each other.”
Though the Ann Arbor Metro is nothing more than a remote possibility, Umbaugh adds that the idea of it exemplifies some of his favorite elements of Tree Town. “I’m a big believer in Ann Arbor,” he said. “I’ve lived here for 11 years. I think there are a lot of great ideas here. It’s sort of our responsibility here to open that up to a wider audience, especially now. The free flow of ideas is going to benefit everybody.”
The speculative map and prints can be found here. Umbaugh will respond to any questions in the comments below.