The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (TheRide) has begun implementing its new long-range plan titled “TheRide 2045,” This plan will enhance the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti transit system over the next 25 years.
According to TheRide’s website, “TheRide 2045” aims to improve the city’s public transportation to adjust to the area’s evolving needs, environment, and quality of life.
The plan prioritizes providing better transportation through efficient transportation, alternatives, and connecting businesses and people. The belief is that this system will increase the transportation system’s ridership, making the community more sustainable due to a better transit system.
Approved in July of 2022, the plan is broken down into five separate increments of five years. According to TheRide CEO Matt Carpenter, following the first incremental five years, any further continuation will require public approval before proceeding with its next five years.
“We are in the first year of the first five-year chunk,” Carpenter said. “Part of the reason it is in five years is because that is the length of our millage. This system provides a way for the voters to weigh in and tell us to speed up or slow down in an unequivocal way that no one can argue it.”
According to Carpenter, the initial plans for TheRide 2045 began with a series of public outreach campaigns throughout the Washtenaw region throughout 2021 and 2022.
However, after finally receiving approval from the public and its Board of Directors in July 2022, the Washtenaw Transit company began plans to implement the new system in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
As part of TheRide’s five-year plan, which begins this year and ends in 2028, the company hopes to achieve the following:
- During daytime operation, run on 30-minute frequencies for every route
- Run for longer hours
- On-demand service for overnights will be expanded and enhanced
- Reduce one-way running times on Washtenaw Avenue by around 30 minutes through a limited-stop pilot program
According to Carpenter, one immediate implementation of TheRide’s plan was to enhance its Ypsilanti department with better service to help match with its Ann Arbor counterpart. These services include adding more staffing to the Ypsilanti station, building upgrades, and extended overnight service called Night Ride.
“The millage is providing funding to organize the services,” Carpenter said. “They are the same across the entire service area. Everything that Ann Arbor has, Ypsilanti will also have. This will open up opportunities on either end, folks from Ypsi will find it easier to take a job in Ann Arbor, and folks in Ann Arbor will find it easier to get to Ypsi for a summer event.”
Operating costs are spending funds for employee wages, fuel, and bus maintenance. The operating costs will cover things like vehicles, buildings, and infrastructure.
With the support of federal operations assistance, contract service, and advertising revenue, these costs are funded through local property taxes, state operating assistance, and passenger fares.
Outside of their initial five-year increment, TheRide’s long-range plan would like to increase service times and improvements for those with disabilities and seniors.
The listed goals include the following:
- Two bus routes designed for rapid transit; one that travels throughout Washtenaw Avenue and another traveling from Ann Arbor’s northside to Briarwood.
- Service that operates on 15 minutes or better through most routes
- High use corridors offering service that operates on 10 minutes or better with priority features
- Throughout the service area, a minimum of 30-minute frequency is provided 7 days a week
- Disability and senior service improvements
- Service hours on weekends and weeknights are extended
According to Carpenter, the ultimate goal for this 25-year process is to give the Washtenaw public service that they’re demanding.
“We realized, if we are going to meet the needs that the community is asking, we have to get more organized,” Carpenter said. “They want more service, more frequency, and to get to more places. If we are going to be able to do that, we have to get organized at the scale that will take 25 years. I can’t pretend this is going to be done in five years. It’s just not realistic. The long-range plan is a blueprint that reflects what the community wants.”
Should the 25-year plan be complete, Carpenter states that he believes this will provide Washtenaw residents with absolute transit privilege.
“Freedom, Independence, autonomy, lower cost, environmentally sustainable,” Carpenter said. “These are all adjectives that reflect what we can do as a community. If we have a high-frequency transit system, and if we build it, will they come? We think they will.”
Antonio Cooper is a freelance journalist from Detroit, Michigan. His coverage of music festivals and interviews with local celebrities appeared in The E-Current Magazine, The Detroit Metro Times, XXL Magazine, RichMagDigital, The Ann Arbor Observer, and Pop Magazine.