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AATA & University Buses


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Can someone explain to me how large of a system the University campus bus system is, and how it function with the AATA? I'm surprised that they are two different entities. MSU use to have its own bus system here in Lansing, but where all merged under CATA back in the 90's. Given how UofM is much more integrated into the its city than MSU is to its city, it would seem to make even less sense to have two different bus systems.

So, how long has the UofM bus system been in existence (does it have a proper name?); is there any overlap with the AATA routes?

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It is part of the AATA, thus they share federal funding. In other words, both systems (and the link) report their ridership together. It's a little bit of a cheat so that everyone wins. I was told this and had always thought U of M's buses were operated only privately, but apparently they aren't. Correct me if I'm wrong.

A university of Michigan bus:


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Okay, I looked this up.

PTS manages the MRide contract with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA). This program provides fare-free rides on all AATA bus routes for U-M faculty, staff and students. The program is funded by a combination of federal funds (earned by the U-M bus system), general funds and parking revenues. This past year, 2 million passenger trips by U-M students and employees were taken using the MRide program.
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My understanding was that the University pays "X" amount of dollars to the city so that students and faculty can ride the AATA for free. The University bus system, however, is a completely separate entity, with storage and maintenance yards down by the stadium (that's going to change next year, apparently, with a move up to North Campus).

I know that the U busses were running back in 1987 when I was an undergrad, and they're still going strong today with little or no changes to the routes. It may not make sense on the surface, but obviously this configuration is working on some level. One thing in particular that separates the two systems are the hours of operation. The U bus system operates much later (I think until 1:00??), while the city stops around 10:00 (too lazy to look up the schedule right now). AATA opens earlier, though (around 6:00; the U starts around 6:45).

I suspect that the two are separate because of the inherent tension between the local population and student populations. It's hard enough to get residents to ride the bus in to work (even with a system as excellent as the AATA is), but if locals thought they'd have to ride with a bunch of students, they might be even more reluctant to climb aboard. The same holds true in reverse. It's funny... I get looks when I'm on the student bus (they think I'm some old fart resident who got "confused"), and I've heard the locals complain about "those damn students" (when in fact they're getting annoyed at high school kids, not the U students, and of course they don't realize that I am actually a student!). I guess this solution works well enough, so why change it, huh?

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It's rare to see non-university individuals riding the U of M buses simply because they don't serve locations of their interest. Despite that they pass near residential districts, they are all rental. Additionally, there are those smaller buses which serve staff and hospital employees who park in commuter lots.

I should really stay out of these U of M bus threads. I always get worked up. I think the system is broken and we need something better. I waited 30 minutes today at Pierpont because 3 southbound buses were way overcrowded and I couldn't get on. (hence the photo above) Actually they were violating safety restrictions with students standing against the windshield. Enough is enough. Cut this b.s. and build light rail.

Or at the very minimum a mega parking structure on North Campus with cheap rates. Yeah, it's opposite of what I want. I'd rather the U not encourage people to drive, but nothing seems to be getting done. We've long surpassed the threshold to sustain a lightrail system (according to URS), so let's build it.

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I can offer some first hand information.

During undergrad and grad school (1998-2002), I was a student driver for the UM bus system. Yes, the systems were/are separate. I'm pretty sure the UM system has been around since at least the early 1970s (probably coincided with the development of North Campus).

It was the best job for student (very flexible scheduling and you didn't have to work on weekends) and the pay was good (started at $10/hr in 1998, but had to pay for the CDL).

From my time as a driver, I got the sense that the union for the full-time UM drivers was not the same as the union for the AATA drivers and thus prevented the combining of the systems. Plus, the scheduling, pay, and benefits were better, I believe, for the UM full-timers versus AATA's.

Another great service that UM provided, but AATA may not is charter buses. I often got to work on weekends driving a chartered bus taking the tennis team (or some other UM team) to/from the airport. And often for in state games, many full-time drivers got to go to Lansing/Grand Rapids, etc for day long charters and get paid to hangout while the people you drove do their thing.

As for wolve's statement about the broken-ness of the system - I agree to an extent. The buses during peaks would certainly fillup quickly at choke points (ie Pierpoint Commons, The Union, Intramural Building), but the supervisors and drivers did their best to prevent/minimize it as much as possible.

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