Wednesday, March 07, 2007

nancy shore on life on the aata board

Nancy already talked about carfree life of SOS consumers. Now she chats with us about her experience on the AATA board and her goals for AATA.

cfa2: what it is like to sit on the AATA board?

Nancy: Well, it’s really interesting. The Board definitely doesn’t speak with one voice, and we often have divergent opinions about the system. I really like sitting on the Board because I feel like I really get a sense of what is going on with the bus system in the community and also how that bus system fits with other types of transportation, including walking and possibly rail. We also talk a lot about financial matters (budget cuts, etc.) and how they are going to impact our service and it really gives me a perspective on the complexity of running a bus system, especially in a state that is not doing so well financially and is not putting mass transit and other forms of transportation in it’s funding priorities. I am still relatively new to the Board, but I do feel like it’s a really good group of people who would like to see the AATA grow and change to fit the needs of this community.

cfa2 What kinds of issues are being discussed right now?

Nancy: The kinds of issues that are being discussed are financial issues related to service. This includes how to deal with Ypsilanti (they are not going to be able to pay for service this fall, so what do we do about that?), as well as how to go about purchasing more hybrid busses. Other issues being discussed are if we should go countywide with bus service and what will that look like. We are also talking more and more about how the bus system fits with other forms of alternative transportation.

cfa2: So, the county-wide service sort of fell through, according to the News. I bitched about it a little on the website. What's do you think?

Nancy: I knew that article was going to case some misperceptions. Basically the issue is that if we put the county issue on the ballot tomorrow, the pollsters believe that we don't have enough "yesses" to win. But that in no way means we are not going to do a millage. I think right now the Board defintely sees a need for us to expand service, but is still not sure what that might look like. We might do a millage or we might try to expand service in another way. I would love for people to give us their thoughts and ideas on how we can expand service to a larger area.

cfa2: What are your personal goals are for AATA?

Nancy: In terms of my personal goals on the AATA, well for one I would definitely like to speak on behalf of those who depend on the bus service to get around. I also take the bus quite frequently and see it as a public good—something that everyone should use for many reasons including environmental impacts and the fact that the bus is a community space where you might interact with people you might never see in another setting. I would like to advocate for improving bus service and for thinking about how the bus system fits in with walking and biking to get people around in the best way possible. In the end, I don’t think driving cars is the best way to get people around and I think the AATA is a great system that could get even better. I want to be a part of that.

cfa2: As far as advocating for improved service, is this one of those issues that all board members don't agree on? I would think everyone associated with AATA would want improved service.

Nancy: I think all Board members would agree on improving service, so I guess you got me there. I guess I am not sure we all have the same idea of how to improve that service. Does it mean more park and ride lots or does it mean longer bus hours? Does it mean trying to make the buses run more efficiently, or put more buses on the road? I think the improvements I would most like to see would be expanding the amount of time high use buses are out there (meaning expanded evening and weekend hours), improving service to Ypsilanti, and created some express routes.

cfa2: Can you give me any specific examples of making transit fit better with biking and walking?

Nancy: I sure can. I usually take the #4 bus from the Blake Transit Center to the Ypsi Transit Center. The route is primarily on Washtenaw. Let's say I wanted to get off the bus early on my way home from work (and I do sometimes) and bike the rest of the way. If I decided to get off on any of the many stops across from the County Rec Building or Medford and Manchester I would face a: no sidewalk to bike on and b: a real challenge in feeling safe biking on Washtenaw. If I wanted to walk, it would be even worse. I have had to cross Washtenaw from the stop across from Medford and Mancester before and it is really dangerous. There is no cross walk until you get over by the Bearclaw Coffee place.
I have had the same problem taking the #4 in Ypsi township to Tuptim Restaurant. The day I walked from the bus stop to meet my friend at Tuptim it was raining so the ground was totally muddy and again their were no sidewalks so it was quite unpleasant.
Since most bus trips start as bike or walking trips, it makes sense to see how they interact with on another. I think if there is a bus stop somewhere, there should be an effort to make it easy for a person walking from that bus stop to get around safely. And I think if that person has a bike, there also needs to be some consideration of that fact.
I think Ann Arbor does a really good job with bike lanes and sidewalks, but it can do much better. The same is true for the bus service. I am hoping during my time on the AATA Board I can help the cause.

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