There was a chant echoing through the Ladies Library building in Ypsilanti Monday night.
“MORE BUSES! MORE PLACES! MORE OFTEN!”
In the midst of oldies covers, good food, and laughter, supporters of the More Buses campaign celebrated the beginning of enhanced bus services they’d worked so hard for. In May voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township approved a millage for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, and on Monday, August 25th, the first round of new and improved transit services had begun.
Have you ever tried biking to the Ypsilanti District Library on Whittaker Road? I have, and it scared me out of my wits. The treacherous freeway overpass is enough to deter the most hearty bookworms, and the cars speeding away from downtown only make it worse. This inaccessible location kept me from visiting the beautiful library even once in the two summers I’ve lived in the city.
Even if the route were more cycle-friendly, not everyone can bicycle to their destinations – especially with an armful of books! This great city resource, along with a supermarket, shopping center, apartment buildings, and parks, had been effectively unreachable to anyone without access to a car. But no longer. One of the most highly-anticipated service improvements unveiled on Monday was the new Route 46, which runs from the Ypsilanti Transit Center all the way down to Textile Rd. Before the community celebration that afternoon, a rolling press conference took place on that route, stopping for speeches and photos at several stops along the way.
Back at the Transit Center, the winners of the Democratic mayoral primaries for both Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti gave speeches voicing their support for the new routes, later hours, and more frequent runs. They also stressed the message of unity between municipalities – a goal that has seen great progress with the incorporation of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township into what once was the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.
As a former organizer for transit expansion in Washtenaw County, I was thrilled at the energy of the crowd and the happy to see that the efforts of my team had paid off. As someone concerned about sustainability and equity in Washtenaw County, I’m pleased that so many more bus riders will get a ride where they need to go, when they need to go there. As a student who lives in Ypsilanti and takes classes in Ann Arbor, my life will improve significantly with the addition of evening runs on certain routes.
But I was most moved by a woman sitting next to me, listening to the music, who talked about the sacrifices she has made so that her son and husband could be educated. One such sacrifice was always taking the bus, even when the service was not as frequent or convenient as she needed. Throwing her hands in the air, she cried, “This is my party!”