Ann Arbor’s vision for high-capacity transit taking shape with possible Connector routes mapped


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The vision for a high-capacity transit system in Ann Arbor — either light rail, streetcar or bus rapid transit — is taking shape with preliminary route alternatives now mapped.

Officials behind the Ann Arbor Connector project have released documents showing a series of possible options for connecting some of the city’s major activity centers.

Each scenario proposes connecting the University of Michigan’s North and Central campuses, while also linking to the university medical center, downtown and Briarwood Mall.

Four partners are involved in the ongoing Connector study: the city of Ann Arbor, Downtown Development Authority, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and U-M.

The work being done now is aimed at determining possible routes, station locations and a service plan. The next step heading into the fall is to further evaluate costs and benefits.

The process of closely examining different options for the Connector started late last year and is expected to culminate in early 2014 with the selection of a locally preferred alternative, said Rick Nau of URS Corp., project manager for the Connector study.

After the study is completed, there will be a good idea of the costs, Nau said, and the project should be well positioned to receive federal funds for future implementation.

“My assessment at this point is that in Ann Arbor we’re talking about a very high level of ridership and a very high potential for travel time savings, so my belief is it would rank very high,” he said.

Nau said federal funds have been provided for systems like the proposed Ann Arbor Connector under the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program.

“That New Starts program provides about 50 percent of the capital costs,” he said. “It’s a highly competitive program. Cities all across the country compete for these dollars.”

While that would be the primary source of federal funding, Nau said, Portland’s streetcar system, for example, was funded by about a dozen different sources ranging from parking revenues to tax-increment financing to state air quality mitigation funds.

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