Ann Arbor Study Favors Light Rail System

Ann arbor map

A study has recommended building light rail transit for the proposed Ann Arbor Connector, a nearly 5-mile route that will connect the city’s downtown with the central and north campuses of the University of Michigan.

The project is a joint venture of the city, the university, the Ann Arbor Development Authority and the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority.

Estimated cost of the system is between $560 million and $680 million. The line would be built in two stages with the first stage linking downtown with Plymouth Road/U.S. Route 23. The second stage would involve building south from downtown to the Briarwood Mall near State Street and Interstate 94.

When completed, the light rail line would have nine stations.

Evaluated as part of the study were light rail and bus rapid transit. Light rail was favored because it would provide a better long-term, sustainable solution consistent with project goals.

A bus system would have lower initial capital costs, but substantially higher annual operating costs.

Annual operating costs for light rail were put at $3.4 million and projected weekday ridership at 31,600 by 2040.
The study also concluded that passenger demand would exceed the practical capacity of a bus system.

A rail system could accommodate the forecast level of ridership with one- or two-car configurations.

The next step will be the development of a capital funding plan that will be part of the regional transportation funding process.

Funding is expected to come from federal and local sources, including the University of Michigan. Most of those riding are expected to be UM students, faculty, staff and visitors.

Another study will create a conceptual design and conduct an environmental review.

The Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program can provide up to 80 percent of the capital cost to construct fixed guideway transit systems, although federal funding usually doesn’t exceed 50 percent of the cost.

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