Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (TheRide) (AATA)

MI: Transportation Options Viewed as a Key to Downtown Ann Arbor’s Economic Vitality, New Survey Finds

More than 80 percent of respondents to a recent getDowntown Program survey say the availability of a variety of transportation options is important to attracting customers or clients and talented workers to their downtown Ann Arbor business or organization.

The survey’s release comes as the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA) report a sharp increase in the use of go!passes by commuters to downtown.

"It’s clear that employers and other decision makers who influence their organization’s transportation policies appreciate and understand the value of committing resources to providing alternatives to driving alone for commuters in the downtown area,” said getDowntown Program Director Nancy Shore.

The study, funded jointly by TheRide and the DDA, surveyed 194 employers and decision makers, plus more than 600 commuters in downtown Ann Arbor.  It found that 44 percent of employers and decision makers rated community support for alternative commute modes as “very important” and another 42 percent considered it “important.”  This represents an increase in support from the 2011 survey, where 43 percent of decision makers considered support for transportation alternatives as “very important” and 32 percent considered community support “important.”

“We are excited to see that our support of the getDowntown program and the go!pass continues to benefit downtown businesses and other employers,” said DDA Director Susan Pollay.

“It’s clear they understand the role that mass transportation and other commuting alternatives play in boosting economic vitality,” Pollay said.  “The quality public transportation service provided by TheRide is helping to bring workers and customers to the central business district as well as lessening traffic congestion and benefiting the environment by reducing carbon emissions.” 

Pollay noted that 55 percent of commuters who were surveyed said the go!pass was an important benefit of their job, and 20 percent of organization decision makers said they have employees who could not get to and from work if they did not have a pass. 

With a go!pass, employees in the DDA boundaries get unlimited rides on all TheRide buses, discounts on other commuter services and many discounts to downtown stores and businesses.  The Downtown Development Authority provides a grant to the getDowntown Program that allows the program to offer the go!pass to employers at a reduced rate.  Local employers provide the go!pass as a benefit to their employees.

"In 2013, 4,390 go!passes were used for bus service," Shore said.  "That’s a significant increase from 2012, when 4,166 were used."

According to the survey of commuters, 38 percent said they ride the bus more and 17 percent said they drive less after getting a go!pass.  While most downtown employers who faced a location decision said the go!pass was not a crucial consideration, it was called a “significant factor” by 18 percent of respondents.

When asked how they would commute if they didn’t have a go!pass, 34 percent of employees surveyed said they would drive alone downtown.  This percentage is equal to more than 1,000 cars — enough to fill an entire parking structure — not being driven downtown as a result of the go!pass.

The survey also found that 39 percent of downtown commuters who don’t have a vehicle available take the bus all the way, as do 13 percent who have access to a vehicle.  Walking is the preferred mode of transportation for 31 percent of commuters without a vehicle and is favored by 12 percent of those with a vehicle.  The third most popular commuting option for those without a vehicle is biking, used by 16 percent, while 6 percent of commuters with access to a vehicle choose to bicycle.

“It’s encouraging to see the high use of public transportation service among downtown commuters,” said Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority CEO Michael Ford.  “We hope public transit use continues to increase among Washtenaw County residents as we work to improve the customer experience by making TheRide more efficient, reliable and convenient.”