Transportation plays a critical role in the economic and social health of downtown. Overall, the strategies below focus on the continuing development of multiple and often intermodal transportation options for getting to and from downtown, as well as moving about the downtown.
Having multiple transportation options maximizes the feasibility of doing business, shopping, working, and living downtown. The availability and knowledge of a full menu of alternatives, as currently provided by the getDowntown Program, ensures that employees, residents, visitors and customers can select the transportation options that best fit their needs, schedules, and financial means, while lessening the number of automobiles on downtown streets. This in turn alleviates congestion and improves overall downtown traffic circulation.
Private automobiles will likely remain a popular transportation choice for many downtown visitors, residents, and employees because cars provide fast, on-demand service. Land and financial limitations mean that the supply of parking at peak periods may never match demand. This makes developing a comprehensive parking and transportation plan essential. This plan should balance the multiple and complex needs of downtown including the following strategies:
- Emphasize that the parking system should be economically self-supporting, and that income from all parking sources must be reserved for system operations, maintenance, repair, and construction and parking alternatives. Doing so will ensure that these facilities are properly maintained and that programs are available to meet the needs of downtown patrons. Moreover, parking cost subsidies discourage the use of alternative transportations.
- Regularly review the number of parking spaces available to determine if additional parking is needed. This includes calculating current and anticipated parking demand and usage.
- Regularly assess downtown conditions and consider policy changes when necessary. This may include special needs, such as loading zone and handicapped parking space locations, 15-minute parking spaces for passenger drop-off and quick service needs like dry cleaning pickup and grocery drop off by residents, differentiating parking rates according to geographic location and time of day, aligning hours of operation with downtown business activity (e.g. restaurants may shift parking needs later into the day), etc. Residential permit programs may reduce the impact of near-downtown commuter parking in adjacent residential neighborhoods.
- Encourage on street parking for short term use whenever possible, as these spaces are preferred by customers and encourage the vitality of nearby retail. Also, on-street parking moderates traffic speeds, and promotes a sense of pedestrian safety.
- Promote parking awareness through prominent and well-lit locator maps and promotional activities to combat the perception that parking is unavailable. Greater promotion will enhance the downtown business environment and may reduce the need for future parking construction.
- Partner with the University of Michigan to identify the parking needs of UM students, faculty, staff, and visitors, with the goal of outlining action steps by the UM and community to meet these needs.
- Increase parking capacity at the freeway ring or on the outskirts of downtown to support increased use of alternative transportation and provide long-term vehicle storage opportunities for students and other downtown residents.
- Coordinate use and promotion of public parking after hours for special events and private sector needs, including use of Washtenaw County, City, UM, and AATA Park and Ride parking locations.
A coordinated bus system with a downtown transit center maximizes downtown accessibility. The following strategies contribute to this public transit vision.
- Encourage the integration of UM and AATA bus systems and services.
- Explore the development of new transit centers or an expanded transit center downtown.
- Target and support downtown-friendly enhancements of the AATA bus system, including increased service during peak periods to encourage commuter use, a downtown circulator to make travel within the downtown area more convenient, and smaller vehicles.
- Encourage the development, use, and promotion of AATA Park and Ride lots.
- Promote the installation and ongoing maintenance of attractive and weather-protective bus shelters, as well as informational signage on downtown bus stops (including maps, bus routes and points of interest information).
Encouraging pedestrian and non-motorized transportation provides several benefits. It alleviates traffic and parking congestion, promotes efficient transportation through dense areas, and provides foot traffic to support downtown businesses. An enjoyable pedestrian experience is one of downtown's principal attractions, as well as a necessary element in its social and economic life. Bicycling and walking are also environmentally friendly, and contribute to the unique personality of downtown Ann Arbor. Strategies to encourage this include:
- Study the possible conversion of additional streets from one-way to two-way traffic to make them more pedestrian-friendly as well as easier for visitors and new residents to navigate.
- Support commuter and recreational bike ridership to and through downtown, including the installation of bicycle lockers, bicycle racks, and placement of bicycle parking within the shelter of parking structures wherever feasible.
- Promote pedestrian and bicycle safety measures. This includes supporting educational programs and signage directed at reducing conflict between pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. Consideration should be given to planning details and their relevance to public safety, as well as the maintenance of public improvements to ensure pedestrian safety.
- Encourage development projects that preserve the downtown's sense of pedestrian scale. Consider project mass, scale, and compatibility with existing structures.
- Promote pedestrian enjoyment of downtown by encouraging an active street life, including the installation of street furniture, Historic Street Exhibits, sidewalk cafe seating, attractive plantings, attractive storefront displays, public art and exhibits, and the regular use of public areas for entertainment, parades or street fairs.