Innovative Planning and Financing Strategies for a Downtown Circulator Bus Route: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - route design, land use - planning, policy - congestion, place - cbd, mode - bus, mode - mass transit


University of Michigan, Transit, Strategies, Strategic planning, Stakeholders, Ridership, Public transit, Priorities, Patronage (Transit ridership), Partnerships, Objectives, Mass transit, Local transit, Innovation, Goals, Funding, Financing, Financial analysis, Downtowns, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, City centers, Circulator shuttle, Central business districts, Bus routes, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, Ann Arbor (Michigan)


The creation, redefinition, and success of a downtown circulator bus route, the Link, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are examined. Many in Ann Arbor had long wanted a circulator bus route to connect its diverse downtown business districts with the University of Michigan campus. These desires came to fruition in September 2003, with the launching of the Link by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) with funding from a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant following a comprehensive planning process that engaged local stakeholders. The route suffered from low ridership and operational problems soon after entering service, prompting many to question its future. However, by implementing an ongoing planning process that continued to engage stakeholders, AATA was able to obtain new ideas that ultimately led to the successful redesign of the route: improving its usefulness and encouraging the formation of new partnerships to finance its ongoing operation.