Fuller Road Station: It’s All About Parking
From the beginning, while the marquee has been saying “transit“, the players on the stage have been studying their lines in parking. These two threads evolved along parallel tracks. But the project (first called the Fuller Intermodal Transportation Station, or FITS) has always been about parking, at least as currently designed and planned.
Here is what the only paragraph in Mayor Hieftje’s letter that explicitly addresses parking says about it:
According to the UM there is a great need for more parking as the medical center grows. But, it is important to note that the parking component at FRS does not represent a net increase in parking spaces for commuters. If not for the FRS plan, the UM would now be pushing forward with their plan for two new parking structures on Wall Street along with a new bus terminal. But of course their plan did not include rail infrastructure and more people would still need a bus to get from the new structures to work. Note that the University attempts to provide parking for only 50% of their 40,000 employees.
This could be read to be saying that parking is almost incidental to the project. Yet Phase I of the project (the only one under active preparation) is pretty much a parking structure with some bus bays. Here’s what the JJR concept plan report (a detailed scope of services and timeline dated August 5, 2009) Council engaged in the project says:
Phase 1 of the FITS consists of the construction of a 900 space parking deck, an amount of residual surface parking, a bicycle station and a bus stop with provisions for a more comprehensive FITS program in the future…
The “Fuller Road Station” is to be located between the UM Medical Center and Fuller Road, with a complex of Huron River, roads, intersections, and railroad tracks surrounding it.
The yellow area is a parking structure that also contains some bus access and bike storage area. The current parking lot (the one that everyone thinks is being replaced by this structure) is still there. There is no train station.
The “concept plan” also calls for an eventual train station where the surface parking lot is. But it is not part of the current plans for construction and has not been funded.
The idea of some sort of transportation node at this location goes back to the Mayor’s Model for Mobility, 2006 (look at the map). But the impetus for this joint project came from a parking problem. The University of Michigan has been engaging in long-term planning and determined that it needed parking for its growing medical campus. Since the UM had been acquiring property on Wall Street for some time, it planned a parking structure and transit center there, handy to the Maiden Lane exit to Fuller Road.
Residents in nearby condominiums naturally objected to this idea. UM held several neighborhood meetings in late 2008. But Mayor Hieftje and others at the city had already seen an opportunity. As described by the Ann Arbor Chronicle, city staff and elected officials met with UM officials and managed to change the subject: how about if we house your parking needs on Fuller Road — and you cooperate with us on a transit center? As early as July 2008, this arrangement was being hinted at in a resolution of cooperation with the UM (sponsored by Mayor Hieftje and CM Sabra Briere). By June 2009 (again, reported by the Chronicle), the UM had put the Wall Street project on hold. And in August 2009, Hank Baier (UM VP for Facilities) had written a letter of intent agreeing that UM and Ann Arbor would work jointly on the “FIT”.
But Baier was very clear about what the UM’s interest was.
As the conceptual plan for FIT is advancing, city and university staff will continue their efforts to more fully define next steps in anticipation that each of us will approve the conceptual plan in October. That schedule is necessary if we are to reach agreement on a first phase of construction that would accommodate university parking by 2012.
It has always been about the parking.
See the city’s page on Fuller Road Station for many documents and explanations.
UPDATE: Correction: the parking lot shown on the Phase 1 schematic is only part of the existing parking lot. Much of the Fuller Road Station parking structure would be constructed on the site of the existing lot.
This aerial view of the current site, kindly supplied by CM Sabra Briere, can be compared with the Phase 1 schematic shown above. Clearly there is a considerable overlap of the structure and the current parking lot.
SECOND UPDATE: We were perhaps negligent in not including a link to a recent opinion that UM should not build more parking. Joel Batterman, a graduate student at UM, has been studying the issue. He wrote an opinion piece for AnnArbor.com that also has a link to a much larger study of the issue.
THIRD UPDATE: On February 10, 2012, the UM and the City of Ann Arbor announced that the UM will not be participating in the joint parking structure-transit center project. See the accounts by the Ann Arbor Chronicle (which includes a timeline of the project and is adjacent to a series of cartoons with outrageous puns) and AnnArbor.com (which includes a long series of reader comments, none complimentary to the late departed parking structure). Also, see the announcement in the UM Record Update, which includes a link to the formal announcement.
Scarcely had the cheering died down before CM Christopher Taylor (who seems to be the Mayor’s chosen surrogate for these tough jobs nowadays) sent out (February 11, 2012) a widely circulated letter to constituents with a firm statement that the Fuller Road Station is still on track, so to speak. Here it is quoted in full by AnnArbor.com.Explore posts in the same categories: civic finance, Transportation