The Great Train Station Debate
Though the number of folks who commute to town by rail is negligible compared with those who come by car, it has risen lately. As recently as 2004, ridership at the Ann Arbor station was just 107,000--scarcely changed from when it opened twenty years earlier. But for the last five years, it has averaged 140,000, on the same number of trains. While Kunselman is right that the growth has leveled off, there's no question that right now, the federal Department of Transportation has money to spend on train stations. "Look at Dearborn," says the mayor. "They're getting $28.2 million dollars from the feds for a new station." With its plans for bike racks, Wi-Fi, and easy access, the Dearborn station was approved by MDOT last year, and construction began in September.
It'll be up to the local voters whether or not Ann Arbor follows Dearborn's lead. Since they just returned Hieftje to office with 85 percent of the vote, the mayor has reason to hope. But with arts and library millages defeated and a parks millage approved in the same election, he also has reason to fear.
Kunselman, for one, says he won't wait for the station vote to take on the mayor. His council term is up this year, he notes, so "I have to get through 2013 first. But if Mayor Hieftje runs again [in 2014], I'll run against him!"
[Originally published in February, 2013.]