Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The AATA Gets an F

I'm a huge fan of "The Ride", the Ann Arbor Transit Authority's extensive bus system. Hell, I was Commuter of the Month in January 2005. I've logged countless hours on the #13, #9,#6, #5, #3 and especially the #4. I even have a little song for the counter-looping #12A and B buses, to the tune of Outkast's "So Fresh and So Clean" -

Ain't no bus ride dope as me
I'm the 12A/12B (12A and 12 B! B!)

Yes, I'm just that dorky in my passion for The Ride, and usually I have only nice things to say about it. In fact, when I was given a customer satisfaction survey on the #9 bus a few weeks ago, I was very excited to fill in the bubbles at the top of the multiple choice scale. That was before I saw this -

There I was at the Blake Transit Center, getting ready to catch the #4, when I was suddenly accosted by Linda Yohn's giant head. Linda fucking Yohn, the lamest and yet most influential DJ on WEMU, an otherwise delightful local jazz station of good taste. Want to hear something totally played out - like "Take Five" by the Dave Brubeck Quartet - followed by some really obnoxious local act - like the Chenille Sisters - while trying to digest your breakfast? Then Linda Yohn's morning jazz show is just for you.

Perhaps you think I'm mean. Perhaps you're wondering, "What does all this have to do with the AATA?". But that is my point exactly! Why is she suddenly a spokesperson for The Ride? Does she actually ride the bus? The fact that I can't stand her already just makes it more annoying.

Days later, I encountered this new beast by the corner of S. Fourth Avenue and Liberty -

Ingrid Sheldon, are you kidding me? She's best known as the Mayor of Ann Arbor 10 years ago. She must be known for something else to some important person, but we'll get to that in a moment. Because guess what? There are more white people on display at the BTC! Just as I was recovering from Sheldon and Yohn, I met this imposing visage at my beloved 12A/12B stop -

Eek! It's Newcombe Clark, the wannabe Robin Colcord of Ann Arbor! Have you ever met this guy? I have. Wish I hadn't. I won't get more personal than that. But I will say that at least his little blurb about economic vitality makes a point, instead of being some vague statement about "the community". Just makes you wonder, why is this point being made, and to whom?

I think the last panel gives us our answer -

"The Ride gets our employees to work" Whose employees? Our employees? Is that the royal "our", Mr. Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations?

Basically, these four local, moneyed, white celebrities see some value in letting the rabble have their jitneys. Their oversized posters are a plea to their less charitable but just-as-monyed peers who don't want to have to subsidize the AATA. And the poster children are rewarded for their efforts with these enormous mirrors for their equally enormous egos. It makes me nauseous for a few reasons -

1) Ann Arbor is a narcissist's asylum. In this town, "celebrities" outnumber affordable housing 20:1. I've made lots of choices about where I spend my time to avoid these sort of people, but I kinda need to use the bus, and I don't want to look at these faces

2) These bus stop walls used to hold useful information, like the bus schedule, and the system map. Now that information isn't as accessible.

3) I find it especially offensive that the Richard Sheridan panel is posted at the #04 bus stop, because the #04 is the most racially mixed bus line. It's like he's apologizing for all the people of color standing in front of the sign.

If this new signage bugs you too, click here to voice your concern. Just like the Ride, the AATA complaint page has the power to bring the community together!


  1. Damn, lady, I miss you and your wit! I'm laughing in public off of this post.

    I've been meaning to call you forever. I'm en route to San Jose, CA for the World Fantasy Convention. The past couple of weeks have been mind-blowingly nutty busy and stressful. But did I tell you we now know the sexes of the twins-to-be? One boy, one girl!

    If I get half a second to breathe in Cali, I'll call you. If not, though, I'll it you up during the week.

  2. Errr, 'hit you up,' that is. Say howdy to Mr. Rose, BTW!

  3. Good thing you clarified. I was really offended about getting "it" up.

    OMG!OMG! That's so exciting!!! I'm so happy for you guys. You should name them Sayley and Haladin.

    And congrats on the reading at the Fantasy Convention - I read about it on your blog : ) I'm sure you will be great

  4. Your post is excellent, every word--funny too, smart too. It does pay to piss you off, hmmm, because you produce great material as a result. But you do when you're not pissed off too. (And that is very exciting news about your friend's twins!)

  5. The line about white celebrities valuing jitneys for the rabble says it all--you called it just like it is. It's sad that the AATA marketing department was too blind to see it, so good luck with the campaign. Now that you have a license to drive, you can honestly and reasonably threaten to boycott.

    Perhaps you should also ask them for a job. Ads featuring Outkast-inspired soundtracks might not appeal to Ann Arbor's tax-phobic bourgeoisie, but it could boost ridership among The Ride's actual commuters (like you and me).

    (Currently riding #36; formerly #18, #609 - nee #9U, #9, #5, etc.)

  6. You have a point about the license! And just as I was getting excited to say "I could drive to work, but I choose to ride the bus, instead!" and finally get some real cred for keeping my carbon footprint trim.

    Dan came up with another option, in the style of "Operation: Midnight in Eastern Market" (wink, wink)

  7. It appears that you have overlooked the large AATA advertisements featuring Rhea Olivacce. Not moneyed, not white, and my fabulous ex-voice teacher! :-)

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. It appears you have overlooked my post from November 23, 2009.