November 21, 2012 - 2:05am
BY BEN ATLAS
For some out-of-state students, home is an airplane flight away, creating a high demand for rides to Detroit Metro Airport every Thanksgiving. For the past 10 years, the University’s Central Student Government has met demand with its AirBus service — a transportation service that runs from Ann Arbor to DTW that runs during fall, Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks.
Beginning this year, CSG has made it easier for students to reserve AirBus tickets. Instead of only making tickets available at the Michigan Union Ticket Office, tickets are now sold exclusively on the AirBus website via the online ride-sharing interface, Zimride.
According to Neil Greenberg, the AirBus program administrator, the majority of customers have long requested that tickets be available for purchase online. Since most travel reservations are now made online, CSG decided it would make sense for AirBus to make the same transition.
“Most people buy airplane tickets online now, and we see AirBus as a continuum of that,” said Greenberg, who co-founded the service as an undergraduate in 2002 and has run the program ever since. “We responded to customer demand and made tickets available online.”
Instead of making their way over to the basement of the Union and waiting in line for a ticket, students can make travel plans in front of their computer screens.To make a reservation, students click on the specific trip they want, and are then redirected to Zimride, where they must log-in using their uniqname and password to charge the $7 fare to their student account.
Students then receive an e-mail confirming their reservation, eliminating the need to print out a ticket or a confirmation — instead, students just have to swipe their MCard upon boarding the bus.
The transition to online ticket purchase has been a welcome change for customers, according to Greenberg, as students enjoy the convenience of buying tickets online. Greenberg even said some students have told CSG that they struggled to find time to go to the Union and buy a ticket, but the transition to online reservations has allowed them to now use the service.
“This is way easier,” LSA sophomore Greg Nelson said. “I completely forgot I had to get (a ticket) and I went online and got one in two minutes.”
Greenberg did acknowledge, however, that some customers have reported problems about logging in to the Zimride system, completing reservations, and not receiving e-mail confirmations about their trip. CSG is aware of the problems and is currently responding to each inquiry, Greenberg said.
The AirBus service will not be affected by City Council’s recent decision to end city involvement with the Ann Arbor Transit Authority. Greenberg was quick to discern between the AATA’s Air Ride, a daily shuttle from Ann Arbor to DTW that could be discontinued, and AirBus, a CSG-backed program that only runs during student breaks.
According to CSG, AirBus sells out roughly half of the 15,000 rides it provides per year and the service is used by approximately 13 percent of the student body.
“AirBus is one of the most popular services offered by student government,” he said. “It is very visible, and shows that CSG is responding to student needs.”