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Big BATA Changes Pushed BackPrint

Thriving Communities | May 31, 2012 | By Glenn Puit

BATA buses at the downtown transfer center.

The Bay Area Transit Authority is delaying until next year big changes to its bus routes because of upgrades to the agency’s software and infrastructure.

As we first reported in January, northern Michigan’s largest public transit agency is carrying out a huge makeover aimed at making the bus more commuter and workforce friendly. Specifically, the agency will be changing its routes by moving away from the slow, door-to-door dial-a-ride service BATA currently operates in favor of more direct, “fixed” routes that run on tightly defined schedules.

Running these more direct routes will, in the long-term, make the BATA bus more timely and convenient for riders because they will know exactly what time they can get on the bus, and what time they will arrive at their destination.

Carrie Thompson, BATA
Carrie Thompson, business development director for BATA

We caught up on Wednesday with Carrie Thompson, BATA’s business development director, to see how things are going with the bus route changes. She said progress is being made, but that a delay was necessary because BATA is simultaneously upgrading its computer software and renovating its lobby at Cass and South Airport roads. All the changes, at once, caused concern that employees, and therefore riders, might end up confused, so BATA administrators pushed  back the route changes until the spring of 2013.

 “Originally we were going to due (the route changes) all at one time in September but due  to all of the other initiatives we have going on this summer…we’ve decided to break it down so employees can catch up,” Mrs. Thompson said.

“We didn’t want to put all those (changes) in place and then in the same month say, ‘Okay dispatchers we have brand new software, a brand new way of communicating with drivers, and by the way we are going to completely change the way you do your work,” Mrs. Thompson said. “So we are going to do the technology aspect first.”

The eventual changes are relevant not just to BATA riders but also commuters on both the Benzie Bus and the Wexford County bus system. Those agencies are working with BATA to develop better connections to Traverse City. They are waiting for BATA’s improvements within Grand Traverse County before they can execute a truly regional system.

BATA is going to continue this summer with plans to implement a direct route pilot program that will offer routes from downtown Traverse City to Acme and Interlochen. These routes will be a much needed upgrade for commuters coming in from Benzie, Antrim and Kalkaska counties.

We at MLUI will keep tracking these important changes.

Glenn Puit is a journalist and policy specialist at the Michigan Land Use Institute.