Update: On May 2, voters in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties approved BATA's request for a millage renewal and increase.
The Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA), which provides bus service for the Grand Traverse area, is on a roll. And, on May 2, BATA will ask local voters for continued support.
We at Groundwork fully support this millage because we believe that BATA continues to improve and provides a crucial service for the future of the region.
Since 2011, BATA has been following through on a series of long-term recommendations laid out in a market study. That study showed that the system could be more effective and efficient if BATA improved its marketing and created regularly scheduled “fixed” routes between Traverse City and nearby villages, and shifted its focus away from providing a dial-a-ride service.
The direct, town-to-town service allows people to live in places such as Suttons Bay or Kingsley and ride the bus in and out of downtown Traverse City for work each day. Those commuters don’t have to depend on their cars to meet day-to-day commuting needs.
More and more people who live outside of town but work downtown are looking at BATA as a reliable way to get to work and not deal with parking or traffic, freeing up parking spaces and street space for other downtown workers and visitors.
BATA learned recently—through public surveys and feedback meetings—that many locals wanted to see improved services such as:
The millage, if it passes, will help BATA advance those improvements.
In addition, studies on talent attraction show that young people want to live in places where they don’t have to depend on a car to meet their day-to-day needs. It's not living car-free, but “car-lite.” And BATA is part of that overall system. In the future, BATA will likely work with private services such as Uber and Lyft to help people get around.
As part of our New Economy series, we recently interviewed BATA transportation planner Tyler Bevier on FacebookLive about how good public transit can help attract more young professionals to Traverse City.
While about 56% of BATA’s funding comes from federal and state sources, about 44% comes from the local millage and other local sources such as advertising and fares.
For the upcoming May 2 election, BATA will ask voters in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties for a five-year, .5 millage, which would begin in 2018. It’s an increase from the current rate of .3447 mils. If it passes, the funds will allow BATA to continue operating and also allow the organization to update some of the aging vehicles and improve services for visitors and local residents alike.
Transit systems provide safe and affordable options for people who need to get around, they add to the economic vitality of the community, they save families money, and they are good for the environment.
James Bruckbauer is Deputy Director at the Groundwork Center. Contact him at email@example.com.