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Local Workers Crave More Transportation ChoicesPrint

Thriving Communities | May 14, 2013 | By James Bruckbauer

To alleviate rising transportation costs, the Grand Traverse Casino and Resort offers bus passes at a discounted rate to its employees.

Earlier this year, we asked about 1,500 Traverse City-area employees why they commute the way they do, and what would encourage them to use the bus, bike, or walk to work.

The results were clear: While many are interested in more transportation options like transit, biking, and walking, many felt that those options aren’t available, and if they are, they aren’t convenient.

Employees from Munson Medical Center, Northwestern Michigan College, the Grand Traverse Casino and Resort, Hagerty Insurance, the City of Traverse City, Oryana Natural Foods Market, and the Michigan Land Use Institute participated in the survey.

Most respondents work Monday through Friday, from morning until around 5 p.m., and because they live between 10 to 20 miles away, they find driving alone to work most convenient.

►  About 82% of they respondents said they drive to work alone.

►  A little more than half said they might use public transit for their commute if the bus schedule was more convenient.

►  Almost 60% said they might use public transit if there was a stop closer to their home.

►  About half said they might use transit if they were offered a financial incentive.

►  About 60% of the respondents said they might carpool if there was an easy way to find someone to share rides with and if there was a guaranteed ride home in case of emergency.

►  More than 40% said they might walk or bike more if there was a convenient network of sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails.

►  Most respondents said they were interested in learning more about public transit (including park and rides), carpooling, and bicycling.

The results are consistent with a Grand Vision survey conducted last year that showed many Grand Traverse area residents want continued investment in transportation choices like transit, biking, and walking.

The Bay Area Transportation Authority is responding to the demand by making their bus routes more attractive for commuters. The region’s largest transit system is investing in its fixed routes that connect villages in outlying areas to Traverse City.

The Grand Traverse Casino and Resort in Acme Township partnered with BATA on a new fixed route that connects downtown Traverse City to Acme. The reduce risk and alleviate heavy transportation costs, the Resort offers its employees transit passes at a discounted rate.

And, in response to the survey, Munson Medical Center staff is already working with Benzie Bus to offer a park-and-ride option for employees who live in Lake Ann. The new service is expected to begin during Smart Commute Week next month.

We’ll highlight all this great work at our Getting Transportation to Work Commuter Summit on June 4. The event will bring together transportation experts, regional employers, elected officials, and engaged citizens to discuss new ways to improve transportation options.

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Follow him on Twitter at @jimbruckb. Reach him at james@mlui.org.