A new bus route running from downtown Traverse City to the Grand Traverse Resort and Turtle Creek casino holds the potential to reduce transportation costs for resort employees.
BATA announced the new direct route late last month. It has 12 stops along “resort row,” — the string of hotel properties lining U.S. 31, and ends with stops at the resort and casino. The two properties are run by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
|A new bus route runs to the Grand Traverse Resort and the Turtle Creek casino, allowing resort workers to rely on public transit to cut their transportation costs.|
Chuck Stewart, risk and safety manager for the resort, said the new route is part of a partnership with BATA aimed at alleviating heavy transportation costs employees of the resort properties face just getting to and from work.
“Last year we were watching the gas prices rise, and we have a lot of people employed on the front lines – wait staff and housekeeping – who were telling us they might have to quit because of rising gas prices,” Mr. Stewart said. “They said they simply couldn’t afford to pay for the gas to get to and from work.”
With the new Monday thru Friday bus route, employees who ride into Traverse City on village connector routes or who can get to the downtown transfer center station can get on the bus for $3.00 fare each way or $1.50 if you’re a student, senior citizen, or a person with a disability. That is significantly cheaper than the costs that come with fueling up a car, making car payments and maintenance that come with car ownership. As we reported on extensively in our Families on the Edge series, these transportation costs are among the most burdensome our families in Northern Michigan face. Families, on average, are spending more than $11,000 a year on transportation costs alone in this region, and by turning to public transit, that is money that could be spent on other pressing financial needs as opposed to putting more fuel in gas tanks.
“There’s been lots of excitement about it,” said Mr. Stewart, adding the band has purchased 250 fair pass books to be sold at a slightly discounted rate to employees.
Other stops on the route include Traverse City State Park, Acme M-72 park and ride, Women’s Health Pavillion, and Bertha Vos school. Acme residents who work in the downtown Traverse City area can also park their cars in the Michigan Department of Transportation’s park and ride parking lot and ride the bus to work as well.
Carrie Thompson, business development director of BATA, said the direct route is one of several changes BATA is making to make public transit more employee friendly. The move to direct routes — which are more timely and dependable than many of the agency’s dial a ride routes — allow workers to know exactly when they will be getting to work and when they can get home. With the new Williamsburg route, workers can depart the resort properties as late as 10:30 p.m. and arrive as early as 6 a.m. BATA Executive Director Tom Menzel said the “Resort Row” route is just one of two year-round and two seasonal routes recommended in the Velecides Schroeder transportation study approved by the BATA Board of Directors in November.
BATA, and the Grand Traverse Band, are to be commended for implementing this route. The next big challenge is to make sure employees of resorts along the corridor utilize this great new resource. Look for MLUI to take a leading role in promoting the route and encouraging resort employees to check out the bus as a great way to get to and from work and save money at the same time.
*Story updated on 7/10/2012 to reflect accurate travel fare.
Glenn Puit is a policy specialist and journalist at the Michigan Land Use Institute.