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New bus service brings Benzie, Traverse City a little closerPrint

Thriving Communities | November 15, 2012 | By Jim Lively

Riders can now travel between western Benzie County and Traverse City with a regular, fixed bus schedule—perfect for commuters to TC, and for city residents headed to a show at Interlochen Center for the Arts or to enjoy the Frankfort shore.

This month, two regional transportation agencies launched a partnership that makes it easier for riders to travel between Benzie County and Traverse City while leaving their cars at home.

The Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) and the Benzie Transportation Authority (Benzie Bus) teamed up to offer a new connection service that allows Benzie Buses to transfer riders to BATA buses at Ric’s Food Center in Interlochen beginning Nov. 1. With buses leaving five times each day from stops in Frankfort, Beulah, Benzonia, Honor, Interlochen, Grawn, Chums Corners, Grand Traverse Mall, and BATA’s downtown Traverse City station, this bus route links riders with many of the region’s important destinations.

Riders can now travel between western Benzie County and Traverse City with a regular, fixed bus schedule—perfect for commuters to TC, and for city residents headed to a show at Interlochen Center for the Arts or to enjoy the Frankfort shore.

This is the second regional transit collaboration for BATA, which launched a weekday connection in Buckley with the Cadillac Wexford Transit Authority in 2009. It is also the fifth village connector fixed schedule route; others connect Traverse City with Empire, Northport/ Suttons Bay, Acme and Kingsley. All told, BATA now serves more than 20 regional villages with fixed schedule service connecting to Traverse City.

According to BATA’s Executive Director Tom Menzel, by next May the agency will increase the frequency of service to these villages, and add other improvements such as a new Web site and new marketing and signage to help riders find the bus stops.

These partnerships and improvements are tangible results of the Grand Vision process, which called for more transportation choices, including enhancements to the regional transit system. And it’s something MLUI has been pushing for years. These are village connectors in the true sense of the word—public transportation that links northern Michigan’s wonderful towns and cities and their residents.

Fixed schedule buses means that if you can get to a bus stop along the route when the bus comes by, you can get to a job or an appointment at the other end of the route on time. This new service provides an important option for people that cannot drive, or would like an option to drive less – maybe even get rid of the expense of a second car.

Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle visited the region on Nov. 12 to celebrate the kick-off of the new service, and he praised the cooperation between local agencies.

“I applaud this culture of collaboration, especially when a plan is initiated at the local level and we can help make this vision a reality,” he said. “Tell us what you want to do and then ask how we can help.”

Don’t worry, Mr. Steudle. We’ll continue to do that!

Jim Lively is program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute and a regular bus rider.