TRAVERSE CITY — Bay Area Transportation Authority hit New York’s Times Square.
And national news, as well.
The local public transportation agency’s innovative Bike-n-Ride program won a spot in the national limelight after BATA hired two local public relations firms to send out a press release touting the fact that BATA is the second public transit company in the country to haul around large groups of bikes.
“Everybody does bikes, but nobody can haul the number of passengers that we can haul.” said Carrie Thompson, BATA’s business development director.
BATA set up a new service in May to carry up to 11 bikes back and forth from Suttons Bay and Traverse City. On Tuesday, a PR Newswire sign went up in New York Times Square that announced, “BATA’s 2nd in the nation Bike-n-Ride program in northwest Michigan. www.Bata.net.”
The story also was picked up by the Sacramento Bee, Yahoo Finance, and WSMV TV Nashville.
The buses primarily serve riders who pedal the 17-mile, paved Leelanau Trail, but want to hitch a ride back home.
“Sometimes, there’s no way your husband wants to pedal all the way back to Traverse City,” said Tom Menzel, BATA’s executive director. “We’ve saved a lot of marriages with this service.”
BATA saw a 68 percent increase in ridership with the new service from June to July, he said.
The Bike-n-Ride program stopped running after Labor Day, although buses with a smaller three-bike capacity are still running the Suttons Bay-Traverse City route, including weekends, Thompson said.
BATA converted two school buses for the Bike-n-Ride program that it bought from Suttons Bay Public Schools for $1 each, Menzel said.
Menzel promised that BATA will explore extending the Bike-n-Ride program through the fall color season next year. It’s also looking to increase services for folks who enjoy winter sports.
“In the winter, parents get really taxed trying to get their kids around to the different ski lodges,” he said. “There might be a way we could help them out.”
The Bike-n-Ride was a collaborative effort between BATA, Traverse Area Recreational and Transportation Trails (TART), the Michigan Land Use Institute, and the Village of Suttons Bay, Menzel said.