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April 9, 2014

BATA to extend hours of village loops

TRAVERSE CITY -- Bay Area Transportation Authority officials reached a compromise they hope will meet the needs of Empire, Northport and Fife Lake residents who depend on public transportation.

BATA will extend Glen Arbor, Suttons Bay and Kingsley loops, also called fixed-stop routes, to include early morning and late evening extensions to Empire, Northport and Fife Lake, respectively. The loop extensions will start Monday.

BATA eliminated loop services to far-reaching stops with low ridership in May 2013 as a way to cut costs and make existing routes more time-efficient, BATA Business Development Director Carrie Thompson said. Residents could still use BATA's link services, also called dial-a-ride, but public transit users wanted more consistency.

"We have people that don't have transportation for one reason or another, whether it's a handicap situation or they just don't have a vehicle," Fife Lake Township Supervisor Linda Forwerck said. "We know that these people need some kind of transportation, and now that it's going back to a regular schedule it's going to be a lot easier for them."

BATA officials spoke with village and township boards for about a year to come up with a solution that would provide more transportation options but still allow BATA to keep costs down and run efficient routes, Thompson said.

"We were told by members in the communities that a stop early in the morning and late in the evening would be a nice compromise," Thompson said.

The first outbound legs will now depart from the Hall Street Transfer Station in Traverse City at 5 a.m. instead of 5:30 a.m. to reach the outlying villages at 6:05 a.m. The added evening stops will leave the transfer station at 5:30 p.m. and reach each village at 6:35 p.m.

Thompson said bus arrival times at existing stops on early morning and late evening routes will shift to accommodate the new extended loops, but not by much. The biggest change is the elimination of the 7:30 p.m. outbound and 8:30 p.m. inbound legs to devote those resources to the new extensions.

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