Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 2, 2014

Three-strikes riders booted from buses

TRAVERSE CITY — Ryan Volz describes himself as avid rider of Bay Area Transportation Authority’s buses since 2000.

But now he faces a month-long suspension from the dial-a-ride service, and Volz said he never again wants to take the bus.

“I just completely felt that they’d turned their backs on me and they don’t have any love or affection or understanding,” said Volz, who said he considered himself a member of the BATA family.

BATA officials temporarily suspended Volz and 22 other riders after implementing a no-show policy that took effect on Feb. 17.

People who fail to appear at a pre-arranged pickup three times within four weeks face a 30-day suspension from the service, based on the new rules. Repeat offenders face increasing suspension lengths.

They’re still able to access BATA’s fixed route buses. Only access to dial-a-ride buses or link and flex routes is affected.

“We’re aware it was being abused by a lot of people,” said Tom Menzel, BATA’s executive director. “We’d drive to Suttons Bay or Fife Lake and drive back. You can imagine the cost of a driver if no one’s there. Also, it created a bad perception because people would see an empty bus driving around.”

“It’s all about accountability and responsibility and healthy boundaries,” Menzel said.

There have been 500 no-shows since the policy started, and 23 suspensions.

“The biggest impact will be not sending a bus, because we do first-call, first-serve,” Menzel said. “If we send a bus out to Suttons Bay, that bus couldn’t be picking up someone who needs to go to dialysis. By getting a better handle on the system we’ll make sure people who really need it will have access to the system.”

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