Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 29, 2014

BATA to review City Loops

By MICHELLE MERLIN mmerlin@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — All quiet — or mainly so — on the 4 p.m. public bus run from Tom’s East Bay.

Three passengers hopped on and off over the next hour as the bus looped around Traverse City, from downtown through Northwestern Michigan College to the East Bay Tom’s Food Market and back downtown again.

“The City Loops are usually pretty busy, but sometimes less so in the afternoons,” said Megan Bardenhagen, a regular on Bay Area Transit Authority buses who caught a ride this week from NMC up to Suttons Bay.

Rene Jeffries, the bus driver, said rider traffic typically slows during the winter, but generally the route is quite popular.

BATA officials are looking to make City Loops more attractive. The five different routes snake through Traverse City at fixed stops and four always end up at the Hall Street transfer station, which connects them to the outer areas. Kelly Yaroch, BATA’s director of human resources and operations, said there are 314,448 rides annually on the City Loop buses.

“We currently have many stops in close proximity to each other,” Yaroch said. “We think we might be able to consolidate some of those stops and allow for further-reaching routes.”

Yaroch said City Loops began more than 10 years ago and need to be updated to reflect community, economic and other changes in the subsequent decade. Bus service could extend to places like the Arbors of Traverse apartments and the Village at Grand Traverse Commons and add more frequent trips to Cherry Capital Airport.

Potential new routes likely would eliminate less popular stops and consolidate stops that are close together, Yaroch said.

Yaroch said that no decisions have been made and BATA officials want more public feedback about possible changes that would be enacted in October.

Jeffries already envisions some changes to her route. The Grand Traverse County Senior Center Network stop at the north end of Barlow Street only netted about three passengers in the three months she’s driven through.

Other recent changes, such as extended hours through 9:30 p.m., have been more successful, she said.

“We’ve had a few more people riding the last few buses,” Jeffries said. “It’s not as high as earlier, but more people are becoming aware of it.”

Mindy Hawley, one of the 4 p.m. passengers, usually takes the bus from Glen Arbor in the morning down to work in Traverse City, where she’s a sale representative for Cherry Capital Foods.

Her bus from Glen Arbor usually has seven or eight people on it, but the Traverse City buses are usually more crowded, she said.

She thinks BATA could have more streamlined routes.

“I wish there was a cross-town where you could get across town without stopping at Hall Street. It takes a lot of extra time,” Hawley said. “It’s not that convenient to just hop on if you want to make quick trips.”

BATA administrators will host public input sessions about potential City Loop changes on April 22 from 10:30 to 11:30 and April 28 from 5 to 6 p.m. The meetings will be held at the Hall Street Transfer Station conference room.