TRAVERSE CITY — National Cherry Festival attendees won't have to navigate downtown traffic -- they can leave that up to a bus driver.
The Bay Area Transportation Authority will again offer a free shuttle service during the nine-day festival in an effort to ease the commute through crowded streets.
Specially marked shuttle buses will provide hourly service to downtown from two park-and-ride locations, one at Northwestern Michigan College's Elm Lot and one at Thirlby Field near 14th and Pine streets.
The shuttles will be available July 4-12, with extended hours on the first and last day for the fireworks shows. They will run from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on July 4, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on July 5-11 and 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on July 12.
BATA started providing shuttle service to the festival in 2012. Doug Dowdy, BATA's transportation services manager, said the shuttles served between 5,000 and 6,000 riders each year.
"We've gotten tremendous feedback from our public who are glad to have the opportunity to relieve traffic congestion in the city of Traverse City and ride in and still enjoy the festival," Dowdy said.
BATA also plans to service the festivals Cherry Connection horticulture station on M-72. It will leave hourly from the Traverse City Visitors Center July 7-11 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Visit www.bata.net for a full Cherry Festival shuttle schedule.