TRAVERSE CITY — Most Traverse City area employees don't use alternative transportation. But that's not because they don't want to; it's because they want more options.
That's according to a Michigan Land Use Institute survey that asked 1,500 area employees how they commute and what would encourage them to walk, bike or bus to work. About 82 percent said they drive to work alone.
"Very few people use public transit to get to work," said MLUI transportation policy specialist James Bruckbauer. "Because people live far away from where they work, they don’t necessarily see transit as being a viable option for them at this point."
About half the respondents said they might use public transit if the bus schedule was more convenient, and 60 percent said they'd consider it if there was a stop closer to home.
TART Trails' Smart Commute Week kicked off over the weekend and continues through this week, and the Bay Area Transportation Authority continues to promote recent changes that officials hope make public transit more attractive to commuters.
BATA in May debuted the "link and loop" system that expands fixed routes and provides more options for riders in outlying areas. All fixed routes run about three hours later and have a park and ride option, said BATA Executive Director Tom Menzel.
"The intent is to look upon public transit as a viable option, which it wasn’t before," Menzel said. "People are culturally used to jumping in their cars."
About 60 percent of MLUI's respondents said they might share rides with someone else if they had an easy way to find others with whom to carpool, and a guaranteed ride home in case of emergency.
Munson Medical Center is testing the waters with a trial park and ride option in Lake Ann in conjunction with Benzie Bus. Employees can park at designated local churches, and a fixed route shuttles them to the hospital for $3. Employees can ride for $1 during Smart Commute Week.
John Bolde, Munson's director of safety and security, said a company-wide survey showed a need for the Lake Ann park and ride to accommodate day-shift employees. Offering alternative transportation is part of being good stewards of the environment, he said.
"I think we all need to look at these opportunities and figure out ways to bend a little bit," Bolde said.
Hagerty Insurance Agency employees have incentive to ride their bikes to work. Staff can be reimbursed for expenses associated with owning and maintaining a bicycle in lieu of a parking reimbursement, said Carmen Stevens, vice president of corporate communications and community relations.
"They have to be using it as their primary method of transportation, rain or shine," Stevens said. "For the most part, these are year-round hardcore commuters who have made the lifestyle choice."
Adverse weather and congested roads can be intimidating when first trading car keys for a bicycle, and local veteran smart commuters are willing to help. Lee Kurt, TART trail planning and program director, pairs people seeking advice with mentors over coffee or email. For more information, contact Lee Kurt at email@example.com