As targets, they’re hard to miss. Big, painted green and white and too often empty, critics say.
Bay Area Transportation Authority buses are often the butt of pointed humor and some legitimate criticism, usually because the buses are often seen rolling through town with only a couple passengers aboard, or no one at all.
But the reality is that BATA plays a critical but sometimes unseen role for thousands of area residents who would otherwise have no practical way to get to the store, doctor’s appointment or other place they must go. There are taxicabs available, but it can be prohibitively expensive to use them on a regular basis — particularly for those who ride public transportation because they can’t afford a car. Others can’t drive or don’t have someone to get them around.
BATA says there are 314,448 rides annually on just the City Loop buses — BATA’s in-town fixed-route service. There are five different routes on the City Loop service; buses stop at fixed stops at fixed times, and four of the loops always end up at the Hall Street transfer station, where passengers can link to other routes or areas outside the city, including Leelanau County.
For the Grand Traverse area, 314,000 rides per year is a lot - an average of 860 rides per day seven days a week.
Those numbers loom larger when you imagine hundreds of people — including many elderly or those with restricted mobility — trying to cobble a ride without BATA. For them, a nightmare.
BATA is working to update its city routes to reflect changes in the 10 years since the City Loops began. Service could extend to places like the Arbors of Traverse apartments and the Village at Grand Traverse Commons; there could also be more frequent trips to Cherry Capital Airport.