Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

April 11, 2014

Editorial: Recent BATA changes put accountability first

The Bay Area Transportation Authority is undergoing some needed accountability changes that should improve service to some while rewarding others for playing by the rules. Public input over the next few weeks could further improve what the agency does.

A year ago the bus system, which is supported by a voter-approved millage on Grand Traverse and Leelanau county properties, trimmed so-called “loop” service to its farthest-reaching stops. BATA said the routes had low ridership and the change was intended to cut costs and make existing routes more time-efficient. Riders could still use BATA’s dial-a-ride system.

But public transit users wanted more consistency, and BATA has now extended its Glen Arbor, Suttons Bay and Kingsley loops to include early morning and late evening extensions to Empire, Northport and Fife Lake, respectively. The loop extensions are to start Monday.

While BATA deserves credit for restoring and expanding the service, the agency should also better explain why it made cuts in the first place. Saving money is important, but taxpayers have voted to support BATA over the years in order to provide transportation for those who need it, not just save money. Efficiency is a must; but service is why BATA exists at all.

BATA officials spoke with village and township boards for about a year to come up with a solution that provides options but keeps costs down and routes efficient.

BATA made another efficiency move recently; this one makes a lot more sense than simply limiting a needed service.

The agency implemented a new rule to temporarily suspended riders who fail to appear at a pre-arranged pickup for dial-a-ride service three times within four weeks. First-time offenders will be suspended for 30 days. Repeat offenders face suspensions of increasing lengths. Those riders can sill still utilize BATA’s fixed-route buses.

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