Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

May 25, 2014

Forum: New leader seeks to make rural transit easy

As chairman of the board of Benzie Transportation Authority (aka. the “Benzie Bus”), I appreciate Traverse City Record-Eagle writer Glenn Puit’s recent column about “Riding the Benzie Bus from T-ville”.

I agree with him 100 percent that riding on our bus system across county lines can be a time-consuming and challenging experience. Rural transit is a hard nut to crack, with our population spread out, and a large share of the region’s jobs and vital services — such as health care and higher education — based in Traverse City.

The good news is that with the hiring of a dynamic new leader, the Benzie Bus system’s regional route is about to get a lot more convenient. Two months ago, Benzie Bus hired Bill Kennis as our Executive Director, and he is off to a fast start.

In early May, Bill led a strategic visioning event that Mr. Puit attended, alongside more than 50 other community leaders and bus employees. Besides fun times during the “bus pull” competition and picnic lunch, the ideas generated with assistance from NorthSky Nonprofit Network facilitator Pamela Evans were impressive.

Since then, Bill has prioritized high-benefit, low-cost ideas that employee “efficiency teams” can help implement to streamline and strengthen services.

With the savings in time and money, Benzie Bus can offer more routes and service hours to our customers - doing more with less - while staff will be eligible for bonuses for implementing their ideas and changing the status quo.

In addition, Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) leaders Tom Menzel and Carrie Thompson have agreed starting this summer to allow our express buses from Frankfort and Thompsonville to enter Grand Traverse County and directly serve Munson Medical Center and Meijer. This agreement will provide cross-county commuters like Mr. Puit approximately one-hour express service, effectively cutting an hour or more from the current multi-transfer bus trip.

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