TRAVERSE CITY — The jaunt from Benzie County to Traverse City can be a drag for public bus riders, what with a maze of transfers and a shift to another bus system, Bill Kennis admits.
“It’s painful because they have to go through Interlochen and then connect with BATA. Often there are two or three bus transfers,” said Kennis, the Benzie Bus executive director.
That’s one reason Kennis plans to implement a more direct bus route by month’s end.
“By creating an express bus we hope to attract workers and folks who want to get to Traverse City in about an hour,” he said.
Benzie Bus officials hope to make their system more efficient and plan to add the Traverse City route and summer beach shuttles, as well as later hours and Saturday service.
Buses from Frankfort to Beulah will now run every other hour, rather than every hour, to accommodate the changes, Kennis said.
The changes stem from results of a survey responded to by 120 riders.
Kennis said the new routes are part of a larger plan to rethink the way the bus system works. New consultants will review the Benzie Bus operation for the next nine months.
“A lot of what we do now is dial-a-ride and it’s similar to a taxi service. In rural areas it’s very common, but also very inefficient,” Kennis said.
He hopes to make the Benzie Bus more like a traditional bus service.
Benzie Bus riders currently take the bus to Interlochen and then link up with a Bay Area Transportation Authority bus for the run to Traverse City.
The new route would have stops in Frankfort, Beulah, Lake Ann and Traverse City. The beach shuttle would serve Frankfort, Crystal Lake and Elberta.
Kennis hopes to have the new routes running by month’s end. Evening service already extended from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and Saturday service from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. is expected to start on June 21.