BATA changes for Leelanau bus service coming in 2013
Work is nearing completion to expand and modify the Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) Cass Road administration building and transfer station.
In November 2011, BATA’s request for a millage renewal was put to voters one year before the scheduled retirement of the existing levy. The request was approved by voters in Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties. The continued millage was needed to implement the authority’s long range plan, which included a move toward more fixed route services and away from its “on demand’ dial-a-ride service.
However, revenue from the extravoted millage will not be received by BATA until 2013.
“We have some new services this summer, but nothing that impacts Leelanau County directly,” BATA director Tom Menzel said.
BATA provided shuttle buses for the Traverse City Film Festival and National Cherry Festival, bringing those who park off-site to venues.
“Eighty percent of the people were trying public transit for the first time,” Menzel said. “We’re hoping they see public transportation as a viable option.”
This summer construction crews have added 388 square feet to BATA facilities on Cass Road and reconfigured space to improve the flow of BATA users within the transfer station. In addition, the remainder of the building received a new roof.
“I had three buckets in my office collecting water that dripped when it rained,” Menzel said.
Other changes in the works are aimed at making the service more accessible to the public. BATA has issued a request for proposals to revamp its existing website to provide routing info via smart phone. Electronic fare boxes allowing riders to swipe pre-paid fare cards are also being installed.
Meanwhile, the fleet is being readied to accept Suttons Bay School student riders for the third school year.
“It’s worked very well,” Menzel said of the agreement between BATA and the public school district that did away with transportation for general education students to save money.
BATA picks up Suttons Bay students at stops along established routes. The move has been challenged by the National School Transportation (NSTA) Association which claims the authority has violated federal regulations that limit the amount of service mass transportation agency can provide to schools.
Because BATA is subsidized by state, federal and property taxes, it must meet certain criteria which the NSTA claims they haven’t.
The challenge was lodged last year with the Federal Transportation Administration.
“The service will continue until we hear something differently from the federal agency,” Menzel said.
— by Amy Hubbell