TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., Aug. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Northwest lower Michigan's Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA)'s new Bike-n-Ride program is one of few such programs in the U.S. and the first in Michigan. The service encourages groups of recreational riders to pedal 17 miles on the paved Leelanau Trail between Traverse City and Suttons Bay and return on one of two retrofitted school buses with capacity for 11 bicycles and child trailers.
New, innovative and successful is how state transit officials, local governments and bikers describe northern Michigan's new recreational transit option. In collaboration with Traverse Area Recreational and Transportation Trails (TART), the Michigan Land Use Institute (MLUI) and the Village of Suttons Bay, BATA saw the need for increased seasonal service and worked together to find "creative ways to add value to the community... and a higher return on taxpayer investment," according to Tom Menzel, Executive Director of BATA.
This innovative transit idea got the attention of MDOT Director Kirk Steudle. "What makes this program successful is the leadership from Tom Menzel and BATA focusing on what customers need." Director Steudle recently took advantage of the service with his family to experience it first hand. "My family used it the first two weeks it was operating and we had a ball. We thought it was great. I think it could be replicated in other parts of Michigan."
Local organizers expected the service to be successful. A 68% increase in ridership on the Leelanau Trail parallel to the bus route, however, has facilitated unexpected local economic impact as well.
"We have really been feeling the boost to business here in Suttons Bay. I've been hearing from a lot of people that this is their best season ever. Half of all our guests have been grabbing bikes and completing the trip," shares Nick Wierzba, owner of Suttons Bay Bikes. "The Bike-n-Ride program makes it more accessible for all ages." The service provides a "safety net" that encourages riders to experience the scenic trail and know they can ride the bus back if desired. 45th Parallel, a cafe in Suttons Bay, has also experienced increased restaurant traffic. Owner Tim Lambdin, exclaims "with doubled or more bike traffic, we've experienced a phenomenal summer."
Doug Dowdy, Manager of Transportation Services for BATA, says that the "important spoke" of the success of the Bike-n-Ride initiative is its ability to move families and riders of varying abilities. MDOT Director Steudle agrees, "You don't need bike shorts and spandex. Anyone can get on their bike and do this."
BATA provides more than half a million annual rides to residents and visitors in Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties in northwest lower Michigan. BATA delivers safe, high-quality, efficient and reliable transportation services in its region that link people, jobs, and communities.
Visit bata.net or call 231.941.2324 for more information.