Benzie Bus open for the holidays

Benzie Bus open for the holidays

Public transportation service a life-saver for residents like Lois Weaver

From staff reports

Benzie Bus believes in its mission “to connect people to community” and that requires working some holidays. “Our customers have spoken about their needs and wants and we have re-allocated drivers to work on those days”, said operations manager Chad Hollenbeck. The only days that buses will not run are Thanksgiving and Christmas day. Although full service isn’t available on other holidays, people that need rides will be able to schedule in advance and should be able to ride.

That’s great news for Benzie residents like 75-year-old Lois Weaver, who has relied on public transit since her husband passed away three years ago. Weaver, who lives in downtown Frankfort, rides the Benzie Bus three or four times each week: to buy groceries at Shop-N-Save or to visit her son in Benzonia, or to visit her chiropractor on M-115.

“I love riding the Benzie Bus,” said Weaver. “I enjoy sitting and looking at the scenery, which I couldn’t do if I was driving, and I really like all the drivers. I really depend on the Benzie Bus. I couldn’t live without it.”

The bus schedule for future holidays is as follows:

Black Friday, 7 a.m. — 5 p.m.

Christmas Eve, 7 a.m. — 2 p.m.

New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day (Open but schedule will be determined by early Dec.)

The Benzie Bus has recently undergone significant systemic changes that have made it more adaptable to customer needs. In May, efficiency planning resulted in opening Saturday service and extending dispatch support until 7:30 p.m. on weeknights. Also, the TC X (Express) was launched and had 458 riders in October proving to be a popular service. The Transit Summit attended by nearly 50 community leaders has generated recommendations that will serve for future needs assessment planning for the next five years or more.

“We want to be the full-service transportation leader in the region,” said executive director Bill Kennis. “This requires us to support needs like non-emergency medical transportation, collaborating regionally outside county-lines getting our residents to Manistee and Traverse City and meeting seasonal demands for festivals.” City leaders have sought Benzie Bus for reducing parking congestion and expect some creative ideas next summer. Kennis added that they aim to, “always improve our delivery with better reservation systems, clean fuel buses and efficiently managing our limited financial assets”.

Benzie Bus received an award in Indianapolis earlier this fall for being one of the top-fix fleets using clean propane; they’re getting a new propane bus in December compliments of a CMAQ grant (Congestion, Mitigation Air Quality).

Don’t be surprised to see improved bus shelters, bus stop signs and opportunities for everyone to ride on the TC X (Express) from Frankfort that can get you to Munson, Meijer and downtown Traverse City in about one hour. BATA is working with Benzie Bus to improve transfers so that Northwestern Michigan College, Cherry Capitol Airport and shopping destinations are an easy one-transfer away for riders.

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Jacob Wheeler

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