MI: COASTing to Freedom in Traverse City

by Marta Hepler Drahos; Source: McClatchy

Christine Gran had to take two city buses, then walk the final block and a half to her volunteer job, paying fare from her meager Social Security income.

Now the Traverse City senior has a better option: Commission on Aging Senior Transit or "COAST." The service provided in partnership with Bay Area Transportation Authority offers 60-plus Grand Traverse County residents reserved, door-to-door transportation two days a week. And for now, it's free.

"This is something the seniors have been asking for a long time," said Cynthia Kienlen, director of Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging, which launched the 90-day pilot project in November.

The COAST bus operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and provides dedicated transit service for seniors anywhere in Grand Traverse County. It's a more senior-minded alternative to BATA's City Loop, which offers fixed-route bus service, or City Link, traditional dial-a-ride service available only in Traverse City and the immediate surrounding area, said Eric Lingaur, BATA communications and development director.

"They don't have to transfer buses, navigate our systems. We're trying to make it as seamless as possible," he said.

In its first six days of service, the propane-fueled bus covered 367 miles in 85 trips, Lingaur said.

"The majority were for personal and medical needs," he said, adding that rides can be reserved from two weeks to 24 hours -- and sometimes less -- in advance. "We're averaging 14 trips a day, which is pretty good."

Gran, 72, uses the bus to get to her volunteer job at a governmental center and eventually hopes to take it to exercise and other appointments at Munson Medical Center.

"The COAST is an absolute blessing," she said. "It saved me financially, plus it's such a joy to have a conversation on the bus with someone who is my own age."

The bus seats 19 and has room for four wheelchairs. Passengers can even bring along a caregiver or family member, Kienlen said.

"The bus driver helps them in and out of the bus. Going forward we're looking for COAST ambassadors to help them a little more on the bus," she said.

Lucy Hofmann took city buses three to five times a week until a fall made it harder for her to walk to or wait at stops. Now she uses COAST for regular trips to the grocery, health food store, bank and the post office.

"Transportation is such a big part of aging at home," said Hofmann, 88. "It gives you freedom and independence. As long as you can do things for yourself, you're OK."

The pilot project ends Feb. 13, after which Kienlen plans to go back to the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners to request a continuation of services.

"The hope is for it to run five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.," Kienlen said. "We're taking it one step at a time. Maybe we'd do it in increments."

Current COA members are already approved to ride COAST. Other county residents 60 and older can become COA members by verifying their age and residence with COA at 231-922-4688. Call COAST at BATA at 231-941-2324.

(c)2017 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.) Visit The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.) at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

MTA Works with Consumers Energy on New Alternative Fuel Facility

Flint’s Mass Transportation Authority has entered in to an agreement with Consumers Energy to build and operate a public/private fueling station that will dispense compressed natural gas to vehicles. This station will be owned and operated by Consumers Energy and provide compressed natural gas (CNG) to serve MTA’s fleet. The fueling station is an environmental mitigation project for Consumers Energy mandated by a 2014 consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice.

The MTA fleet will include 50 new CNG vehicles arriving over the next 20 months. In addition to fulfilling MTA’s requirements for fueling, the station will be open seven days a week, 24 hours a day for public use. The station will be built on-site at the MTA’s alternative fuel facility located at Dort and Maple roads in Grand Blanc.

The MTA currently operates 155 propane powered vehicles and partners with the Genesee Intermediate School District, providing fueling for their new propane vehicles. Plans call for the elimination of all diesel vehicles in MTA’s fleet. The MTA is approaching an 80% alternative fuel fleet.

For the Mass Transportation Authority, it’s the beginning of a great new relationship with Consumers Energy. “This is an exciting opportunity for the MTA to advance our alternative fuel program for current and future needs while providing a benefit to area businesses and the public,” said Ed Benning, MTA General Manager and CEO. “We’re looking forward to working with Consumers Energy.”

The Rapid Kicks Off ‘Stuff the Bus’ Campaign to help Feed the Hungry

Goal of Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank partnership is to collect canned goods and non-perishables from Nov. 21–Dec. 1 that will fill a bus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) and Feeding America West Michigan (FAWM) Food Bank launched a first-ever food collection campaign today called “Stuff the Bus” that asks Grand Rapids-area residents to donate canned goods and other non-perishable food items to help feed the hungry.

As part of the campaign to spur donations, the Rapid and FAWM are sponsoring two free showings of the classic holiday film “The Polar Express” on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Wealthy Theatre, 1130 Wealthy Street SE in Grand Rapids.

The afternoon matinee has already sold out in two hours last week through a social media promotion. Free tickets for the 10 a.m. showing while supplies last are available at, and search for The Polar Express in Grand Rapids.

Attendees of the movies are encouraged to bring food contributions to the Wealthy Theatre, where The Rapid will accept donations beginning at 9 a.m. to help “Stuff the Bus” in front on the venue and have their photos taken on the bus. Cash donations also will be accepted and logged with receipts available upon request.

Even for those not interested in attending the film, donors can still participate in the “Stuff the Bus” campaign by dropping off their non-perishable food gifts before Dec. 1 at participating partner locations (see list below), which The Rapid and FAWM staff will collect.

“Our goal is to bring Kent County families together and make giving a fun activity to help our community’s most vulnerable citizens going into the holiday season,” said Michael Bulthuis, The Rapid’s Marketing and Communication Manager.

“Filling The Rapid’s bus will help hundreds of Greater Grand Rapids families who are struggling with hunger this winter season,” Bulthuis said. “Public support for this campaign has already been incredible through social media activity, but that bus is big and we really hope the Greater Grand Rapids community will help us meet our goal.”

Feeding America West Michigan, The Rapid’s campaign partner, is a nonprofit organization devoted to fighting hunger. Every year, Feeding America West Michigan helps nearly half a million hungry Michigan residents, with 28.9 million pounds of food – the equivalent of about 24 million meals – delivered in 2016 alone.

“We exist to ensure safe food is available to every hungry person in our community,” said Ken Estelle, President and CEO at Feeding America West Michigan. “You usually can’t tell by looking at someone that they’re hungry. It affects about 1 in 8 people from all backgrounds in all communities. For kids, that number is about 1 in 5.”

Feeding America West Michigan reclaims surplus food from farmers, retailers and manufacturers, then distributes it to a network of more than 1,000 hunger-relief agencies across West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, including food pantries, soup kitchens, after-school programs and senior centers.

“We’re proud to partner with The Rapid on this important campaign to help Michigan families this holiday season,” Estelle said. “Many people deal with hunger issues all year long, so it’s always nice to get a little more awareness.”

“The Polar Express” is a groundbreaking 2004 animated film that was one of the first to use motion-capture technology. The film is based on the acclaimed children’s book of the same name, which was partially set in Grand Rapids. Collection starts today and runs through Friday, Dec. 1.

To make your donation to “Stuff the Bus,” go to one of these locations:

Grand Rapids Community Media Center
711 Bridge NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
1110 Wealthy SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

The Rapid
300 Ellsworth Ave SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Wealthy Theatre
1130 Wealthy SE, Grand Rapids MI, 49504

Why 100s of Flint Area Workers are being Bused into Livingston County

Photo: Gillis Benedict/Livingston Daily

Most people sit alone, plugged into earbuds, scrolling through Facebook or grabbing a nap as the comfortable commuter bus hums along the highway during the 40-minute ride from Flint to Howell.

Belinda Patrick and William Paschal of Flint are the exception, sitting close, almost leaning into one another. They share a home, ride the same bus and work the same shift at Grupo Antolin North America, an automotive supplier in Howell Township.

“I usually sleep. Or balance my budget. Stuff like that,” said Patrick, one of hundreds of Genesee County residents now using Flint’s Mass Transportation Authority for a ride to and from jobs in Howell, Brighton and the Lansing area. “It’s a cool down time, you know, a chance to sit back and let someone else do the driving.”

Livingston County business and community leaders say the bus program helps mitigate a labor crunch that has employers scrambling to fill shifts, competing for workers and recently left one large manufacturer pondering a move out of Livingston County.

The labor shortage issue surfaced in 2015 after a survey of Livingston County employers indicated many – especially manufacturers – had more entry-level jobs than they could fill and needed help getting people to and from work.

In fact, data compiled by Ann Arbor SPARK shows a whopping 75% increase in Livingston County manufacturing jobs over a four-year period. In 2012, a total of 7,186 positions existed among the county’s 400 manufacturers. By 2016, the number had risen to 12,573.

Continue reading at Livingston Daily: Why 100s of Flint Area Workers are being Bused into Livingston County by Laura Colvin

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