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Get on the bus, Gus

January 6, 2011 - Steve Murch
On Monday, Alpena Municipal Council approved a change of hours on Sunday for Dial-A-Ride. Thunder Bay Transportation, which operates Dial-A-Ride, had requested the change because of how busy it has been.

Users had been waiting up to an hour for a bus to show up because of the higher demand. That's both good and bad news. Good in that it shows there is a need for the service on Sundays; bad if you have to wait up to an hour to get picked up. The change in hours is needed and hopefully will alleviate some of the problems. I've had conversations with numerous people through the years about whether or not Alpena needs a regular bus line, one with a dedicated route or routes, and schedule. This isn't a big city, but is big enough that Dial-A-Ride is used quite a bit, as highlighted by the need to change the schedule on Sundays. Clearly there is a need by people to use the service for whatever reason. The question is: would more people use it run a few errands if access was fairly easy and they knew the route the bus took? We like to talk about how much we love the environment, especially up north where the natural resources are more abundant. But do we love it enough to change our way of getting from Point A to Point B. People love their vehicles and it's difficult to break habits, plus it's easier to jump into your car, drive to where you are going, do what needs to be done then drive home than it is to schlep on down to the bus stop and wait for the bus – and wait for the stops along the way.

One of the bloggers I follow from time to time is The Bus Chick who writes for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website. She relies completely on public transportation and writes about her experiences. She give a glimpse into what life is like riding the bus. It takes adjustments and a willingness to adapt, but she makes it seem pretty effortless. Obviously developing the right routes would key to any type of effort in Alpena. You need to get close enough to neighborhoods, but there has to an effort by riders to walk to the bus stop too. How far past the city limits would you go? What routes would be the most frequent? Lots of questions, but the real one is: Would Alpena residents make some effort to ride a bus and leave their vehicles behind?

 
 

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