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      New program hopes to boost business along trail

      Bicyclists using the TART trail between Traverse City and Suttons Bay no longer have to make the 34 mile round trip all thanks to BATA's new Bike-n-Ride program.

      A normal bus can carry three bicycles while a newly retrofitted BATA bus can hold 11, allowing large groups to take advantage of this new program.

      â??After 17 miles you can get pretty tired and some people don't want to do the trip back,â?? said Carrie Thompson, BATA Business Development Director.

      That's one reason the Bay Area Transportation Authority started this program.

      For three dollars, or $1.50 for seniors, students and the handicapped, people can catch a ride from Hall Street in Traverse City or 4th Street in Suttons Bay.

      There will be plenty of room for your bike.

      â??I have a family of five and we're able to now bike one way, put our bikes on the bus and ride back and if you have young kids that's a big deal.â??

      When officials realized the impact this can have on the community it was hard to find a similar program.

      â??It is one of the first in the nation. We modeled our program after one in Aspen but it was really hard to find another program to model it after.â??

      Their efforts are paying off. Ridership is up 68% from just last week.

      The director of MDOT is vacationing in Northern Michigan and decided to give this program a try with his family.

      He's excited to see how this will affect local businesses; hoping people will hop on their bike for the 17 mile trip.

      â??We came in this morning and we got here early enough that we could hit the businesses in downtown Suttons Bay. I think this is going to be really big for businesses in both communities because now you're attractive; people are coming. The tourist attraction is Traverse City; the Leelanau Peninsula. Now there's an extra piece. You can get your bike and ride and go visit the other one,â?? said Kirk Steudle, Director of MDOT.

      Officials say they will wait for numbers to come in before they retrofit more busses.

      BATA will continue this program until September 1st.

      Buses will run every other hour during the week from 5:30am to 9:20pm. Buses leave from Traverse City at 9:30am, 1:30pm and 5:30pm during the weekend. The pick-up schedule from Suttons Bay on Saturday and Sunday is 10:30am, 2:30pm and 6:30pm.