Michigan Land Use Institute

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A Summer of Smart Commuting

MLUI intern goes carless for 10 weeks in TC

Choices | June 11, 2013 | By Zoë McAlear

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MLUI company bike along the Leelanau Trail. 

I celebrated Smart Commute Week by riding my bike to work every day this week—except on Tuesday when I kayaked to work with my colleague Jim Sluyter. It’s been so much fun to be a part of this community event and to join the other bicycles out on the roads.

But for me, Smart Commuting didn’t end on Friday. It’ll continue for the rest of my time in Traverse City and include not only my trips to the office, but also every trip I want to take to the grocery store, the bay, Front Street, and all the areas outside of Traverse City that I’m hoping to explore.

I’m completely carless for the next ten weeks. But, so far, so good. In order to be successful in my transportation efforts this summer I’ve completed the necessary steps such as acquiring a bike and beginning to understand the layout of key streets to help me get around.

I still have a lot to learn about the BATA (Bay Area Transportation Authority) system, but it’s going to be extremely valuable once I learn how to take advantage of it. I’d like to rely on walking and cycling because it’s an enjoyable way for me to get to know the area, but it’s nice to know that BATA is always there as a backup.

For example, I have my first longer trip planned for this weekend (as long as the forecasted weather holds) out to Suttons Bay. In an ideal world I would be able to ride along the TART trail in both directions and experience the entire trip from my bike, but it’s not a guarantee. I will be cycling on the way out to Suttons Bay but, despite all of my good intentions, my inexperience with longer rides might catch up with me and leave me dreading the ride home—in which case I will turn to BATA.

I’ve done some research, with help from BATA’s great website—which is about to become even greater with their connection to Google Transit this summer. I learned that the bus that travels between here and Suttons Bay fits under their category of “Village Loops” and is conveniently called Suttons Bay, or Route 10. Their website provides a map of the route to show me where I would get on and get off, as well as an easy-to-read schedule that shows me what my options are in terms of time. It’s nice to know that if after spending the day in Suttons Bay and deciding that I’m far too tired to bike all the way home that there will be a 6:49 bus at 4th St. @ TART Trailhead ready to drive me back.

Another reason that BATA is going to improve my summer transportation is that it allows me to access regions that are farther away and not as easy to access with just a bike. I know that I can’t leave northwest Michigan without visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes and BATA provides access to this area. I can use a Village Loop route to get to Glen Arbor and then ride my bike along the TART Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail to take me to the base of the dunes so that I can spend the day exploring the area before using the same modes of transportation in reverse to return to Traverse City.

I have lots of plans in terms of trips I want to take this summer and places I want to explore. I’ll continue to write about them, hopefully helping to demystify some of the transportation options in the region from the perspective of somebody new to the area and inspire others to get out and give them a chance

Zoë McAlear is a summer intern at MLUI working in the Communications department. You can reach her at zoe@mlui.org. 



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