Salted with Sharks

Jeffery Stratton on the Benzie Bus

In Elsewhere in BenCo..., Infrastructure and Planning, On and off the Apron, Transportation on March 26, 2013 at 5:44 pm

The first in what we hope will be a series of stories by local people on their investigations of transportation issues. Submit yours to elberta.alert@gmail.com. Doesn’t have to be long, and we’ll check your spelling. Till then, safe travels!

By Jeffery Stratton

I decided I would take public transportation the other day, because the Benzie Bus goes by my house several times a day. I wondered what my tax money was being used for in these buses. Could I just flag a bus down and ride to town on a whim? Why were they always parked down by the church on the corner of Pioneer and Cinder? Here is what I found out on my Benzie Bus trip.

I called the dispatcher and asked the first question. Can I flag down a bus and ride it? They said no, because the bus may not be going where you want to go. You need to schedule an appointment. You can schedule an appointment as little as 4 hours ahead of time, but 24 hours would be better. Since I had them on the phone, I did that. They were set to pick me up in the late afternoon that day. I later ended up calling them back to cancel that appointment because I had another appointment in Frankfort that evening and would be cutting it close.

When I called them back to cancel my appointment it seemed to be a bit of an issue. But nonetheless they figured something out for the next day.

I went to the end of my driveway the day—I was headed to Beulah to get my mail. The bus was on time, 11:20 a.m. I boarded the bus. Gary, the driver, greeted me and took my $3 (the cost for a one-way bus ride). He said we needed to go and pick someone else up down the road.

I asked Gary what his average ridership is on an average day. He said that on average he gets about 15 riders per day. He does the Frankfort to Interlochen route in the morning and does the dial-a-ride in the afternoon.

The older gentleman down the road rides the bus about three times a week. He was on his way to the Maples in Frankfort to visit his wife.

Gary got a call on our way to Beulah, saying the next bus was ready to pick me up at the post office, just as we were pulling into town.

I ran in, got my mail, and jumped on the next bus, waiting for me there outside the post office.

The next bus driver’s name was Andy. I was the only rider on his bus. It was another $3.00 to ride back home from town. So a total of $6 for a round-trip bus ride.

I asked Andy the same question about ridership on his bus. The answer was the same, about 15 people per day.

On the way home I asked Andy why the buses sit at the church on the corner. Andy said, “We sit there because we may have another pickup in the area in the next 15 minutes or so. We shut the buses off to conserve on fuel, because we do have a tight budget.” He told me that the white buses are diesel powered and the gray buses are propane powered.

He said most of the frequent riders use the punch card. It costs $30 and you have 12 punches on it. It saves you about $6 compared with paying cash.

I’ve got a fairly long driveway, but Andy drove me right up to my front door. It was the end of his shift and he was heading back to the bus garage.

So my overall experience with the Benzie Bus was good. Other than the inconvenience of scheduling a ride and trying to make a change, it worked out. Plus you might get to meet neighbors that you would not normally ever meet.

The buses were clean and smooth riding. The drivers were friendly and knowledgeable. I might be more inclined to ride the bus in the summer. All the buses have bike racks on them. So I could take my bike into town and do my running around. Once I was done I could call the bus to pick me up and take me back home.

My total time from being picked up at the end of my driveway, picking up the neighbor, and getting to the post office and back to my front door was 34 minutes. Which I thought was pretty good.

As a taxpayer I really needed to get a feel for what my money was being used for. I would advise you to ride it once. You pay for it every time you pay your property taxes to the township and county.

That’s what I found out on the BENZIE BUS. Ψ

 

photo (43)

Jeffery Stratton about to get on the bus.

 

 

  1. Jeff– 4 years ago I used the Benize Bus to get from the house to the doctor’s office (used to live out on Weldon Road). loved riding them as it was time for me to relax and get away from the crazy people that I used to live with. I would do it all over again too.

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