LMTA must raise US 10 corridor bus fares due to apathy from businesses

December 8, 2023

LMTA must raise US 10 corridor bus fares due to apathy from businesses

Meijer, the business with the most riders ignores request for support

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

AMBER TOWNSHIP — Ludington Mass Transit Authority (LMTA) will be raising its rates for service to businesses in the Amber Township portion of the US 10 corridor beginning Jan. 1, 2024. The rate increase is due to the lack of interest from business/property owners along the corridor to invest in bus service, according to Paul Keson, director of LMTA.

LMTA is funded through millages paid by the cities of Ludington and Scottville, along with contracted services by Pere Marquette Charter Township and some area organizations. The dial-a-ride bus service does not receive financial support from Amber Township, but, due to demand for service, started providing service to the businesses along US 10 between Meyers Road and Scottville city limits in April 2022 as a one year pilot study. The pilot study, which was extended to Dec. 31 of this year, was funded by Amber Township and LMTA.

“During those 18 months, 90 different business locations along the Amber corridor between Pere Marquette Township and the City of Scottville were serviced,” Keson said.”After the conclusion of the pilot, it was going to be up to the businesses to continue if they felt it was worth the investment.”

The cost of a transportation special assessment district would have been the same rate as the City of Ludington and City of Scottville businesses and residents pay through their voter-approved millages, 1.2267mill.

Keson said 119 petitions were mailed to each commercial landowner along the corridor in July of this year.

“These petitions included the ridership numbers for each business and what the cost would be for those businesses to participate,” Keson said. “Another letter was sent to the business managers informing them of the ridership numbers and stating that if they felt transportation was an asset to them, to please inform the landowner that they lease or rent from.”

Keson said only 15 of the 119 were returned by the August return date. A special assessment district would require at least 51%, or 60 petitions, to be signed and returned to allow the process to move forward, Keson said.

“We went back again to several of the larger use businesses for one last chance before considering its options. This accounted for only four more signed petitions. The larger use businesses still have not responded.

“The petitions fell way short of what was needed to push forward, but instead of discontinuing service to the corridor once again, the LMTA Board of Directors opted to keep the service going but increase the cost of the fare along the corridor to cover those expenses.”

The authority’s board consists of representatives appointed by the cities of Ludington and Scottville.

The businesses that had the most ridership in the past year were Applebee’s (713), Dollar Tree (379), Goodwill (869 riders), Holiday Inn (366), Home Depot (185), Holiday Village mobile home park (481), Lowe’s (113), Ludington Meat Co. (114), Meijer (2,770), PNC Bank (264), Ponderosa (539), Spartan West Bowling Center (115), Taco Bell (142), T-Mobile (100), West Shore Educational Service District (286), Wildwood Meadows (786), Willowbrook Adult Foster Care Home (1,700). Of those businesses the only business owners/landowners to sign the petitions were Holiday Village, Wildwood Meadows and Willowbrook AFC.

Meijer, by far, had the most ridership, but failed to respond to LMTA’s request.

The new cost, effective Jan. 1, 2024, will be $4 per trip for a senior, disabled individual, or child 11 and under and $8 per trip for regular ridership. Keson stressed the new fares are only for trips to the US 10 corridor within Amber Township.

“A substantial amount of work and money has been invested into searching for a solution to provide residents with transportation along the corridor, and it has been a tough road,” Keson said. “One of the hurdles has been how to connect with the corporate offices of large businesses. The petitions needed to be signed by the landowners, and the only addresses we have are from the property owners’ tax bill that we received from the Mason County Treasurer’s Office. Those petitions are likely sitting on the wrong desk and not making it to the right person. The ridership numbers prove the service is needed, but we were unable to make the right connection with the property owners.

“The decision finally had to be made to help cover the cost of operations along the corridor. The results are extremely frustrating knowing that transportation along the corridor is critical to employees, customers, and businesses. The transportation pilot assisted in filling open job positions and created access to businesses for all individuals who were out of the regular service area.

“Amber Township does not collect a millage for transportation services like the city of Ludington, the city of Scottville, and Pere Marquette Charter Township. This is the very gap that we are trying to fill. The revenue generated from the commercial landowners along the corridor would amount to approximately $32,000.00 a year. That revenue would help sustain operational costs at LMTA such as employee wages, benefits, fuel, tires, bus parts, etc. It would also help to keep the fare box price lower and keep public transportation affordable for those who need and use it,” Keson said.

“We have not given up on the corridor in Amber. We will keep looking for a sustainable and affordable approach to help our businesses and community thrive.”

Ridership since April 2022 and the list of businesses along the corridor. Businesses/properties highlighted in green signed and returned the petition for the special assessment.

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