New advocacy campaign boosts public transit


By Jada Penn
Capital News Service

The Michigan Public Transit Association has launched an information advocacy campaign to fill hiring needs and increase ridership, according to Executive Director Clark Harder.

The association, representing more than 50 local bus and transit systems, was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as its members’ ridership dropped and as they lost drivers and mechanics.

It had to step back to reassess how it will operate moving forward, according to Harder.

The advocacy initiative includes television, radio, billboard and social media campaigns and is expected to continue into May, he said.

With a budget of $400,000 statewide for the advertising buy, the goal is to “reassure citizens that public transit has taken a good number of safety precautions and is very reliable and safe today,” he said.

Billboards like this are part of a new statewide public transit advocacy campaign. Image: Michigan Public Transit Association

Billboards like this are part of a new statewide public transit advocacy campaign.

Traverse City-based Bay Area Transportation Authority is operating at between 65% and 70% of its normal service and ridership levels, according to communications director Eric Lingaur.

The agency serves Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties.

“Ridership is lower than what it had been pre-pandemic,” he said. “Hiring drivers and staff shortages across the region are high. We’re putting more marketing and advertising into bringing more staff so we can bring in more riders.”

Executive Director Michael Tillman of the Mecosta-Osceola Transit Authority, said the agency has been promoting its hiring needs by increasing driver wages, but another challenge it faces is getting new buses.

“I ordered a bus last February and it has yet to be delivered,” he said. “The dealer has no idea when it is to be delivered, and it’s due to the chip shortage.”

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