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Muskegon bus routes expected to change in 2020

The aim of the route study is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the existing transit network and find opportunities for service improvement.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — The Muskegon Area Transit System will likely be making changes to bus routes in early in 2020. Leaders are looking for ways to increase ridership numbers. A national transportation consultant who has studied existing routes says the MATS system is complex and attempting to cast too big of a net.

"The issue with that is it does not serve anybody very well," said Boris Palchik, Foursquare Integrated Transportation Planning.

The route changes suggested by the consultant won't likely be made until after this winter.

Tuesday, MATS leaders and the consultant meet with riders and community members at two public forums.

Rider Hedy Churchwell learned the route she uses most often would be shortened.

"The one I would use would take me direct," she said. "It's a win, I could do two or three things in a day."

Under the proposed changes most routes would be tweaked, some might be eliminated. MATS leaders hope to increase ridership, and reduce increasing deficits year after year.

"At some point in time we have got to decide what's worth the cost," said Muskegon County Administrator Mark Eisenbarth.

The county-run public transit system uses state and federal grants, bus fares, and receives contributions from Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Roosevelt Park, Norton Shores, and Muskegon Township to operate.

Those municipalities are being asked to contribute more money to keep MATS buses rolling. Under the right circumstances Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson says the City of Muskegon is wiling to contribute more.

"We just want to make sure the ridership numbers justified the contribution," Peterson said.

"The new system they're presenting now looks pretty good," Eisenbarth said. "We still have to put some numbers to that to see what it's going to cost each municipality."

MATS conducted surveys and public meetings in July to collect feedback from riders and non-riders.

MATS currently provides fixed-route public transportation on ten urban and one regional route in Muskegon County. Service is available from 6:30 am to 10:40 pm, Monday-Friday, and 9:45 am to 5:15 pm on Saturday. MATS also operates demand-response services for the elderly and those with disabilities. For more information on MATS, visit matsbus.com

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