Emmet County Approves Additional Public Transit Rides, Could Be Major Step Toward Future Expansion

A major step forward for public transit in Emmet County, the county is set to increase the number of rides available.

Commissioners approved a 12,000 ride increase with a 5-2 vote last night.

The rides will be handled by Cheboygan-based Straits Regional Ride.

Although a relatively small increase, it could pave the way for serious expansion.

“We needed to do something, it has been talked about in Emmet County for literally 20 years,” Emmet County District 5 Commissioner Jonathan Scheel, said.

“We have started small, but again it’s a good step forward to find out what that need is,” Scheel, added.

This “pilot expansion,” costs the county around $181,000.

Commissioner Scheel says for future expansion they would look for financial help from local businesses, before going to taxpayers.

“We had numerous agencies, social service agencies, and businesses such as the hospital writing to us, communicating to us that the need was really there,” Scheel, said.

“If we put a basic structure in place of improvement that residents can count on that they are willing to financially support us with giving tickets to our employees, advertise on our buses, and financially,’” Scheel, explained.

Harbor Hall says they would be on board to buy vouchers for their residents.

The substance abuse treatment center in Petoskey says public transit would be a huge asset.

“We have 38 men in residence here along with 12 people in our sober living facility and nobody has transportation, so simple things like just getting to Walmart, going to the grocery store can be a real challenge,” Harbor Hall CEO Patrick McGinn, said.

For now the county is going to see how businesses and people benefit from these additional rides, but Scheel thinks greater expansion is necessary.

“I believe it’s not quite enough I believe that we need a system in place that a resident can feel a guarantee a bus at a certain time, certain hour, certain route every day of the week so they can get to their job,” Scheel, added.