Benzie Bus is expanding its free summer service with a brand new trolley.
The Benzie Bus system has seen a huge boost in ridership this summer, and they say now’s the perfect time to grow. The Crystal Lake Express is a free trolley service that will make runs from 5 p.m. to midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Executive Director Bill Kennis says the trolley will serve Frankfort, Honor, Beulah, and St. Ambrose Cellars. “The Crystal Lake Express is primarily around Crystal Lake servicing Frankfort and Beulah but it goes out to St. Ambrose as well as Honor. So that’s a bulk of where the population in Benzie reside.
“The funding for the Crystal Lake Express was pulled from Benzie Bus federal funding. We saved money during COVID. We furloughed half of our staff when ridership was down so we saved about $150,000 and ironically that’s about what the vehicle costs.”
Benzie Bus also says they received $25,000 from the Rural Task Force for reducing pollution: the trolley runs on propane. The trolley has room to seat 26 passengers. “Public transit isn’t just for seniors or students, and not just a 9-5 service. We run on the weekends, we run during the festivals. We’re helping folks get where they need to get at all different times,” Kennis says. “I think it’s a lot of pride. They support Benzie Bus and it shows community pride that we can have something cool like you might see in St. Augustine or other touristy areas.”
Depending on demand, the Crystal Lake Express service will run through mid-September.