By Greg Means/Beacon Editor

When the MATS regional route to Montague started in 2014, large buses like this were used. More recently the bus sizes have shrunk to better fit the ridership numbers. A ridership study is proposing a new service which would us even smaller vehicles for same day, on-demand rides.

Muskegon Heights, MI – The Muskegon Area Transit System (MATS) will host two opportunities for the public to hear from the Foursquare Integrated Transportation Planning consulting team that has completed final recommendations of a MATS Route Study and Comprehensive Operational Analysis project.

The first meeting will be an open house format from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, February 19, at the Herman Ivory Terminal, 351 Morris Avenue.

The second will be a formal presentation forum from 6-7 p.m. that evening at the Sturrus Technology Center, 388 W. Clay Avenue (MCC’s downtown Campus and former Chronicle Building — use the Clay Avenue entrance). All community members are invited to attend and to learn the details of the consultant’s recommendations, directly from the consulting team.

The consulting team prepared their final report, “Route Study and Comprehensive Operational Analysis Recommendations,” and presented recommendations to the county for consideration in January 2020. The recommendations, available at the link below, are being reviewed for possible implementation by the County and its partner municipalities. As implementation steps are considered, actions that may require public hearings will be identified and announced, as needed. Find the complete report and appendices at: https://matsbus.com/route-study-2019/

Key recommendations by the consulting team include:

• Develop a “Microtransit” systems which would use smaller vehicles and new technologies for efficient delivery of same-day rides on demand. The service would be accessible to the general public. It would be overseen by MATS and delivered through a qualified contractor. It would be a new option where fixed-route and GoBus services are reduced or eliminated.

• Fixed-route bus service would be focused on corridors and time periods that can produce the most ridership for this form of service.

• Repurpose existing GoBus program to serve only the federally-required Americans with Disabilities Act transportation needs. This would provide next-day transportation service to persons who are within the fixed-route service area, but cannot access fixed-route service due to a certified disability.

• The recommended microtransit solution would encourage new customers and retain existing customers that are seeing some of their traditional MATS services reduced or eliminated. Microtransit can provide same-day GoBus-like transportation to the general public, seniors and persons with disabilities within participating municipalities. Microtransit can allow MATS to expand early morning, late night and weekend service, including Sunday service, to provide riders with new travel opportunities that MATS cannot currently offer.

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