Last night, transportation advocates came out in large numbers to support the Michigan Flyer in adding four proposed daily trips between East Lansing and Ann Arbor to its regional transportation plan. Public comment at the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission meeting lasted nearly one hour and was overwhelmingly in support of Michigan Flyer’s plans, with only Lansing airport representatives speaking against it.
“The public wants choices. This is an opportunity to do that,” said Denise Jackson, administrator of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s statewide transportation planning division and a commission member. “This is a competitive process, of which Michigan has been able to successfully succeed in garnering these dollars, and I think that it would be well worthwhile for us to use them because there is the definite potential for those to go back and to go back to other states.”
Tim Fischer, Deputy Policy Director of the Michigan Environmental Council (Trans4M Member), also spoke in support of the Michigan Flyer’s plans. “More frequent high quality transit service – as Indian Trails’ Michigan Flyer service provides and seeks to increase – is important for our region’s economic prosperity and environmental health. It is important we provide multi-modal transportation choices for efficient movement of people and goods throughout the region…The proposed plans support Capital area residents’ desire for a high level of integrated intercity transit service.”
Building on Fischer’s comments, several senior citizens were in attendance to summarize the need for accessible, affordable transportation options, something the Michigan Flyer provides. “Not everyone can afford to use airport services.”
At the meeting, airport officials argued the proposed plans would decrease the number of passengers using the Capital Airport. However, Fischer stated, “We recognize that CRAA has been losing passengers at an alarming rate over the past decade. However, to lash out at Indian Trails’ Michigan Flyer service with eight bus trips per day from East Lansing to Ann Arbor/DTW as the cause is beyond the pale. CRAA should acknowledge that airline bankruptcies, GM closings, the Great Recession, fuel spikes, disruptions at companion airports, and growing competition from other regional airports a short drive away such as those in Flint and Grand Rapids have been major factors in passenger decline.”
The Michigan Flyer was awarded the $595,000 federal grant to expand bus trips from eight to 12 a day. The one-year grant would cover start-up operating costs. Michigan Flyer would contribute nearly $149,000 of its own money, including covering the $550,000 cost of a new bus.
The Tri-County Planning Commission plans to revisit the issue at their June meeting. To view Fischer’s entire testimony, click here.
Written by: Kathryn Gray, Trans4M Coordinator