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Michigan Flyer adds extra routes after battle with local airport

July 3, 2013

After months of furious debate and arguments, Michigan Flyer LLC was granted approval on June 26 by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, or TCRPC, to increase its number of daily trips.

With the approval of TCRPC, Michigan Flyer LLC, which services East Lansing, Ann Arbor and the Detroit Metro Airport, will increase the number of daily trips from eight to 12, starting this fall. The increased frequency will mean close to hourly service for Michigan Flyer LLC’s passengers.

Ody Norkin, vice president of Michigan Flyer LLC, said $595,680 was awarded to the motor coach service in August 2012 by the Federal Highway Administration through a competitive process. Norkin likened it to a national competition for seed money. Out of the 22 applicants from Michigan, only two received the grant.

Norkin said the grant money will cover 80 percent of operational bus costs. Michigan Flyer LLC will be contributing $698,920 of their own funds toward the remaining 20 percent of the operational costs in addition to a new motor coach.

According to past stories by The State News, the grant money was being withheld from Michigan Flyer LLC because the Federal Highway Administration ruled the project would be required to be on the TCRPC transportation improvement plan in order to receive the grant.

The main obstacle Michigan Flyer LLC faced with the placement of the project on the TCRPC transportation plan was claims made by the Capital Region International Airport, or CRIA, that the addition of more daily trips would result in decreased traffic.

A representative from CRIA could not be reached for comment after the decision was passed. However, in an interview prior to the last TCRPC meeting, Keith Kaspari, senior vice president and chief of operations for CRIA, said the state of Michigan should not use federal tax dollars to subsidize the expansion of an airport shuttle service from an area that already has an airport.

Norkin said Michigan Flyer LLC has never received subsidies and is not competing against CRIA. He added consumers often buy airplane tickets based off of what is the cheapest option.

Norkin said the increased services will present more people with the opportunity to utilize the service they might not have had before. In addition to lesser waiting times between each bus, there also will be earlier and later bus times that will better accommodate commuters.

East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett supported Michigan Flyer LLC’s endeavors by authoring a resolution that the East Lansing City Council unanimously adopted and by campaigning for the expansion of inner city bus services.

“In addition to making transportation more convenient for our residents, there are also substantial environmental and traffic benefits to inner city bus service,” Triplett said. “Having bus service available helps eliminate cars and reduce emissions. It gives people not only more convenient transportation options but ones that are more sustainable.”

Jessica Leacher, the vice president of governmental affairs for ASMSU, MSU’s undergraduate student government, also wrote out a resolution in support of Michigan Flyer LLC’s endeavors and has spoken to the TCRPC about MSU students’ stance on the issue.

“As soon as (ASMSU was) made aware of the situation, we’ve been in support of them all the way,” Leacher said. “We believe that students use the (Michigan) Flyer on a regular basis.”

Norkin said the final hurdle has been faced in respect to the Federal Highway Administration Grant.

“I think that most would agree that all progressive cities have all modes of transportation,” Norkin said. “Trains have a role. We have a role. And airplanes have a role. It’s not either/or.”

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