Indian Trails Inc. is restarting daily scheduled bus service, which includes routes throughout Michigan and into Chicago, Milwaukee and Duluth, along with reduced connections to the Greyhound and Amtrak national networks.
“We’re grateful to be resuming this important service in our region,” Indian Trails President Chad Cushman said in a statement. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve faced the biggest economic challenge in the 110-year history of our family-owned company. It feels great to bring more employees back to work and watch part of our 74-bus fleet roll off the lots and back on the road again.”
Indian Trails suspended operation of its daily scheduled routes on March 21 for financial and safety reasons. Specifically, there was a steep decline in passenger demand as business and government authorities restricted non-essential travel due to the pandemic. The other major factor was concern for the health of passengers, drivers, and staff as the coronavirus spread.
Now, the economic obstacle has been overcome — at least temporarily — with $2.4 million in federal CARES Act funding through the Departments of Transportation in Michigan and Wisconsin, the same type of funding provided to local transit authorities. This will help cover losses on all contracted and subsidized routes for the rest of 2020 and into 2021 as ridership rebuilds.
The partial resumption of service — representing 25% of normal operations — will enable Indian Trails to bring a quarter of its 150-member staff back to work, joining a smaller number who’ve been on the job throughout the crisis.
Meanwhile, concerns about safety are being addressed with comprehensive precautionary measures.
To minimize the chance of spreading coronavirus on its buses, Indian Trails is taking the following steps, among others:
- Requiring passengers to wear face masks for the duration of their trips — “No Mask, No Ride.”
- Providing hand sanitizer on all buses.
- Limiting the number of passengers per bus.
- Asking passengers to occupy seats as far apart as possible.
- Ventilating buses with fresh rather than recirculated air.
- Providing transparent, protective barriers between drivers and passengers.
- Cleaning and sanitizing buses after each run, with special attention to high-touch areas.
- Spraying the entire interior of each bus with a disinfectant.
- Requiring daily symptom checks of all on-duty employees, and requiring the workforce to abide by a detailed COVID-19 Response Plan.
110 years of service
Indian Trails, which has served as Michigan’s premier family-owned, inter-city motorcoach carrier for 110 years, based in Owosso, Michigan, operates one of the largest and newest fleets of deluxe motorcoaches in Michigan. In addition to its daily scheduled routes throughout Michigan and into Chicago, Duluth, and Milwaukee, its services include charters, tours, shuttles, and airport transfers.
Michigan Flyer, the company’s airport shuttle service, suspended all of its daily runs between Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) and East Lansing, Brighton and Ann Arbor on March 16, and it remains suspended until further notice. This includes AirRide connections between Ann Arbor and DTW.
The airport shuttle normally operates almost entirely on fares paid by some 250,000 passengers a year. Most are people who use airlines at DTW to travel to or from the mid-Michigan region. Shuttles cannot economically resume service while the airlines are operating at only 20% capacity, the company said.
Indian Trails Charter Service has continued operating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic at a reduced level. The company now is seeing renewed interest in booking charter trips by professional and college sports teams, corporations, universities, trade associations, churches, and others.
D2A2 commuter service between Detroit and Ann Arbor — launched last March by the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan in partnership with the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority and operated by Michigan Flyer — remains temporarily suspended.