Trade Resources Market View MDOT Is Starting The Use of Eight New Motorcoaches

MDOT Is Starting The Use of Eight New Motorcoaches

Indian Trails in association with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is starting the use of eight new motorcoaches, which are said to turn heads, boost ridership, and attract more tourists to Michigan.

Like rolling billboards, the new buses are covered with giant photos of some of Michigan's most popular vacation destinations and largest cities -- and they carry the Pure Michigan logo.

"We're excited about promoting Michigan travel in a big way," said Indian Trails President Gordon Mackay. "After all, we're a Michigan transportation company, and -- partly with MDOT's support -- we operate daily, scheduled bus routes statewide, as well as into Chicago, Duluth and Milwaukee."

"These Pure Michigan buses will travel 2.4 million miles a year, and hundreds of thousands of people in and out of state are going to see them," said MDOT Director Kirk Steudle. "That should produce a significant return on our investment, even beyond the economic benefit that communities derive from intercity bus service."

The scenes on the new buses include Lake Huron, Pictured Rocks National Seashore, Old Mission Peninsula, the Mackinac Bridge, Sleeping Bear Dunes, the State Capitol, Glen Lake, two lighthouses, a Marquette marina, and the skylines of Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing.

Besides helping to bring tourists into Michigan, the striking new motorcoaches should accelerate growth in ridership that connects Michiganders with one another and the rest of the world. On the sides of each vehicle, the prominent slogan "We're Going Your Way -- Daily" instantly tells viewers that these buses offer regular route service. To emphasize the point, 28 of the more than 100 towns that Indian Trails serves are listed along the roof lines of the coaches in bright green lettering.

The eight new buses are all Motor Coach Industries (MCI) model D4505. Each can carry up to 51 passengers, and comes equipped with technology that reduces exhaust pollutants to near zero while achieving fuel economy of 240 passenger miles per gallon.

Safety features include antilock brakes, automatic traction control, electronic stability system, engine fire detection and suppression system, GPS tracking, tire pressure monitoring system, and three-point retractable seatbelts for each passenger.

Among the comfort features are ergonomic seating with ample leg room; individual airflow controls, reading lamps, and footrests; tinted side windows; 110-volt AC outlets at each seat for charging mobile devices; free WiFi; on-board lavatory; enclosed overhead parcel racks; hearing loop; and an ADA-compliant wheelchair lift.

In keeping with a tradition begun in the 1930s by Cora Taylor, who co-founded Indian Trails with her husband Wayne in Owosso 104 years ago, each of the new coaches is named in honor of a Native American Indian chief: Black Hawk, White Pigeon, Moa-Na-Hon-Ga, Sagamaw, Wa-Na-Ta, Esh-Tah-Hum-Leah, Chebainse, and Cheogemaw.

At a cost of $553,500 apiece, the new motorcoaches replace 2011 models that have each been driven 500,000 miles or more. The Federal Transit Administration covers 80 percent of the cost, and MDOT 20 percent, as part of the state's Intercity Bus Capital Equipment Program. Through lease agreements, the decades-old program provides modern, safe and reliable buses for private intercity bus carriers Indian Trails and Greyhound. In return, the carriers operate regular daily routes in Michigan, covering the full costs of staffing, fuel, insurance, maintenance and more.

Five of Indian Trails' 13 daily routes are operated through this public-private partnership:

"Sleeping Bear" route (Grand Rapids-Cadillac-Traverse City-Petoskey)

"Hiawatha" route (St. Ignace-Sault Ste. Marie-Ironwood)

"Superior" route (Hancock-Marquette-Green Bay-Milwaukee)

"Straits" route (East Lansing-Petoskey-St. Ignace)

"Huron" route (Bay City-St. Ignace)

The program is designed mainly to extend and preserve daily service in rural areas of Michigan's northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas, where intercity buses can't be operated profitably on passenger fares alone. Ticket revenue on these routes totals about $2 million annually, but accounts for just 50 percent of operating expenses.

Of the 270,000 annual passengers who use Indian Trail's daily routes, 36 percent live in households that have no car, and about 20 percent don't or can't drive. Indian Trails' buses not only connect passengers with towns and cities statewide, but also with airports and the Amtrak and Greyhound national transportation networks.

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Indian Trails, Mdot Launch Eight New Pure Michigan Buses