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Mid-Michigan bus company to get controversial federal grant, Lansing airport officials disappointed

Michigan Flyer

A private bus service will get a federal grant, despite the objections of Lansing’s Capitol Region International Airport.

The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission last night approved a $595,000 federal grant to the Michigan Flyer. The Flyer currently operates 8 daily round trips from Lansing to Ann Arbor to Metro Airport. The grant will allow its buses to run four more round trips each day.   

Airport officials fear the added bus service will siphon off potential air passengers from Lansing.

“(This) obviously is going to be a drain on the airport,” says Chris Holman, the Chairman of the Capitol Regional Airport Authority.

“This will not hurt the airport,” insists Michigan Flyer Vice President Ody Norkin, “because people don’t make a decision on an airline ticket based on how they get to the airport.”

Michigan Flyer officials say their added bus runs will attract people already planning to fly out of Detroit Metro Airport, but who would otherwise drive themselves.

Critics of the grant also point to the fact that tax dollars will be used to help a for-profit company compete with the publicly run airport. 

Norkin says the added bus service could actually help Lansing’s airport, since Lansing offers several better fares to popular destinations than air passengers can find at Detroit Metro.      

The federal grant is intended to reduce traffic congestion. The grant already had the approval of state and federal agencies. The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission’s approval was the final step required.

Last month, the 19 member commission deadlocked on approving or denying the grant. The vote was 9 to 9.  One member of the board was absent. During last night’s meeting, he said he would vote in favor of the grant being awarded.  

The final vote was 10 to 9 in favor.

It will be a couple months before the Michigan Flyer will be able to schedule the additional bus trips. The company hopes to have the buses running after Labor Day.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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