A federal grant to expand bus service between Lansing and Detroit Metro Airport is stalled.
The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission split nine to nine on authorizing a $600,000 grant to help the Michigan Flyer expand its daily trips from eight to twelve. The commissioner with the potential tie-breaking vote did not attend Wednesday night’s meeting.
State and federal transportation agencies have already approved the grant, which would essentially help offset the costs for the first few months of the added service between East Lansing and Ann Arbor.
Lansing’s Capitol Region Airport Authority opposes the grant. Airport officials worry more buses will siphon off passengers to Detroit Metro.
“We’re willing to work with anyone as long as it doesn’t negatively affect the services that are provided by the airlines to and from mid-Michigan….and as long as we can keep financially operating the airport,” says Robert Selig is the president of the Capitol Region Airport Authority.
Airport officials say other small, regional airports have lost business because bus services transported their potential customers to nearby hub airports.
The Michigan Flyer has been operating between East Lansing and Detroit Metro Airport since 2006.
The owner of the bus company says he’s frustrated by the airport’s opposition.
“It's extremely frustrating because I don't believe that we're going to hurt the airport in any way whatsoever,” says Gordon MacKay, the president of the Indian Trails and Michigan Flyer bus company. “As a matter of fact if we could work in a cooperative manner... we can feed the airport as much as we take people to where they want to go."
The commission may take up the issue again next month.
MacKay says his company may go ahead with the expansion even without the federal grant, even though that may mean operating at a loss while waiting for the added service to add riders.