Five Indiana bus routes abandoned years ago because they were unprofitable are set to resume next year under a $2 million federal grant that will subsidize the routes’ operations.
The Federal Transit Administration grant will revive bus service between Muncie and Indianapolis; Columbus and Indianapolis; South Bend and Indianapolis; Indianapolis and Evansville, including Bloomington; and between Louisville, Ky., and Evansville.
The Indiana Department of Transportation awarded the grant to Miller Transportation of Indianapolis, a charter bus and school bus provider that’s affiliated with Trailways.
Miller also operates a daily commuter service from Carmel, Fishers and Greenwood to downtown Indianapolis. Its grant for the five new routes is only for 2010, but Miller can reapply for funding in 2011.
The five subsidized routes will be most attractive to college students with limited funds and no automobiles, the elderly, the disabled and low-income residents who don’t own a car.
Linda Muckway, a 51-year-old Muncie resident who uses a power wheelchair because of cerebral palsy, said she’s excited about the upcoming Muncie to Indianapolis routes.
Muckway travels to Indianapolis to attend meetings about home care, disabilities and other issue. She said she also hopes to use the bus route to take part in cultural and sporting events.
“People also want to go to Indianapolis for enjoyment — shopping, the state fair or whatever,” she told The Star Press of Muncie.
State transportation officials say final fares are not yet available for the routes, which begin in January.
In its grant application, Miller said the department’s intercity feeder service will provide cities on the new routes access to the national intercity bus network.
Intercity buses are large coaches that have the capacity for transporting baggage carried by passengers, said Larry Buckel, manager of INDOT’s office of transit.
“You could get from your home in Muncie to Indianapolis and then to Chicago or anywhere in the country — anywhere that Greyhound goes,” said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield.
Miller has coordinated closely with Greyhound in developing the feeder service. It also has worked with transit authorities in Muncie, Anderson, Evansville, South Bend and Owensboro, Ky., to use their terminals for boarding points.
After decades of decline or stagnation, bus ridership has begun to improve because of rising highway congestion, increased fuel costs and consumer disenchantment with air travel.
Buckel said what prompted Miller/Trailways to bring back abandoned intercity routes in Indiana is a federal pilot project allowing states to use the capital costs of unsubsidized intercity bus service provided by private operators — in this case Greyhound — as an in-kind match for operating costs associated with the feeder service. That means the state and local communities don’t need to provide cash funds for the local match.
Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com
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