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Indian Trails to resume scheduled bus service

ESCANABA — Effective Saturday, Aug. t 8, Indian Trails, Inc., will restart most of its daily scheduled bus service, which includes routes throughout Michigan, and into Chicago, Milwaukee and Duluth, along with reduced connections with the Greyhound and Amtrak national transportation networks.

“We’re grateful to be resuming this important service in our region,” says Indian Trails President Chad Cushman. “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.”

– Tickets for every active Indian Trails route can now be purchased at the company’s webstore.

– Schedules for all active routes, plus a Route Map, are posted online here.

– Tickets can also be purchased in person at more than 90 locations statewide and beyond, though it’s highly recommended for passengers to call ahead to ensure that the travel center nearest them will be open since many are still closed.

One temporary exception to the restart will be Battle Creek, where Indian Trails’ buses normally connect with Amtrak. The trains are currently operating on a reduced schedule that does not allow for such connections, so Indian Trails will resume Battle Creek service when Amtrak does. However, Indian Trails and Amtrak still connect in Milwaukee.

Indian Trails suspended operation of its daily scheduled routes about four months ago, on March 21, for financial and safety reasons. Specifically, there was a steep decline in passenger demand as businesses and government authorities restricted non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many bus terminals and travel centers closed. The other major factor was concern for the health of passengers, drivers, and staff as the coronavirus spread.

Now, the economic obstacle has at least been temporarily overcome with about $2.4 million in federal CARES Act funding through the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (the same type of funding provided to local transit authorities, of which a small percentage was designated for intercity bus service). Basically, this will help subsidize losses on all contracted and subsidized routes throughout Michigan and Wisconsin for the remainder of 2020 and perhaps the early part of 2021 as ridership builds back up.

The Phase I resumption of service–representing about 25 percent of normal operations–will enable the company to bring a quarter of its 150-member staff back to work, joining a smaller number of staff who have been working during the pandemic.

In order to minimize the chance of spreading the coronavirus on board its buses, Indian Trails is taking the following steps, among others, in addition to its normal safety and cleaning protocols:

– 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 air rather than air recirculated through the heating/cooling system.

– Providing transparent, protective barriers between drivers and passengers with the first row of seats blocked off.

– Cleaning and disinfecting buses after each run, with particular attention to high-touch areas such as handrails, arm rests, and restrooms.

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