2009-09-17 / Front Page

‘Gateway’ to Several Routes, Bus Station Soon Ready To Open

By Mark Tower

At left: The nearly completed St. Ignace bus terminal at the intersection of Church Street and US-2 is expected to open by Tuesday, September 22. A ribbon cutting and public open house is slated for 2 p.m. Monday, September 28. St. Ignace is a gateway city for many bus routes, according to bus company Indian Trails. At left: The nearly completed St. Ignace bus terminal at the intersection of Church Street and US-2 is expected to open by Tuesday, September 22. A ribbon cutting and public open house is slated for 2 p.m. Monday, September 28. St. Ignace is a gateway city for many bus routes, according to bus company Indian Trails. Bus carrier Indian Trails will open the doors of its new St. Ignace terminal Tuesday, September 22. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be 2 p.m. Monday, September 28, with a reception and public open house to follow until 7 p.m.

"The benefit for the passengers is a first-class bus terminal," saod Chad Cushman of Indian Trails. "This is one of the better ones we operate in and out of in Michigan."

Construction of the new 3,152- square-foot terminal, on the corner of US-2 and Church Street, is virtually complete. Some items still need to be corrected and checked, like the replacement of some of the windows with a lower-maintenance glass.

A heated waiting area for passengers will include a seating area, restrooms, vending machines, and will be handicapped-accessible.

Indian Trails provides three bus routes at St. Ignace and has been using the Quality Inn as a terminal, with ticket sales coordinated by motel owner David Goldthorpe. The three bus routes will remain the same, along with arrival and departure times. The only thing changing, for now, is that buses will arrive at and leave from the new station instead of Quality Inn, Mr. Cushman said.

For the new facility, Indian Trails has a contract with King Hospitality, which operates the Voyager Inn just west of the new facility, to provide staffing. Owner Glen King said he will maintain a staff of three ticket agents and one maintenance person, all currently employed by his company. Abigail LaLonde of St. Ignace, currently a motel employee, will be one of these ticket agents and will also manage the new station.

Daily cleaning, ticket sales, bookkeeping, snow removal, and basic maintenance are a few of the tasks King Hospitality will provide.

"It's kind of a win-win," Mr. King said. "We are at the hotel right next door."

Mr. King said managing the station will be new territory for his hospitality company, but expects some of the principles used in hotel management to transfer to operating the bus station.

"Hopefully, this will work for all of us," he said.

For drivers, the new facility provides a place to rest between runs to and from Escanaba, Grand Rapids, and Saginaw. Three bedrooms with private bathrooms, a common room with a television and recliners, a kitchen, and a laundry area make up the drivers' area in the building.

"The nice thing is that it is just for them," Mr. Cushman said. "It's not deluxe, but comfortable enough for them to make themselves at home."

The ticket office will be open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and again from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., surrounding bus arrivals and departures. From 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., bus passengers can receive tickets and other service at the Voyager Inn. Telephones at the new bus terminal will also be forwarded to the hotel when the facility is closed.

In the Eastern Upper Peninsula, the St. Ignace station is the hub and the only place to board a bus for travelers residing in places like Sault Ste. Marie, Pickford, or Cedarville.

The bus to Milwaukee by way of Escanaba will depart St. Ignace at 11:55 p.m. and arrive back here at 7:25 a.m. This bus, traveling on US- 2, also makes stops at Epoufette, Naubinway, and Gould City in the Eastern U.P. The bus to Grand Rapids and East Lansing will leave St. Ignace at 8:30 a.m. and arrive back here at 11:45 p.m. The Saginaw/Flint/Bay City route will depart St. Ignace at 8 a.m. and arrive back here at 10:10 p.m. All routes make trips seven days a week. Indian Trails says the schedules and routes could change in the future.

Mr. Cushman said Indian Trails has been hoping to put a station in St. Ignace for a long time, since it is a major stop along several of the company's busing routes.

"You get a lot of routes that join there in St. Ignace," he said. "It's a gateway city."

Although the bus company will no longer need to pay room charges for drivers at a hotel in St. Ignace, Mr. Cushman said the new facility won't necessarily save any money, since maintenance, utility, and contract costs will be added.

"Overall, it's not a cost-saving measure," he said. "It's more the benefit of having a stable bus terminal in St. Ignace."

The $1.7 million terminal will be owned by the City of St. Ignace. Federal funds contributed 80% of the construction costs, with the state picking up the remaining 20%, including the $300,000 paid for the 1.098 acres of land, which was owned by First National Bank of St. Ignace.

Indian Trails has a 20-year lease with the city, but the city will not collect rent on the property, City Manager Eric Dodson said, since the grants that paid for the facility's construction are considered the city's rent.

"It's a beautiful facility," Mr. Dodson said. "It will provide better access and flow to the transportation system."

After the 20 years, he said, the city can decide whether the building will continue to be used as the bus station or if there is another need for the building. When the contract expires, the Michigan Department of Transportation can accept bids from bus carriers, which means Indian Trails may not be the bus line serving the facility for the next 20- year period.

The city and the highway department will work together on any major expenses or repairs to the new building.

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