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Making Investments

Greater Lansing region’s roads, rails, water and airlines create ease in getting around


Business and life get easier when people and products move freely. In Greater Lansing, transportation upgrades are a focus—and there are millions of dollars being invested in improvements.

“Infrastructure defines you as a region,” said Tim Daman, President & CEO of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Our No. 1 priority moving forward is transportation and infrastructure.”

A significant project is the renovation of the East Lansing Amtrak Station on South Harrison Road, which is making room for the Capital Area Multi Modal Gateway. The station will be operated by the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA).

“The gateway will enhance bus, bicycle, pedestrian and trail transportation for thousands of people who travel each day through the Greater Lansing region,” said Sandy Draggoo, CATA CEO and Executive Director.

By fall of 2015, those using the gateway will have use of bus and train platforms with canopies, drop-off/pickup and on-site parking, a lobby with concessions and restrooms, separate ticketing and baggage areas for Amtrak and Greyhound/Indian Trails, an intercity bus boarding area and pedestrian and bike access. The new gateway involves demolition of four buildings and construction of a new 7,300-square-feet station.

A three-way partnership has made the project possible. The U.S. Department of Transportation is providing a $6.28 million grant to CATA. The Michigan Department of Transportation contributed an additional $500,000. Michigan State University provided $3.2 million through a long-term land lease of the property. Amtrak is also expected to contribute.

Public transportation on the rise. The Greater Lansing community takes advantage of public transportation. According to CATA, 29.4 percent of the population uses public transportation rather than personal vehicles to get to work. Amtrak ridership has grown more than 200 percent at the Lansing station since 2003.

The project is expected to be a catalyst for economic growth, with opportunities for redevelopment in the Trowbridge-Harrison Road area.

As a partnership between municipalities, Ingham County’s CATA is expanding its service area into Eaton County-based Delta Township. The new route is helping a large number of employees use public transportation to get to work.

“The partnership with the township creates seamless regional connections to the urban area while providing area residents with greater access to destinations throughout the township,” Draggoo said.

Clinton County Transit provides some 70,000 trips a year. Its riders have opportunities to transfer to CATA when needing to travel out of the county. Riders call and schedule their rides.

“There have been improvements in the last six years where we now have bus transit talking with taxis,” said Dawn Benson, Clinton County Transit General Manager. “Within this region, there are strong partnerships with CATA, Eatran and Clinton Transit.”

The Eaton County Transportation Authority, known as Eatran, is located in Charlotte and offers a downtown Lansing express, out-of-county service for medical appointments and special transits for major events like Charlotte Frontier Days and the Eaton County Fair.

Moving by way of taxi. Another progressive change in public transportation is formation of the Greater Lansing Taxi Authority. The authority is simplifying regulations between communities, making it easier for taxi companies to move passengers throughout the tri-county area without needing to meet a multitude of changing regulations. Passengers can be assured of consistent standards within the companies serving the area.

“This is a great example of regionalism,” said East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett, who has been instrumental in formatting the authority.

The new group, formed in 2014, involves officials from Lansing, East Lansing and multiple surrounding townships.

As if the roads weren’t enough, Lansing is now home to Waterfront Boat & Taxi Tours. The new company was launched in downtown Lansing to usher people around on the Grand River. And with $3 million being budgeted for riverwalk, trail development and new docks in Ingham County, the company is preparing to expand to the Red Cedar River and purchase additional boats, according to Co-owner Terry Fitzwater.

“We’re offering water taxi service and tours in three different neighborhoods: downtown Lansing near the baseball stadium district, Old Town to the north and REO Town to the south,” Fitzwater said.

The 35-40 minute tours were well received when the company first offered service with a single pontoon boat late last summer. Corporate cruises are also part of the business plan.

Air and water travel. Capital Region International Airport (LAN) is a major transportation asset, contributing $1 billion annually to the local economy. From commuter services to international flights, LAN offers easy parking, affordable flights, fast security and nonstop, year-round service to Detroit, Chicago, Orlando, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. Seasonal nonstops stretch to Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, Mexico, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

“The ability to get people anywhere in the world through our airport is an important economic driver for the region,” Daman said.

Port Lansing is located at Capital Region International Airport and offers direct access to 91 million consumers within 500 miles and customers around the world.

The port has developed strong partnerships with the United Shippers’ Alliance, which includes motor, rail, ocean and air carriers, as well as other transportation providers. The alliance aggregates volumes across its members to negotiate competitive discounts with carriers. A second group based at the airport, Port Lansing Cooperative, is a collection of brokerage and logistics companies to aid shippers with delivering their products to distant customers.

While moving people and products through Greater Lansing is easy, infrastructure investment continues to be a top priority. Future growth in our region will be dependent on being connected to global markets through all possible transportation modes.

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