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Trial bus route connects central Indiana cities

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Rev. Daniel Casey sat down inside the City of Anderson Transit System downtown terminal. But rather than wait for a city bus, he was waiting Monday for one that would deposit him in downtown Indianapolis.

Miller Trailways, a Louisville-based bus service that operates in Indiana, and the City of Anderson Transit System, have a 30-day trial contract which allows Miller buses to use the downtown CATS terminal as a stop along its routes between Muncie and Indianapolis, said Stephon Blackwell, the CATS director. The buses also stop in Pendleton and Fortville.

The service started on April 1 and tickets cost $15 to Indianapolis and $12 to Muncie, which are currently paid to the bus driver, Blackwell said.

The Indianapolis route stops at the Greyhound Bus terminal, allowing people to easily travel all over the country, Blackwell said. The Muncie stop is at a Muncie bus system terminal.

"From here they can go to Indianapolis and right there can catch an IndyGo bus to the airport," Blackwell said. "That's great, especially for college students."

The city does not have to pay anything to have Miller Trailways stop at the downtown terminal. And when CATS employees get training and begin selling tickets at the downtown terminal, CATS will receive 15 percent of ticket sales, Blackwell said.

On Monday Casey was preparing to catch the 1:35 p.m. bus to Indianapolis. It is his second trip on this service so far.

"I take it to Indianapolis and from there I take a Greyhound bus to Chicago," he said. "I have family in Chicago and do ministry work up there. I go up, and I come back down on the reverse route, and back to Anderson."

Leo Williams, a CATS dispatcher working at the terminal on Monday, said the new routes offer resident a new amenity.

"This has been very popular, and people are just now realizing it's here," he said. "A lot of people still don't know about it, and once they do, it will be used even more."

Having Miller Trailways buses stop at the terminal also brings exposure to the City of Anderson bus system.

"Once someone catches a bus and stops here, they will learn about the city bus and use it," he said. And it will work the other way around as well.

Sidney A. Martin, 63, is one who learned about the regional routes when he stopped in to catch a city bus to Hoosier Park on Monday.

"I think this is a good thing," he said. "Last year, when we filled out surveys on the bus, I said they should have several buses between here and Muncie and Indy."

This is the first time that regional transportation services have made their way downtown to pick up and drop off people, Blackwell said. There has been a constant flow of riders, and he expects the ridership to grow as people learn about the service.

Prior to this contract with the city, Miller Trailways had its buses stop at the Garden Inn along Scatterfield Road, just off Interstate 69.

Edward Rollins, a regular CATS rider, said the new downtown location is much more convenient because people who don't have cars or who don't want to spend money on gas can take city buses to get to the terminal. And people can drop off or welcome visitors there when they arrive from Indianapolis and Chicago.

To make his typical trip to Chicago, Casey used to have to take an $8 taxi cab to the hotel in order to then catch the bus heading to Indianapolis. This new system is much more convenient for him and other travelers, he said.

"When folks would got all the way out there (the hotel) we didn't know what time buses would be coming in. We would sit there and ask and keep waiting," he said. "It helps to have a schedule here (at CATS hub) and it would be good to have a ticket agent."

Prior to the contract with Garden Inn ending on March 30, the Miller Trailways approached the city about using its downtown hub as its new Anderson stop, Blackwell said.

"We hammered out a contract in five hours," he said. "The reason we jumped on it is because we will be building a new terminal, which we want to be a transportation hub where Miller busses, Greyhound buses, city buses, and taxi cabs can connect. This is an opportunity to get that together early."

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