Ticket to Ride: New customized bus makes round trips to Detroit, Chicago

Anyone who wants to get to Detroit or Chicago without flying or driving now has another option.

Lake Michigan Express, a new Traverse City-based company, began offering thrice-weekly bus service in late June to those cities via a comfortable 15-passenger customized Mercedes-Benz Sprinter bus.

“We’ve been planning this for a couple of years now,” said owner Dave Mehta, a physician who practices family medicine in Traverse City. “We want it to be an option that anybody can afford or for anyone who didn’t want to take a plane. Our focus is on providing a safe, reliable and cost-effective travel option for northern Michigan. We’re committed to exceeding your expectations.”

The customized bus would leave Traverse City – on Wellington between Front and State streets – on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 6 a.m. and arrive in downtown Detroit (on Griswold near Clifford and Grand River) at 10:30 a.m. It would also make an Oakland County stop near the Great Lakes Crossing Mall. The bus would then turn around and leave Detroit arriving back in TC about 3 p.m. One-way tickets to – or from – Detroit are $79.

The trip to Chicago would leave TC at 3:30 p.m. and arrive in the Windy City on Green Street between West Randolph Street and West Washington Boulevard at 8 p.m. The trip back from Chicago to TC would be a “red eye,” leaving at 11 p.m and arriving at 6 a.m. One way tickets to or from Chicago are $105.

Lake Michigan Express accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express or PayPal.

Mehta has hired three experienced drivers to pilot the luxury Mercedes-Benz Sprinter bus, which features individual bucket seating instead of typical bus bench seats.

“We really want our passengers to be comfortable on the trip,” said Mehta, who grew up in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills and moved to Traverse City in 2015. “We’ll be making one rest area stop and one gas station stop on each trip so they can get out and stretch their legs.”

The bus also features Wi-Fi, which allows guests to work while they roll south, and lots of overhead storage.
The service would be ideal for individuals who want to get to downtown Detroit, for example, for a business meeting, sporting event or concert, according to Mehta. He also could see small groups, like bachelorette parties or clubs, taking the bus together for events in Chicago or Detroit.

While Lake Michigan Express just began trips in late June to Detroit and Chicago, Mehta is already thinking about expanding the bus service to other areas, include O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids.

“A number of people have already asked about service to the airports and that’s something we’re considering,” said Mehta.

He’s also looking into implementing service to other northern Michigan areas, including Charlevoix and Petoskey.

“We’re really excited to serve the people of northern Michigan,” said Mehta. “We want to make their trip comfortable and make these cities more accessible to them.”

To learn more, visit lakemichiganexpress.com.