The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Indian Trails Inc, a private bus line, have teamed up to install hearing loops on a fleet of 17 buses operating 34 scheduled routes that serve passengers throughout Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas.
For tens of thousands of Michiganders, the Indian Trails routes are their only way to connect with the national transportation network of airports, Amtrak, and Greyhound.
"I’m quite sure this is the first American bus line with hearing loops," says David G. Myers, professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Mich, who has hearing loss and runs the website www.hearingloop.org.
Hearing Loop Systems and Contacta Inc, also of Holland, assisted with the custom design and engineering of the bus loop systems.
MDOT also installed hearing loops on a pilot basis at bus stations in Saginaw and Bay City.
Hearing loops are important to many of the estimated 1.4 million Michigan residents who currently have hearing loss, a number that is expected to double in 10 years. About 11% of the general population has significant hearing loss, and one-third of people 65 and older.
"This is proven technology that represents an enormous improvement in the on-board experience of many of our passengers who are hard of hearing," said Gordon Mackay, president of Indian Trails. "The cost was relatively low, about $800 per bus, and very little maintenance is needed. We would eventually like to see it installed in all of our motor coaches and in all bus stations."
Myers says that after years of campaigning for them, loop installations are picking up speed in Michigan and across the nation.
Hundreds of West Michigan facilities are now looped, including churches, auditoriums, libraries, and community centers, as well as DeVos Convention Center and Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. So is the Breslin Student Events Center, home of Spartan basketball at Michigan State University, and the new Kalamazoo-Battle Creek Airport terminal.
Michigan’s inter-city bus network is the result of a public-private partnership. The buses updated with hearing loop technology were purchased with federal and state funds. MDOT also provides operating support to maintain the inter-city bus routes that serve northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
SOURCE: Indian Trails Inc