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Long distance bus service poised to return to DL

Detroit Lakes will likely be getting city-to-city bus service again.

The city council enthusiastically signed a letter of support for Jefferson Lines to start making stops in Detroit Lakes.

Greyhound Bus scrapped its route through Detroit Lakes in August of 2004.

"We considered it at that point, but we didn't have enough drivers and buses," said Bonnie Buchanan, vice president of marketing for Jefferson Lines.

Then Greyhound announced the closure of an express route from Fargo to Minneapolis.

That closure provided "opening up a time slot where it really makes sense for us to give this a try," Buchanan said.

Jefferson Lines, a Minneapolis-based company, covers routes from Winnipeg to Dallas.

Buchanan said Jefferson Lines has applied to the state of Minnesota for operation of a route from Minneapolis to Fargo and should have an answer by early October. If approved, the route will begin in January.

It's a risk, but it helps that the federal the government will subsidize 50 percent of the bus line's losses through the office of the Department of Transportation.

Buchanan said it takes two to five years before a company knows if a route is going to work and be successful.

"It's called 5311 (f). It's federal money earmarked to try and save inter-city bus routes," she said.

Last year, Jefferson Lines started a similar route from Minneapolis to Duluth.

"We took it over reluctantly, but we've had a real success with that," she said, contributing that success to the "fantastic" support of the smaller communities.

The preliminary plan for the route from Minneapolis to Fargo includes several stops in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, St. Cloud, St. Joseph, Sauk Center, Long Prairie, Bertha, Hewitt, Wadena, Detroit Lakes and a couple in Fargo-Moorhead, for a total of 16 stops.

Buchanan said working with the smaller communities "is where it is for us." Since this is a preliminary plan, and connections in Fargo and the Twin Cities need to be considered, there may be some changes in the scheduling and stops in the future.

With the news of letters of support from local cities, Buchanan said it's very exciting to start the route. She said numerous requests have been made over the last couple years from Detroit Lakes, Wadena and Sauk Center.

"We couldn't help but notice," she said.