BEULAH — Taking a boat to the airport wouldn't work, Elliott Milstein realized, and a taxi would be expensive.
Milstein was on a long-planned Lake Michigan boat tour and needed to get to a Las Vegas convention for a speaking engagement. Anne Berris, along with her husband, David, was hosting the boat tour from Saugatuck to Petoskey, and she found a solution.
"'You'll never believe this, there's a service that just started,'" Milstein recalled Anne Berris telling him.
"I called, made a reservation and here I am on a bus going to Traverse City," he added while riding in a Benzie Bus Ford Transit on Friday morning.
The Novi man was the first rider on a new Benzie Bus service that takes passengers from the county into Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City. A second ride was scheduled Saturday.
"We had three calls about it just last week," said Jessica Carland, mobility manager at the Benzie Transportation Authority. "It's a need in Benzie County."
The Benzie Bus airport runs are available during normal business hours: 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Rides must be booked at least 48 hours in advance.
Cost of the service is $20 for adults and $10 for students. The service is free for children age 5 and younger.
"It's extremely reasonable," Milstein said of the 40-mile trip. "I have to tell you, it cost twice as much or more to go from my home to the Detroit airport. You can't beat this, and the wonderful service, as well. They picked me up right at the marina in Frankfort and I'm on my way to the airport in Traverse City."
Carland said Benzie Bus has one permit to transport riders to Cherry Capital Airport.
"These are shared rides if another person requests a ride," she said.
Carland said the permit was applied to Benzie Bus' new Ford Transit because of its comfort and accessibility.
"It's a very comfortable, quiet ride," she said. "It also has a wheelchair lift so if we have a passenger that needs that type of access, we can accommodate that request."
The service can be requested by calling the Benzie Bus dispatch center at (231) 325-3000, option 1. The dispatch center is open from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
"We'll get there when the passenger requests," Carland said. "If they want to get there two hours early, we'll be there two hours early."
Milstein, who gave the airport shuttle service "two thumbs up," was set to fly back into Cherry Capital on Sunday. A friend was slated to pick him up and drive him to Bay Harbor to rejoin the boat tour.
"We love northern Michigan," Milstein said. "This is a wonderful trip. I'm just sorry I had to do this thing in Vegas."