A Mini Transportation Odyssey – by Larry Krieg
Chair, Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers
It’s been years since I’ve been to “The UP” – Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Part of the reason is that it’s such a long drive. Did you know it takes longer to drive to Escanaba than to Washington, D.C.?
And I really prefer traveling by train. (Surprise!) So I tend to go where the trains go, which leaves out the UP…or does it?
There are certainly trains up there, but they’re all for freight. Michigan Technological University has a great program to train people about the technologies of making railroads work, and for the past three years they’ve put on great conferences every summer. They exported their know-how to us in the Lower Peninsula by holding the conference first in Lansing, then in Warren, and last year in Grand Rapids. But for their fourth year, they’ve decided to host us in Marquette, at Northern Michigan University – in The UP!
So I had to decide: would I prefer to drive nine or ten hours to Marquette, and the same back again…or take the train? Dumb question, right?
Amazingly, I’m going to take the train! See, here’s my ticket:
Well, OK, not all the way by train. The secret is the “AMTRAK THRUWAY CONNECTING SERVICE” in the leg of the journey numbered 8539.
Just a few years ago, MARP (Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers) helped broker an agreement between Amtrak and Indian Trails bus company, operating mainly in Michigan, to list most Indian Trails routes as Amtrak Thruway Connecting Service routes. As long as your trip has a leg on an Amtrak train, you can purchase an Amtrak ticket to a host of Michigan cities that will never see a passenger train in my lifetime.
Try it! go to http://www.amtrak.com/ and enter the name of a northern Michigan city, like Petoskey, Tawas, Traverse City, or even Houghton. Your trip can start or end in Chicago, Detroit, or any other Amtrak station in the nation, so long as you ride a train part of the way. (You don’t have to buy a ticket just yet – experimentation is OK.)
Want a map?
The yellow lines are the Thruway Connective Service routes in Michigan and adjoining Wisconsin. There are some holes in the middle of the state, both in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, but all in all, this provides pretty darn good coverage of the geography. Amazingly few people know you can get to northern Michigan “by train”!
So here’s the great thing about connecting trains and buses: you can get to places you never realized were accessible! Tomorrow morning, as soon as I get on the train, I’ll let you know how things are going. And I’ll keep you posted along the way.
Until tomorrow! – Larry