Mini Transportation Odyssey, Marquette to St. Ignace
by Larry Krieg
Great conference! Interesting speakers and topics; fabulous field trip! Learn more at the conference site. Presentations will be available online soon, and video will be made public as soon as it is ready. I just want to give a shout out to the passenger rail panelists who added so much to our session, “Passenger Operations in an Era of Lean Public Investment”: Chris Bagwell, President of Great Lakes Central Railway; Chad Cushman, President of Indian Trails; Frank Loetterle, NLX Project Director, Minnesota Department of Transportation; and Kajal Ravani, Transportation Associate, Michigan Environmental Council, who served as Moderator and held us to our 10-minute limit.
Friday, August 19, 2016
OK. To round out the picture of public transportation to the Upper Peninsula, I’m coming back from Marquette to Ann Arbor by the Indian Trails route that goes through the center of the Lower Peninsula. Amtrak does not link to the portion of the route from Marquette to St. Ignace as a Thruway Connection, so I’m traveling on an Indian Trails ticket. Here’s an overview of the route…
1:35 AM Lv Marquette
2:30 AM Ar Escanaba, wait for buses to arrive at hub from four routes
3:30 AM Lv Escanaba
7:30 AM Ar St. Ignace
11:30 AM Lv St. Ignace6:45 PM Ar East Lansing Transportation Center (Amtrak & Bus)
(overnight in East Lansing because last Michigan Flyer to Ann Arbor leaves at 5:20 PM)
7:45 AM Lv East Lansing Marriott on Michigan Flyer
9:05 AM Ar Ann Arbor
The stop location is the headquarters of the Marquette Area Transportation Authority. Sounds ideal, right? Unfortunately, it’s over three miles from the center of town, behind the west-end shopping mall. No transit buses run within several hours of the times when Indian Trails runs to Escanaba (1:35 AM) or from Escanaba (5:20 AM). This isolates the intercity buses from the vibrant Marquette downtown and the students at Northern Michigan University. Yet the bus passes within less than a miles of downtown on its way to and from Escanaba.
Kay Chase, who is sharing this part of the Mini Odyssey, shared a taxi with me to get up the 3+ mile hill to the transit headquarters. Sorry – no photos. Too dark. Too sleepy.
Escanaba, an hour after leaving Marquette, was pretty much a repetition of the bus-meeting of Tuesday morning.
The Escanaba-St. Ignace segment was blessedly dark and quiet. I slept or dozed most of the way in a sparsely-peopled bus.
This route goes to Sault Ste. Marie before getting to St. Ignace. This is a bit out of the way, but seems worthwhile given the lack of any other public means of reach the Sault. But the route takes us only to the outskirts of the Sault. Again, as in Marquette, the headquarters and bus storage facility for the transit agency is the station stop – the Eastern Upper Peninsula Transit Authority. And as in Marquette, the stop is somewhat isolated from the students at Lake Superior State University and from the active tourist area along the Sault Locks. There is a bus from the transit authority of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which crosses the International Bridge, connecting the larger Canadian city, and what we hope will be ongoing rail service up the east coast of Lake Superior to Hearst.
The St. Ignace hub is located about half a mile from the tourist section of the town and its ferry docks. A bus from the transit agency comes by on the I-75 Business Route, though I have not seen it pull in to the Indian Trails station on its way past. The facility itself is a very tastefully designed, six-year-old building with a spacious covered area for transfers between buses. Inside, there are upholstered seats, restrooms, and vending machines, with a staffed desk at which passengers can purchase or modify tickets – normally. Today though, the computer system was down, the computers themselves were being upgraded, and very little could be done. I’ll have more to say about the ticketing system later.
For now, it’s time to enjoy the three-hour layover in St. Ignace.
Catch you in East Lansing – Larry