Published July 1, 1997 | July 1997 issue
Residents of six Upper Peninsula (U.P.) counties will soon have direct bus service to cities in neighboring counties starting in August.
The intercounty bus service, funded by a state Department of Transportation grant for small Michigan communities, includes cities in Delta, Alger, Marquette, Schoolcraft, Menominee and Dickinson counties. The grant opens up bus travel across county lines that is normally prohibited by county charter.
"County lines do not influence an individual's travel pattern," says David Gillis, executive director of the Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Regional Commission in Escanaba and a member of the task force coordinating the transit plan. Gillis cites the town of Powers in northern Menominee County whose nearest county urban center is 45 miles away, while Escanaba, in Delta County, is about half that distance.
The service will focus on those cities with institutions that already draw traffic across county lines, for example, a managed care facility in Powers, a Veteran's Administration hospital in Iron Mountain, Bay du Noc Community College in Escanaba and a large medical center and Northern Michigan University in Marquette. Gillis says that in addition to users of the facilities, it is expected that some employees living in other counties may choose to ride the bus. The counties involved will for the most part use existing staff and equipment, and the fares will be similar to those currently in place in each county.
Given the usually snowy U.P. winters, the bus service may be a welcome alternative to driving. "It's a plus if you can have someone else do the driving," says Ray Leach, executive director of the Delta Area Transit Authority. Intercounty bus service may also open more regional employment opportunities for people who live in outlying areas because transportation would be reliable on snowy days and cut down on winter absenteeism, which is a big concern to employers, Leach says.
While there are no plans to expand beyond the original hubs, Leach won't rule that out, citing the potential for a weekend route between Ironwood and Marquette that would serve Northern Michigan University students traveling home on weekends.
The intercounty routes and schedule are expected to complement a private regional bus service that will also begin operations in August and will take people to and from Green Bay, Wis., and other transit hubs outside the U.P.