Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
Due to COVID-19 and the subsequent reduced demand for travel, some Amtrak routes have temporarily suspended service. Please visit Amtrak’s website for the most up-to-date train schedules: amtrak.com/alert/nec-modified-schedule.html
There are myriad ways to get around Lansing, as well as to take a trip to Chicago, Detroit or even an international destination. Those include trains, planes, automobiles, buses and more.
At the Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, many residents choose to “fly Lansing” because the airport is small but has international reach, as well as the amenities of a large airport.
Spencer Flynn, marketing manager for the Capital Region Airport Authority, said people can save money or pay an equivalent price compared to bigger airports like Detroit Metropolitan. Sometimes a flight from Lansing that goes through Detroit is cheaper than buying a lower-priced ticket but paying for parking and the gas to drive to Detroit.
Flynn said that even when the cost comes out in the wash, it’s nice to use the Capital Region International Airport “because you don’t have an hour, hour-and-a-half drive home after just getting back from a week on vacation.”
At Amtrak, trains can take you across the country.
Most of Amtrak’s business in Michigan is travel between Lansing and Chicago, according to Marc Magliari, public relations manager for Amtrak government affairs and corporate communications for the Amtrak Chicago Union Station.
“The biggest city, the biggest draw,” he said.
“We do a fair amount in west Michigan – Kalamazoo and Battle Creek,” added Magliari.
The three Amtrak routes in Michigan are heavily used by the university populations that pass through them: Wolverine Service for the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Pere Marquette for Ferris State University, and Blue Water for Western Michigan University and Michigan State University.
Michigan Amtrak routes:
Blue WaterSM: Chicago, Kalamazoo, East Lansing and Port Huron
Pere Marquette: Chicago and Grand Rapids
Wolverine Service: Chicago, Ann Arbor, Detroit and Pontiac
“We do a lot of business with college students, faculty and staff, ” said Magliari. “It’s not all of it, but a big part of it. You’ll find it’s harder to get lower fares on a Saturday. College travel doesn’t happen during the week; it takes place on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday.”
Magliari said lower fares can be found on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and he added that train travel is particularly popular with young adults in general.
“Millennials or even Gen Xers facing big college bills and high schoolers today don’t seem to be interested in buying cars or multiple cars for their family,” said Magliari. “Many people are postponing car ownership or doing fractional car ownership and/or … have old cars they use around town. For all those reasons, we are there to help because you don’t need an especially good car to go to Chicago – you can go on Amtrak.
“Plus, on the train you can sleep or text or read – all things you should not do while you’re driving,” he added.
Magliari said train travel has some other advantages over driving for passengers.
“When they’re riding our train, they’re likely to be more comfortable and don’t have to worry about paying 25 bucks a day to park their car,” said Magliari. “Sit back and relax, don’t worry about I-94 or the Indiana toll road. You can wave at the cars.”
To get the most out of your travel, Magliari recommended buying tickets in advance.
“Generally speaking, the fares are lower,” he said.
Fiscal year 2019 station ridership for East Lansing totaled 69,210 customers in that 12-month period. That was slightly higher than 2018, which saw 68,295 passengers.
According to Michael Frezell, communications manager for the Michigan Department of Transportation, there are other possible train routes being studied by groups, but there aren’t any concrete plans at this time.
Flynn said the airport’s car services include taxis (DD’s Downtown Taxi, MSU Express), black car/limos (Dean Trailways, Grand Limousine, Posh Transportation) as well as ride-hailing apps (Lyft, Uber).
The Capital Area Transportation Authority serves all of Ingham County and portions of Eaton County and Clinton County.
CATA’s average number of weekday rides from September through December was 48,275. During peak months, CATA averages between 52,000 and 54,000 trips.
CATA is most known for its fixed-route bus service. However, CATA also offers demand-respond services by reservation, curb-to-curb service for individuals with American with Disabilities Act certification, and grocery store and shopping trips for seniors. Free 15-minute service between downtown Lansing and Old Town is known as the Grab & Go Express.
CATA’s special programs include free rides on Election Day and free rides for veterans on Veterans Day.
“CATA provides safe, reliable, affordable public transportation services that benefit all citizens in our region, including those who are most disadvantaged. Public transportation can improve our health and social mobility, but we also meet daily needs that many take for granted: getting to school, work, food sources, medical appointments, social services, leisure activities … We can help people escape poverty – our services can and do help advance social equity,” CATA said in an email.
CATA also says public transportation is more “environmentally sustainable” than other forms of transit and helps make the city “economically vibrant.”
In addition, Greyhound Lines Inc. buses travel through Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Troy and Ann Arbor, as well as the Upper Peninsula. Headquartered in Owosso, Indian Trails buses travel from Hancock all the way in the Upper Peninsula and down to Chicago via East Lansing.
The choice is yours
There are many ways to get around in Lansing. Whichever way you choose to travel in Lansing – be it plane, train, automobile, car, bus, bike, foot or even hot-air balloon – there are other options you might explore to move around the region.
As The Coronavirus made its way into the region, GLBM reached out to finD what the transportation businesses we spoke to were doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19
Capital Region INTERNATIONAL Airport:
“While we always use the top industry products to disinfect and keep our passengers safe, we have increased our surface cleaning twofold as well as are investigating further measures that can be taken,” said Spencer Flynn, marketing manager for the Capital Region Airport Authority.
On how the airport has been effected: “The airline industry overall is seeing a large impact. Airports Council International is predicting a loss of $4.3 billion in total revenue for the industry,” said Flynn.
Capital Area Transportation Authority:
On its website, CATA stated it convened an internal emergency-response task force and are following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recommendations for community mitigation strategies.
“In preparation for COVID-19, we recently upgraded our cleaning standard and frequency by applying a hospital-grade aerosol disinfectant in buses that effectively kills coronavirus and a broad spectrum of other pandemic viruses. We are taking additional containment measures as well,” the statement read.
In a media release, Amtrak said it is “taking action based on guidance from public health experts.” Amtrak increased the frequency of cleaning services on its trains and stations. Amtrak also increased the quantity of sanitizers and disinfectant wipes available for customers and employees.
On some routes in the northeast, Amtrak has temporarily suspended or reduced route frequency due to reduced demand. Amtrak is waiving change fees on all existing or new reservations made before April 30. Amtrak also advises riders that it enters parts of Canada, so if you cross the border, US Customs and Border Protection may ask about previous travel, as well as require a medical screening.