Ridership increases on Marquette’s buses

Shana Schmitt

Rising gas prices have caused a rise in ridership of Marquette County’s public transportation system consisting of the Marq-Tran and the Wildcat Shuttle.

According to the executive director of the Marquette County Transit Authority, Delynn Klein, between the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, ridership increased by 10,700 passengers.  She said since November 2010 there has been an increase in ridership of four to fourteen percent monthly.  While not all of them are operational at the same time, the transit authority has 35 buses they can employ.

The Wildcat Shuttle is another service offered by the transit authority that is being utilized more than it has in the past.  In January 2010, 4,714 students rode the Wildcat Shuttle.  In January 2011, 6, 073 students used this service.  Approximately 300 more students used the fixed route service in January 2011 than in 2010.  February also saw a significant increase in students using the shuttle from 5,877 to 6,069 student riders.

The cost of riding the Marq-Tran depends on the route, but any student, senior citizen or person with disabilities rides for half-off every day.  NMU students are able to ride fixed routes of the Marq-Tran free of charge due to a partnership between NMU and the Marquette County Transit Authority.  The cost of the fare is not affected by rising gas prices. It will remain the same even as gas prices are expected to continue rising.  The Marq-Tran offers a multitude of fixed routes.

“NMU students from all over the county can use the bus to save on gas and parking,” Klein said.

In addition to being an easy way to get to campus, the buses make regular stops to the Westwood Mall, Wal-Mart, Target and many other local shopping hot spots.  Students who would like to make use of the bus but are nervous or worried about the experience shouldn’t be, she said.

“Students can always call dispatchers to find the easiest way to get where they are going,” said Klein.

Students trying to be more environmentally friendly, like History major Erin McCulloch, can use the bus to reduce their carbon footprint. McCulloch has used the bus system for shopping, to avoid riding her bike on the busy highway and when bike riding was not safe due to weather conditions.

“I think it’s great that Marquette has a bus system to support residents without cars and encourages people to commute sustainably,” she said.

She also mentioned how convenient the Wildcat Shuttle was to her after track practice to avoid walking home in the cold with wet hair.

“I will be living farther from campus next year and I anticipate riding the bus to class at least part time,” she said.

The Marq-Tran operates all of its services Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.  On Sundays there is one fixed route from Marquette to Ishpeming as well as door-to-door service.  Schedules of routes and times are available at the Marquette County Transit Authority.