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Author Topic: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10  (Read 696 times)

oscar

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Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« on: September 10, 2018, 09:24:23 PM »

Last week, I took the Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) from Manitowoc WI to Ludington MI, on my way home from western Canada. Some years ago, AASHTO approved the addition of the ferry route as part of US 10. As shown below, I'm not sure Michigan DOT has implemented that approval.

Here is one of several photos I took of the Badger and the ramp onto the vessel, at the Manitowoc end of the journey. The vessel itself has a US 10 route marker painted on it, above the vehicle loading/unloading ramp. On land, there is also a US 10 route marker (looking not quite official), implying that eastbound US 10 continues right onto the ship when it's in port.



At the Ludington end of the journey, there appears to be no similar US 10 signage within the vehicle loading/unloading area. On the access road before that area and the ferry terminal, there's a US 10 Ends route marker, about 0.2 mile from the vehicle loading/unloading ramp:



Some brief notes on the ferry experience:

-- Unlike other auto ferries I've taken, drivers are not allowed to drive their own vehicles on or off the vessel. Rather, you park your vehicle, and Carferry drivers will take it onto the vessel, then drive it off at the other end to a passenger waiting area where you retrieve it and drive it away. I suspect this is to make loading/unloading more efficient, and pack as many vehicles as possible (including truck trailers and RVs) into the vehicle deck space. But on other vessels, you do that yourself under crew member direction.

-- Complicating loading and unloading is that it's all done at the aft end of the vessel, which is backed into the dock at each end of the journey. That means that while cars can be driven on board in the usual fashion, truck trailers and RVs have to be backed in to the vehicle deck. This part I can understand the crew wanting to do the driving themselves.

-- The Badger has a "cruise director", and signs and intercom announcements pretend it's a (non-luxury) cruise ship. I don't do cruise ships, so that put me off.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2018, 09:28:33 PM by oscar »
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mgk920

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2018, 01:46:01 AM »

That's a current WisDOT standard US 10 sign.  The font might be a bit off, but that would be a contractor error.

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2018, 09:14:43 AM »

The price per journey is incredibly high though, isn't it?   That's always put me off any thought of ever using it.
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SEWIGuy

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2018, 09:26:10 AM »

The price per journey is incredibly high though, isn't it?   That's always put me off any thought of ever using it.


A family of four with a car round trip is nearly $500.  And it takes four hours.  I'm sure the experience is cool for a bit, but four hours is a long time IMO.  (It is shorter than driving if those are your final destinations however.)

The same family on the Lake Express is going to cost about $630 for two and a half hours.
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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2018, 10:23:30 AM »

My cousin is the captain of the ship. His grandfather and my grandmother were brother and sister.
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abefroman329

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2018, 02:10:37 AM »

The price per journey is incredibly high though, isn't it?   That's always put me off any thought of ever using it.


A family of four with a car round trip is nearly $500.  And it takes four hours.  I'm sure the experience is cool for a bit, but four hours is a long time IMO.  (It is shorter than driving if those are your final destinations however.)

The same family on the Lake Express is going to cost about $630 for two and a half hours.
Occasionally there are Groupons that bring the price down significantly. My wife and I took a round trip as foot passengers from Manitowoc for our anniversary two years ago, and the cost was reasonable.

And I enjoyed the “cruise director” aspect of it, it was cornier and less in-your-face than what you’d find on a Caribbean cruise. We liked the bingo and the trivia, though we ended up sitting out a few rounds because we felt like we’d won too many times.
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oscar

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2018, 05:40:43 AM »

The price per journey is incredibly high though, isn't it?   That's always put me off any thought of ever using it.

My fare, traveling solo with my car one-way, was $150. During the high season when the Badger makes two round-trips a day, you can save money by taking the late sailing, though perhaps in the dark at a ridiculous time.
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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2018, 07:17:51 AM »

That's a ridiculous sum of money for that ferry ride.  A single person ride on the Chi-Cheemaun that traverses Lake Huron between Tobermory, ON and Manitoulin Island is about $60 CDN for a single person with a car.

I grant that the Chi-Cheemaun's run is probably about 25 % shorter than the Badger Ferry, but that amount of distance shouldn't warrant the nearly three times price increase.

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2018, 09:59:13 AM »

That's a ridiculous sum of money for that ferry ride.  A single person ride on the Chi-Cheemaun that traverses Lake Huron between Tobermory, ON and Manitoulin Island is about $60 CDN for a single person with a car.

I grant that the Chi-Cheemaun's run is probably about 25 % shorter than the Badger Ferry, but that amount of distance shouldn't warrant the nearly three times price increase.


The Badger is more of a touristy thing than anything.  I don't think too many people take it for actual travel.  I live in Green Bay, and if I ever had to drive to the Detroit area, there is zero chance I would take the ferry unless I just did so for the experience.
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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2018, 06:34:14 PM »

Does anyone know or speculate on why they waited until 2015 to make the SS Badger Carferry an offical part of US 10? I would have thought they'd have done it when the route was designated in 1926, not wait until 89 years later.
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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2018, 12:46:42 PM »

Well 1926 may not have been as straightforward to do so. Manitowoc to Ludington was one of several cross-lake routes run by a few different companies.  It may have been seen as favoritism to one company over another.
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edwaleni

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2018, 08:32:42 PM »

The SS Badger was originally built by the C&O Railroad to ferry railcars back and forth from Wisconsin.  Of the 3 ships built it is the last one in service after it was converted to straight auto and passenger.

The "problem" with the Badger and the cost, is the fact it runs on coal. It is expensive to maintain year round service and it is very old.

Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin have all done studies on some kind of high speed ferry service over Lake Michigan, but 2 issues usually arise.

Lake Michigan is 60-100 miles across depending on the spot to cross.

The cost to go faster with the same amount of weight is very, very expensive.

And it has to be able to cut ice if run year round.

Everyone agrees that if the price came down, it would get more usage. But to get that price down, it would require new ships, substantial subsidies from the supporting states.

Many people would like to think that a Lake Michigan ferry should be no different than what WDOT does in Puget Sound. Hardly.  Puget Sound does not freeze up and does not have the same operating requirements a Great Lakes boat would require.

For the trivia minded.

In 1977 after nearly 3 months of sub-freezing weather, the lower portion of Lake Michigan froze over.  All 60 miles from Chicago over to the Michigan side.

On a dare, a man drove his car out onto the ice on the Michigan side and drove across the lake. People in the Chicago high rises started calling the police that there was a car coming into town from the lake side.  As he pulled up into Grant Park, the CPD arrested him. He was fortunate that the south end of the lake is very shallow and can freeze over under proper conditions. When asked if he drove slow in case the ice cracked, he replied "what would I have done, I was driving a 4000 pound car on ice".  Asked how fast he
 went, he said "as fast as it would let me since I couldn't stop if I wanted to".  Asked how long it took him he said about an hour an half.  It would have been faster but a couple of times he lost traction and spun out and had to restart out again slowly.

The Coast Guard said if he had made a diversion of less than 10 miles north at the halfway point, his car would have broken through the ice and he would have died shortly thereafter.

That is it for Lake Michigan and car crossing trivia.

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oscar

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2018, 08:45:39 PM »

You have the Lake Express ferry between Milwaukee and Muskegon, a modern high-speed ferry with faster and more frequent service. It costs more than the Badger.

BTW, I took the Lake Express one-way from Muskegon to Milwaukee on an earlier trip. I noticed lots of design similarities between the Lake Express and the (ultimately short-lived) Hawaii Superferry, the main difference being the Superferry was a larger vessel designed to transport trucks and their trailers as well as autos and passengers, and also to deal with rough open-ocean waters rather than the relatively placid Lake Michigan. A crewmember told me that the designs were similar enough that Superferry crewmembers and executives traveled on the Lake Express, to get some experience useful when they later took delivery on the new Superferry vessel.

That's a ridiculous sum of money for that ferry ride.  A single person ride on the Chi-Cheemaun that traverses Lake Huron between Tobermory, ON and Manitoulin Island is about $60 CDN for a single person with a car.

Is the Chi-Cheemaun a government-operated ferry? Does it get government subsidies that the privately-owned Badger doesn't get?
« Last Edit: September 14, 2018, 08:59:55 PM by oscar »
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abefroman329

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2018, 08:08:27 AM »

As long as the Interstate Highway System exists, interest in a cross-lake ferry will be low. I can drive from my home to Muskegon in the same amount of time it would take to drive up to Milwaukee to catch the ferry. Driving to Ludington vs driving up to Manitowoc and taking the Badger, it’s not even a competition.

I loved taking the various ferries from Britain to other countries, but those are on the decline thanks to low-cost air travel.
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Flint1979

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2018, 08:42:31 AM »

Depending on where your going and coming from the ferry across the lake takes too long for my liking.
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oscar

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2018, 09:29:35 AM »

Depending on where your going and coming from the ferry across the lake takes too long for my liking.

The only reason I did it on this trip was the specific objective of clinching as much of US 10 as I could, including parts on both sides of the lake. The previous Badger trip in 1996, I had to cross Lake Michigan toward Montana after a visit to my godmother in Traverse City. These kinds of reasons are not as common as the companies operating the Badger, and the Lake Express, would prefer.
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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2018, 03:01:59 PM »

I like that this thread came up, because my hometown is actually on the western end of the carferry service. Unfortunately I've never been on the Badger myself (though I plan to someday!), but anyone who has ever lived in Manitowoc (or Ludington, for that matter) can see it coming in at certain times each day from May to October.
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Flint1979

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2018, 05:15:50 PM »

Depending on where your going and coming from the ferry across the lake takes too long for my liking.

The only reason I did it on this trip was the specific objective of clinching as much of US 10 as I could, including parts on both sides of the lake. The previous Badger trip in 1996, I had to cross Lake Michigan toward Montana after a visit to my godmother in Traverse City. These kinds of reasons are not as common as the companies operating the Badger, and the Lake Express, would prefer.
I only live about 15 miles or so from US-10's eastern terminus so I'm around that area often enough. I've clinched the Michigan stretch of US-10 before going from Ludington to Bay City. I like how it turns into a freeway in Clare County and is a freeway all the way to the eastern terminus. I always thought the original eastern terminus in Detroit was odd since it just multiplexed with other highways for the most part.
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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2018, 06:24:38 PM »

Depending on where your going and coming from the ferry across the lake takes too long for my liking.

The only reason I did it on this trip was the specific objective of clinching as much of US 10 as I could, including parts on both sides of the lake. The previous Badger trip in 1996, I had to cross Lake Michigan toward Montana after a visit to my godmother in Traverse City. These kinds of reasons are not as common as the companies operating the Badger, and the Lake Express, would prefer.
I only live about 15 miles or so from US-10's eastern terminus so I'm around that area often enough. I've clinched the Michigan stretch of US-10 before going from Ludington to Bay City. I like how it turns into a freeway in Clare County and is a freeway all the way to the eastern terminus. I always thought the original eastern terminus in Detroit was odd since it just multiplexed with other highways for the most part.

I actually like the endings where they are now. My goal now is to clinch all of US 10 including the carferry.
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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2018, 07:11:32 PM »

Is the Chi-Cheemaun a government-operated ferry? Does it get government subsidies that the privately-owned Badger doesn't get?

The Chi-Cheemaun does receive government subsidies from the Ontario Government.  I had never looked into it before I wrote my original post, but it receives somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 million per year from the provincial government.  So that's probably a good explanation of the different cost structures right htere.

http://www.ontarioferries.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/OSTC-2017_2018-2019_2020-Final-.pdf

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2018, 08:36:33 PM »

Depending on where your going and coming from the ferry across the lake takes too long for my liking.

The only reason I did it on this trip was the specific objective of clinching as much of US 10 as I could, including parts on both sides of the lake. The previous Badger trip in 1996, I had to cross Lake Michigan toward Montana after a visit to my godmother in Traverse City. These kinds of reasons are not as common as the companies operating the Badger, and the Lake Express, would prefer.
I only live about 15 miles or so from US-10's eastern terminus so I'm around that area often enough. I've clinched the Michigan stretch of US-10 before going from Ludington to Bay City. I like how it turns into a freeway in Clare County and is a freeway all the way to the eastern terminus. I always thought the original eastern terminus in Detroit was odd since it just multiplexed with other highways for the most part.
Back in 1926, US-10 going to Detroit made sense.  When I-75 came into being, not so much anymore.  And then it got truncated to the current ending at Bay City.  Just like US-27 got truncated and then finally removed from Michigan, US-25 and US-16 got removed, US-2 was truncated, US-112 got replaced by US-12 when 12's original route was replaced by I-94, etc.
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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #21 on: September 15, 2018, 10:46:59 PM »

I could probably get a discount since I have a relative in high places there, but the fact that they don't let you park your car yourself (and apparently don't allow access to it during the trip) is a major turn-off for me.
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Flint1979

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #22 on: September 15, 2018, 11:37:22 PM »

Depending on where your going and coming from the ferry across the lake takes too long for my liking.

The only reason I did it on this trip was the specific objective of clinching as much of US 10 as I could, including parts on both sides of the lake. The previous Badger trip in 1996, I had to cross Lake Michigan toward Montana after a visit to my godmother in Traverse City. These kinds of reasons are not as common as the companies operating the Badger, and the Lake Express, would prefer.
I only live about 15 miles or so from US-10's eastern terminus so I'm around that area often enough. I've clinched the Michigan stretch of US-10 before going from Ludington to Bay City. I like how it turns into a freeway in Clare County and is a freeway all the way to the eastern terminus. I always thought the original eastern terminus in Detroit was odd since it just multiplexed with other highways for the most part.

I actually like the endings where they are now. My goal now is to clinch all of US 10 including the carferry.
Yeah they are fine now that I-75 and I-94 have taken over much of the older routing. I've only been up to the car ferry in Ludington but not on it. From M-115 to the eastern terminus it's a freeway and the freeway turns into M-25 heading into Bay City. I've been by the eastern terminus several times.
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Flint1979

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Re: Lake Michigan Carferry (SS Badger) as part of US 10
« Reply #23 on: September 15, 2018, 11:43:20 PM »

Depending on where your going and coming from the ferry across the lake takes too long for my liking.

The only reason I did it on this trip was the specific objective of clinching as much of US 10 as I could, including parts on both sides of the lake. The previous Badger trip in 1996, I had to cross Lake Michigan toward Montana after a visit to my godmother in Traverse City. These kinds of reasons are not as common as the companies operating the Badger, and the Lake Express, would prefer.
I only live about 15 miles or so from US-10's eastern terminus so I'm around that area often enough. I've clinched the Michigan stretch of US-10 before going from Ludington to Bay City. I like how it turns into a freeway in Clare County and is a freeway all the way to the eastern terminus. I always thought the original eastern terminus in Detroit was odd since it just multiplexed with other highways for the most part.
Back in 1926, US-10 going to Detroit made sense.  When I-75 came into being, not so much anymore.  And then it got truncated to the current ending at Bay City.  Just like US-27 got truncated and then finally removed from Michigan, US-25 and US-16 got removed, US-2 was truncated, US-112 got replaced by US-12 when 12's original route was replaced by I-94, etc.
That makes sense for US-10. US-27 ran solo from Lansing to Grayling the reason that MDOT wanted to eliminate US-27 was to avoid confusion with US-127 so they just ran US-127 up US-27's old routing and eliminated the long multiplex with I-69. I think that one's fine now, for years I still called it US-27 though. The freeway routing with I-94 and US-12 seems fine now too. I wasn't around when that switch was made.
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