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Thank You Ferry Much For Your Consideration

Has Evanston considered operating a ferry system?

Discussions about an Evanston marina continue to swirl*.  If we ever develop one, should we also consider an Evanston-based ferry service?  Something that might take passengers to and from Evanston (and most importantly, bring visitor$ to our lovely town)? 

I just returned from a trip to Mackinac Island, a place reached only by public ferry services or private vessels.  I hadn’t even thought about ferry boats in Evanston until the drive back home, when I drove through Muskegon, Michigan, and noticed some of the town’s similarities to Evanston.  Muskegon and Evanston are both…

…cities ending in the letters “ON”.

…shoreline towns.

…towns with a McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC at a central, busy corner.

…towns with nicknames:  Muskegon goes by “Skeetown” and Evanston's known as “E-town”.

…served by Comcast Cable.

Evanston doesn’t boast an amusement park or a prison like Muskegon (and for that I'm thankful), but I do envy the town's bustling ferry service.  According to Wikipedia, the Lakeside shopping district of Muskegon

“...is home to the Lake Express, a ferry that crosses Lake Michigan to and from Wisconsin, and currently the center of tourist based retail shopping. Lakeside features "wonderful attractions" such as an art gallery, candy store, and the Harbor movie theater. It also features restaurants which give people a feel for the local color and flavor that makes Lakeside a distinct area of the city. The area, together with the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, is considered by many to be the 'spiritual heart' of Muskegon and has long been home to many of the city's leading residents and businesses.”

Per the 2000 U.S. Census (as reported by Wikipedia), here’s a snapshot of our two cities, just for perspective:

 

Muskegon, MI

Evanston, IL

# People

40,105

74,239

# Households

14,569

29,651

# Families

8,537

15,952

Square Miles

18.0

7.8

 Miles of land

14.4

7.8

Miles of water

3.7

.04

Median HH income

$27,929

$69,303

Median Family Income

$32,640

$102,258

Per Cap. Income

$14,283

$33,645

% Pop. Below Poverty Line

20.5

11.1

Would a ferry service add to our city’s carbon footprint?  In some ways, yes, because we’d have to build it out, possibly dredge the area for docking, and so on.  However, in many other ways, it’s a chance for travelers to avoid pollutants; they’d avoid taking their cars to the long way to their travel destinations – or avoid using their cars on vacation altogether. In fact, some ferry services compete to be as green as possible.  Once here, visitors would discover that Evanston’s a truly walkable town.  We’ve got hotels and restaurants and shopping galore. 

Here’s a visual (and schedule) for the ferry between Muskegon and Milwaukee.   Here’s another ferry that travels from Luddington, MI to Manitowoc, WI.  This commercial for the S.S. Badger highlights all that Michigan has to offer, like beautiful sunsets, picturesque lighthouses.  As you can see, folks in these towns examined their cities’ strengths and found ways to bring in visitors.  Shouldn’t we consider doing the same?

*For some information on the Evanston Marina concept, click , here, here, and here.

Chris July 27, 2011 at 03:47 PM
I love this idea! A slamdunk for Evanston if we could accomplish this.
Clif Brown July 27, 2011 at 09:27 PM
A car ferry between Illinois and Michigan - it's hard to see how it could lose money considering the time and frustration saved from driving around the south end of the lake. The trick would be to find a private party to purchase a high speed car-ferry, possibly a hydrofoil, but definitely not the kind of doddering old tub that is the coal-burning Badger. In residential Evanston, this would never fly, but maybe from the north side of Chicago?
mij July 31, 2011 at 10:01 PM
I bet that this has been looked into a number of times and probably found to be to costly to operate and they would have to charge to much for each car.

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