Extreme weather calls for extra precautions in transportation

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Car next to snow-covered tree.

Ja’kaila Taylor

With 13.3 inches of snow, the roads in mid-Michigan were bound to be challenging. t

Local transportation services of the Greater Lansing Area experience delays following a previous snow emergency. 

On Sunday, the City of East Lansing declared a state of emergency ahead of the expected snow accumulation across mid-Michigan. Two days later, a winter storm warning was issued by the National Weather Service. The storm continued through Thursday, with accumulations of up to 13.3 inches, and winds up to 15 mph clogging roads.

The amount of snow accumulated across the greater Lansing area was nothing short of a jam. Consequently, public transportation also experienced delays.  

Major public transportation services such as CATA, have what they refer to as “safety routes.” These roads serve as alternate routes. Routine routes may include turns and hills that are deemed unsafe in inclement weather and heavy snow. Safety routes are used when detours are in effect, which can last a full service day. 

Bus stop, no one there
With people staying indoors and routes curtailed, bus stops were emptier this week.

CATA bus driver Ron DeLeon worked throughout the storm and explained that he too had to travel on safety routes. “Some of the buses can’t fit through tight areas where cars travel, especially in this weather, so we use these instead.”

Students and citizens who take advantage of public transportation waited for extended periods of time amid the heavy snowstorm. Buses that typically run every five minutes were running closer to 40-minute intervals. Those delays were a result of a previous transportation reduction plan implemented by Michigan State University in response to transitioning to online learning. The snow only prolonged wait times. 

A bus and a car travel next to each other

Ja’kaila Taylor

In clear weather, buses and cars can share the road more easily than when the snow piles up.

“The snowstorm and slow-running buses were just another pain in the butt for us students,”  Lourdes Knox of Michigan State University explained. 

Other forms of student transportation experienced complete shutdowns due to the storm. Dean Transportation, the largest private school transporter in Michigan, had to shut down operations servicing Lansing Public Schools and surrounding school districts for two days. Decisions to not operate were based on the safety of drivers and students. Factors such as the depth of snow, temperatures and more were considered. 

“Seeing that the storm came right through central Michigan, 30 of our operations were greatly affected, even as far out as Port Huron,” said Dean Transportation president and CEO Kellie Dean. As a result of school closures, the transportation services had no one to transport. 

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