MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The Lake Express car ferry in Muskegon is seeing an increase in demand after the S.S. Badger out of Ludington suspended its crossings for the remainder of the season.

The Lake Express saw a jump in bookings when the S.S. Badger first announced a disruption in service on July 21.

“It’s been a busy couple weeks for us actually right away begging the end of July when they had that first cancellation,” Aaron Schultz, a senior vice president with Lake Express, said. “Our midday trips, our most popular trips, are sold out seven to 10 days out in terms of car space. There’s always room for people to walk on. The cars are our limiting factor.”

The Lake Express car ferry in Muskegon on Aug. 3, 2023.
The Lake Express car ferry in Muskegon on Aug. 3, 2023.

Patty Raikes is a business traveler who makes the crossing on a regular basis.

“I’ve taken it several times. It’s super convenient actually for me because my employer is here in Holland, Michigan,” Raikes said. “I would have to drive around the lake and kind of go through Chicago, which is kind of the worst part of the commute.”

The S.S. Badger announced an early end to the season this week after the car ferry’s ramp system in Ludington suffered damage when a counterweight fell. The vessel can accommodate 180 vehicles and up to 600 passengers.

The Lake Express can take fewer cars than the Badger and cannot accommodate RVs or semi-trucks.

“Our base configuration is 44 cars, 12 motorcycles, 248 people on board,” Schultz said.

But the high-speed car ferry is faster than the Badger — it makes the trip from Muskegon to Milwaukee in about two and a half hours compared to the Badger’s about four-hour crossing.

The Lake Express recommends passengers book as soon as possible, especially if they are planning to take their vehicle.

“The shortest I’ve (booked) is a month in advance and I lucked out. I think there can be risk if it’s not several months ahead of time, so I was lucky to get on,” Raikes said.