Category Archives: Transportation

State, local business fight over iconic M22 highway sign

M22 highway sign at an intersection in Leelanau County between Leland and Glen Arbor.

M22 highway sign at an intersection in Leelanau County between Leland and Glen Arbor.

There’s a fight over a simple black-and-white sign that identifies a state highway that runs through a popular vacation and resort region in northern Michigan. A business claims it has the exclusive right to use it as a product brand. The state says otherwise.

Now, the dispute is in federal court.

The M-22 highway in northern Michigan is considered one of the nation’s most scenic drives. For 116 miles, it hugs the Lake Michigan shoreline, and offers stunning views of woodlands, cherry orchards, and vineyards.

The M-22 highway sign has become iconic. The black-and-white logo graces cars, t-shirts and glassware, among other things, all sold by a local business.

For visitors to the areas, like Jodi Olson of Aurora-Illinois, the M-22 logo is a happy reminder of being “up north” in Michigan resort country. She has an M-22 sticker in the upper left corner of the tailgate on her SUV.

“God’s country, is what I say. It’s beautiful. The water, the– it’s just absolutely gorgeous,” says the Traverse City native.

The M-22 business was started a dozen years ago by a couple of other locals, Matt Myers and his brother Keegan. It started as a t-shirt business. Then they slapped the logo on a on a wider variety of retail products and souvenirs. They even have an M-22 wine label.

“We created something,” says Matt Myers. “A brand like ourselves never existed before. Nobody was selling shirts like this, or created a brand like this around something like the road.”

The Meyers say the M22 brand represents their love for the area where they grew up. The brothers trademarked the logo in 2007. Myers says the trademark protects their business, and their customers from cheap knockoffs.

“It’s all about the thought and the detail and the love and the passion that we’ve put into our brand,” he says. “That’s what’s made it into what it is today.”

Myers is quick to point out the trademark does not mean he and his brother own the M-22 logo – it simply allows them to keep products similar to what they sell out of the marketplace.

“Anyone can do anything they want with it as long as it doesn’t confuse our customers.”

Myers says that means an M22 towing service, and M22 party store, or an M22 tax accountant can all use the logo without running afoul of the trademark because those businesses are not competitors.

But the M22 company says the Good Hart General Store is a competitor. The store is located on another northern Michigan scenic route. M-119 is sometimes called the “Tunnel of Trees,” and it runs roughly 30 miles along Lake Michigan.

The M-22 company said the Good Hart General Store’s M119 wine label was too much like its brand, and sent a cease-and-desist letter. That’s when Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette got involved. He declared state highway signs are in the public domain for anyone to use, and he filed a lawsuit challenging the M-22 trademark.

“M-22, the American flag, the state Capitol, the US Capitol – It’s everybody’s flag, everybody’s Capitol, everybody’s road, so nobody can stop others from taking their picture, putting it on a t-shirt, and trying to market it,” he said.

“I don’t know that there’s anything exactly like this, but I think the state has a tough hill climb here,” says Mark Janis, the director of the Center for Intellectual Property Research at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

Janis says a highway sign doesn’t really compare to the flag or the Capitol, which under trademark law are considered “insignias” – official symbols of government authority.

“You’d have to prove that that mark, the road sign, is an official insignia of the state,” he says. “But there’s at least a question as far as I can tell whether a road sign of this type would be deemed an official insignia of a state. I think that might be a little bit hard for the state to prove here.”

Janis also doubts the M22 company would win its argument that the M119 sign is too much like its logo. But that question is not before the federal court.

In the meantime, the Michigan Department of Transportation has its own issues with the popularity of the M22 highway sign. People keep stealing them, and they’re expensive to replace.

Michigan is in the process of implementing its vision for bringing traffic deaths in the state down to zero

IMG_0037It’s called Toward Zero Deaths, and it is intended to reduce roadway fatalities.

The initiative aims at changing driver behavior. Experts say driver behavior factors into nearly 90 percent of all crashes.

Gregg Brunner is the Associate Region Engineer for MDOT’s Bay region.

“And within Michigan there’s approximately 900 fatalities each year on our roadways. So what we’re doing is trying to go out and educate drivers, and move that 900 number within Michigan down to zero.”

Brunner says the strategy used will involve the four E’s, engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency response.

He says the campaign has been going on for a few years now, and has been implemented across several states.

Enbridge responds to delay for Line 5 supports

Mackinac-01Enbridge Energy is reacting today to a state decision that delays company plans to install new supports on its Line 5 pipeline.

In June, Enbridge Energy, which owns Line 5, reported four spots that required additional support because of erosion.

The Department of Environmental Quality approved supports for those four spots, but delayed action on 18 others that Enbridge requested.

Environmental groups said they’re hopeful this means the government is getting serious about a line shutdown.

But Michael Barnes, a spokesperson for Enbridge, said that’s not how he sees it.

“We think that we’re all working towards the same thing and that’s to protect the straits and keep energy flowing into Michigan.”

Officials with the DEQ said they will delay a decision on the 18 additional supports until two studies on the risks of the pipeline and alternative ways for transporting the oil are completed. Results of those studies are expected early next year.

A bus service in Traverse City has added more environmentally and cost-friendly busses

BATA - New Propane Buses #1 09.26.16

“Going Green” isn’t always easy. But a transportation service is Grand Traverse County has found a way to cut down emissions and save money.

The Bay Area Transportation Authority is now using five propane fueled vehicles. Continue reading

Flint awarded $12.8 million to replace buses

PUBLIC BUS$12.8 million was awarded to Flint to replace some of the city buses.

Edgar Benning is the General Manager CEO of the Mass Transportation Authority in Flint.

“We are replacing vehicles that are over 20 years old, that have been refurbished and rehabbed to keep them on the road and so we’re replacing vehicles that operated on diesel with compressed natural gas transit coaches.”

Benning says the grant will allow for 23 transit coaches to be replaced.

He says the Mass Transportation Authority in Flint is moving to a 100 percent alternative fuel fleet, and this grant brings them a step closer to that goal.

American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan says Michigan State Police policy could lead to descrimination

Traffic Stop 1Traffic stop requirements for Michigan State Troopers could lead to racial discrimination. This according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

The organization sent a letter this week to the Michigan State Police asking for an end to the practice.

Continue reading

Bay County, Michigan recognized as logistics leader

6fd362441e6d6c96fc8a48c52604e26bBay County was ranked ninth nationally when it came to logistics — that’s the industry responsible for transporting goods, either by air, road, train or sea.

Trevor Keyes is the Vice President of Economic Development for Bay Future.

He said things like MBS International Airport and the Saginaw River helped Bay County land on the list.

“I think we’ve always known locally that we have shipping channels and logistics channels that work well with business but to be recognized nationally is one of those really special things. We’re so glad that these facilities made the designation for us.”

Keyes said the county hopes to dredge the Saginaw River in the near future, so large ocean-going ships can traverse the waterway, further increasing its logistics capacity.

The rankings come from Business Facilities magazine. It also named Memphis, Tennessee and Houston, Texas as leaders in logistics.

Two million dollars in federal money is helping two northern and central Michigan airports do runway repairs

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Two million dollars in federal money has been awarded to two airports in northern and central Michigan.

The Cherry Capital Airport in Grand Traverse County received one-and-a-half-million. MBS International Airport in Saginaw County received half a million.

The money comes from the Federal Aviation Administration. Continue reading