Archive for December, 2014

New Station Set to Open in Dearborn, Mich.

December 7, 2014

A new intermodal center in Dearborn, Mich., will see its first Amtrak train on Wednesday.

The station, located at 21201 Michigan Ave., is served by six daily Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac)

Amtrak is moving from a station located behind the Dearborn Police Station to the new 16,000-square-foot Dingell Transit Center. Aside from serving Amtrak, the center also will serve bus, taxi and pedestrian and bike paths.

City officials are describing the station as an important component in efforts to create commuter rail service between Ann Arbor and Detroit.

Almost 80,000 passengers used the current Amtrak station during the 2014 fiscal year and Dearborn is the most popular Amtrak location in the Detroit metropolitan area, according to Marc Magliari, spokesman for Amtrak.

“Dearborn is excited to be part of the future of rail. We will continue to work with our partners to increase convenient travel that starts in Dearborn and takes riders throughout southeast Michigan, as well as between Dearborn and Chicago,” said Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly.

“We’re anticipating bringing more customers to our Dearborn businesses and more visitors to our cultural and entertainment venues,” O’Reilly said. “And in the near future, people are going to find it very easy to get on a train in Dearborn and connect with the new M1-Rail in Detroit for an evening out or to go to a game.”

The transit center was funded with $28.2 million from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The city of Dearborn owns the station and the seven-acre site while Amtrak will run the facility.

An open house will be conducted at the facility on Dec. 15 between 4-6 p.m.

The transit center also features a pedestrian bridge over the tracks that will allow travelers to access a new entrance to The Henry Ford complex, including the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, the IMAX Theater, and Ford Rouge Factory Tours. About 1.6 million people a year visit The Henry Ford.

The transit center has received a silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design. The building features a metal roof with solar collectors, energy efficient lighting and geothermal heating and cooling.

Ohio Town Makes Bid to be Cardinal Station Stop

December 7, 2014

Oxford, Ohio, is making a push to become a station stop for Amtrak’s Cardinal.

Located on a former Baltimore & Ohio line between Cincinnati and Indianapolis, it has been more 60 years since the Butler County college town had passenger rail service.

Oxford and Miami University officials plan to send a joint letter to Amtrak officials asking for the city to be made a scheduled stop for the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal.

“We have a lot of Miami University students who come from and through Chicago,” Oxford City Manager Douglas Elliott said.

Passenger rail service in Oxford ended in December 1950. Oxford’s long-abandoned B&O station was razed in 1994.

The last passenger trains to stop in Oxford were motor cars operating between Indianapolis and Hamilton, Ohio.

A request to stop the Cardinal in Oxford was rejected by Amtrak in 2009, but city and university officials – along with regional rail advocates – said recent communications show Amtrak now to be more interested in accommodating millennial-aged passengers, of which Miami has about 16,000.

“The conditions have changed with Amtrak and this time we’re more optimistic,” said Elliott.

A rail stop now makes sense argued officials.

Miami students make up the largest portion of Oxford’s 22,000 population, of which 44 percent are between the ages of 20 and 24. University restrictions on vehicles and campus parking make driving scarce and costly.

A growing percentage of Miami’s students are from out-of-state. The school also has attracted many students from the Chicago area, said Miami officials.

“The greater Chicagoland area is home to the largest out-of-state concentration of alumni, and provides us with large numbers of students each year,” said Ray Mock, executive director of the Miami University Alumni Association.

School officials also cite a growing Asian student population, many of whom enter America by flying into Chicago.

“I think an Amtrak route between Oxford and Chicago would be a welcome asset,” said Mock.

Oxford would need a station, which officials said will be similar to a bus shelter, said Derek Bauman, southwest regional director for All Aboard Ohio, a pro-rail group that also backed downtown Cincinnati’s recent streetcar project.

4 Injured in Stabbing Aboard Amtrak Train

December 6, 2014

Four people were injured Friday night when a passenger aboard an Amtrak train stabbed them as the train neared its station stop in Niles, Mich.

The victims, whose identities were not immediately known, were taken to area hospitals. Their conditions were unknown but thought to be from serious to critical.

Police said a 44-year-old man from Saginaw, Mich., was arrested in connection with the assault.

The incident occurred aboard Train No. 354, the Blue Water, which was encourage from Chicago to Port Huron, Mich.

Police received a call from Amtrak at 6:59 p.m. about a disturbance aboard the train.

The victims included a conductor, and a woman and two men, Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin said.

They were taken to Lakeland Healthcare Hospital in Niles and Memorial Hospital of South Bend, Ind., but he didn’t have information on their conditions.

The train was stopped about 9:45 p.m. as police investigated. Michigan State

Police and Berrien County Sheriff’s deputies assisted, McCauslin said.

Wendy Weststrate, a passenger on a Wolverine Service train from Chicago said her train was had stopped near New Buffalo, Mich., and that passengers were told there had been a medical emergency on a train in front of them.

After the Wolverine proceeded into Niles, “it looked like they had called out the National Guard,” Weststrate said of the scene, as police cars blocked the tracks. “It was chaotic.”

Some passengers on the Blue Water were put on the Wolverine, including two women who took seats in directly in front of her, said Weststrate, who was bound for Kalamazoo, Mich.

“They got on and they were shaking,” she said. Weststrate said the women told her they saw a man in the car in front of theirs stab a conductor then proceed down the aisle stabbing others with a knife before getting to their car, where some passengers subdued the assailant.

Niles, a town of about 12,000, is about 10 miles north of South Bend.

Amtrak said 172 passengers were aboard the Blue Water at the time of the stabbings, but gave no details of the incident.

A Twitter user uploaded a photograph of a man in a gray jacket lying in handcuffs on the floor of the train.

“Crazy world we live in. Some man just stabbed 4 people one car away from me on the train,” said the user, @Chris_Maynard.

Another user posted a picture of what appeared to be a blood-spattered corridor. He wrote: “one victim was a conductor. Sad sad stuff.”

One man tweeted: “Friend on Amtrak currently stuck in Niles, MI. Stabbing attack, suspect in custody. 4 people seen on stretchers, 1 worse than others.”

Another wrote: “I am on Amtrak. Guy in car ahead of us stabbed passengers. Police got him. Injuries not fatal. We are near Niles MI We will be transferred.”

Passengers Dave Mackenzie did not arrive at the East Lansing’s Amtrak station until 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

Mackenzie was sitting in business class when the attack occurred in an adjacent car.

“I couldn’t hear anything, didn’t really know what had happened,” said Mackenzie, a DeWitt resident. “When we got to Niles the police cars came, the fire department was there. There were two or three ambulances there. We were just there for a long time and waited for them to finish investigating.”

Jason Evans was asleep when the stabbing occurred about five train cars away from his seat.

“They woke us up and told us we were going o be there for a while because they just had arrested someone on the train. We were kind of wondering if we heard the guy right that there had been someone who had been stabbed,” Evans said as the train left Niles around 1:15 a.m. “We all just kind of stayed in our seats.”

Attorney to Head Amtrak Chicago Rail Panel

December 5, 2014

 

Chicago attorney Howard Learner will lead Amtrak’s blue ribbon panel that is seeking to identify infrastructure and operational improvements that can mitigate railroad traffic gridlock in the Chicago area.

Learner is president of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center and has “deep local expertise in regional issues,” Amtrak said in a news release. Learner is also a member of the Chicago Gateway Initiative,

“The rail gridlock in Chicago is causing unacceptable delays for Amtrak passengers while reducing revenues and driving up operating costs for Amtrak,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman. “Howard Learner will bring an important perspective to our work and will be a collaborative partner in this effort.”

Other panel members include former U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn, who served as chairman of the House railroads subcommittee; Linda Morgan, former chairwoman of the Surface Transportation Board; and Tom Carper, an Amtrak board member and past chairman.

Representatives from freight railroads and other stakeholder organizations will be invited to participate in panel activities and are key to implementing recommended solutions, Amtrak officials said.

The panel’s report and recommendations are due at the end of May 2015.