Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Michigan service’

Some Michigan Trains Subject to Delays

August 3, 2017

Amtrak has warned that some Michigan corridor trains are subject to delay due to the performance of system maintenance.

Affected are Wolverine Service trains 350, 355 and Blue Water trains 364 and 365. The service advisory said the trains may experience delays of 15 to 30 minutes.

Amtrak did not say how long the maintenance program would last.

Expedited FRA Review Sought of Ann Arbor Amtrak Station Site Environmental Assessment

April 25, 2017

A  Michigan congresswoman is trying to turn up the heat on the Federal Railroad Administration to act sooner rather than later on reviewing an environmental assessment for a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell has written to the FRA to urge it to expedite that review.

Ann Arbor faces a Sept. 30 deadline to spend a $2.8 million federal grant that it received to develop a station. The FRA had indicated earlier that it would not finish its review until summer, leaving the city little time to spend the grant money on station design work.

In her letter to the FRA, Dingell said it was important that the FRA move in an “urgent and expeditious manner so the city can move forward with improving mass transit in the state of Michigan.”

Once the FRA finishes reviewing the environmental assessment, there will be a 30-day public comment period.

Thus far the city has not revealed the site it prefers for the new station.

Dingell also pointed out in her letter that Amtrak and the State of Michigan have been working to upgrade service between Chicago and Detroit.

Currently, Ann Arbor is served by three Wolverine Service roundtrips although transportation officials have spoken about increasing that level of service at some unspecified time as well as launching commuter rail service to Detroit.

FRA spokesman Marc Willis said the FRA has received the environmental assessment from the city.

“We reviewed it and sent it back to them for revisions,” he said, adding there’s no time frame from the city when it will be sent back for FRA review.

City Council Member Zachary Ackerman said the city is running out of time to build a new Amtrak station

Ackerman said that a new station seems to be less of a reality given the current climate in Washington and he won’t support a new station without significant federal funding.

One Morning in Grand Rapids

March 21, 2017

It is a Saturday morning in June 1995 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A crowd has gathered on the platform of the Amtrak station to await the arrival of the Pere Maquette, which originates here and travels to Chicago.

The equipment had laid overnight in a nearby CSX yard and is shown deadheading into the station.

The train is led by an F40PH, which will not be working much longer at Amtrak in providing motive power.

This moment came amid Amtrak’s last major route restructuring era. In April 1995 some trains, including the Detroit-Toledo, Ohio, leg of the Lake Cities had been discontinued. Amtrak wanted to terminate its Chicago-Detroit trains in Detroit rather than Pontiac, but the cost of that proved to be too high.

More cuts and route changes would follow in September. At the time, the Pere Marquette did not offer food and beverage service.

Since this image was made, Amtrak has begun using a new station in Grand Rapids.

New Michigan Thruway Route Started

February 24, 2017

Amtrak and Indian Trails bus lines are instituting a Thruway bus connecting service between Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains and point in central Michigan, including Mt. Pleasant and Gaylord.

michiganPassengers on Train No. 350 will connect in Battle Creek, Michigan, with the bus heading to Michigan points, while passengers originating at those points will connect with Train No. 355 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The new bus route will travel to various communities along U.S. Route 127 and Interstate 75.

Mt. Pleasant is the home of Central Michigan University.

Indian Trails motorcoaches provide free Wi-Fi, 110V electrical outlets and are wheelchair-accessible.

Amtrak said that the new route expands the  Indian Trails’ network of connections with Amtrak to reach 270,000 people in more than 100 towns throughout Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, as well as Duluth, Minnesota; Chicago and Milwaukee.

Ann Arbor Poised to Pay for Preliminary Design, Engineering Work for New Amtrak Station

January 18, 2017

The Ann Arbor, Michigan, city council is poised to approve a $2.14 million contract for preliminary design and engineering work on a new Amtrak station.

michiganThe council was to vote on the contact despite the Federal Railroad Administration not yet having approved a preferred location for the station.

City officials have narrowed the sites to Depot Street, on which the current Amtrak station is located, or in Fuller Park.

The design and engineering work contract would be with Neumann/Smith Architecture

Officials have said they want to be able to move quickly once the FRA acts and an environmental review is completed.

Efforts to construct a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor have been ongoing for more than a decade.

The estimated total cost of preliminary design and engineering is $2.37 million, which includes the $2.14 million contract with Neumann/Smith and a city staff budget of $234,884.

Another $101,131 that has yet to be allocated will be kept in the project budget if needed to complete the environmental review phase or the preliminary design and engineering work.

“If the entire amount of the Neumann/Smith contract and the contingency is necessary to complete the project, the total cost would be $2,471,325.67,” said Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager in a memo to the council.

Cooper noted that the city could be reimbursed by the federal government for up to 80 percent of the project cost. The city would need to put up a 20 percent match.

The city council has already approved spending $342,665 of city funds for the station project but would need to pony up an additional $151,600 from the general fund cash reserves to complete the 20 percent match.

The city has said it will not complete the project without voter approval, a step not expected to be undertaken until 2018 at the earliest.

The city is facing a May 2017 deadline to complete the preliminary engineering and design work. That deadline was set by the terms of the federal grant.

Some Think Parking Too Pricey in East Lansing

December 23, 2016

Some Lansing, Michigan, region Amtrak passengers are grousing about the cost of parking at the East Lansing station.

Amtrak 4It used to be free to park there, but that has not been the case since Amtrak began using the new Capital Area Multimodal Gateway last January.

Capital Area Transportation Authority charges $10 a day with a $50 maximum charge per week. The facility also serves local and intercity buses.

A CATA spokesperson told the Lansing State Journal that the parking fees at the facility were similar to those of other Lansing area parking facilities.

The City of East Lansing charges $15 a day in garages and $20 in surface lots. The City of Lansing charges $10 a day in its parking garages and Capital Regional International Airport has a $12 a day fee in short-term parking lots and $10 a day in long-term lots.

But when compared with the cost of parking at other Amtrak stations in Michigan, East Lansing is pricey.

East Lansing is served by the Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water and parking is free at Amtrak stations on the route in Port Huron, Flint, Durand, Battle Creek, Dowagiac, Niles and New Buffalo.

There is no parking at the station in Lapeer and in Kalamazoo Amtrak passengers are directed to use a city lot that charges $9.70 a night on weekdays and $3 on Saturdays. Parking is free in the Kalamazoo city facility on Sunday.

On Amtrak’s Wolverine Service route in Michigan, parking is free in Dearborn and Ann Arbor.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier is a tenant in East Lansing and has no say over parking fees at the station.

Magliari said it is not unusual for parking at or near Amtrak stations to come with a fee.

Although parking used to be free at the former East Lansing Amtrak station, problems arose when Michigan State University students who were not traveling would park there.

The CATA spokewoman said Amtrak passengers who don’t want to pay parking fees can ride a bus home or get a lift from a taxi or Uber driver. Passengers can even have friends drop them off or pick them up.

The parking rate in East Lansing, though, must seem like a bargain to Chicago residents who pay $26 a day to park at Chicago Union Station.

Wolverine Summer Skeds to Stay Through Oct. 30

September 27, 2016

The reduced summer schedules of Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains have been extended through Oct. 30.

Amtrak logoAmtrak said in a service advisory that the extension was agreed to by the Michigan Department of Transportation, which funds the Wolverine Service, to accommodate additional track and signal improvements.

The track rehabilitation is expected to result in improved reliability, a smoother ride and an expansion of the Midwest’s first 110 mph Amtrak service.

Wolverine trains will operate on the following schedules:

  • One Wolverine round-trip (trains 351 and 354) operates between Chicago and Pontiac seven days a week.
  • Wolverine trains 355 and 358 operate between Chicago and Pontiac Monday through Saturday.
  • The regular schedule of all Wolverine trains (Nos. 350 through 355) will operate between Chicago and Pontiac on Sundays only.

Initial Designs Completed for Ypsilanti Station

September 12, 2016

Initial designs have been submitted to the Ypsilanti, Michigan, city council as part of the city’s efforts to land Amtrak service.

michiganThe council has yet to take action on the designs, which would renovate the Depot Town complex for service by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service.

“Given our financial situation itself, we’re looking at doing something for the Wolverine stop,” said council member Pete Murdock. “It is sort of a minimalist plan–enough to get the train to stop.”

The depot renovation project is projected to cost $2 million and the city is hoping to obtain grant money to fund it.

The renovations could be finished by late 2017.

Ann Arbor Narrows New Station Sites

September 8, 2016

Ann Arbor officials have narrowed the list of potential sites for a new Amtrak station to three and hopes to further narrow the list before the end of the year.

The sites were named in a report the city recently released that spelled out four station design options.

Amtrak 4Two of the options involve the using the existing Amtrak station site on Depot Street, a third involves renovating the former Michigan Central station while the fourth involves building on Fuller Road at the location of a city-owned parking garage near the University of Michigan Hospital.

City officials are hoping to move quickly to get a draft environmental assessment done and submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration as early as this fall.

The environmental assessment will include an evaluation of potential environmental impacts for the remaining design alternatives and identify a preferred site.

Eli Cooper, Ann Arbor’s transportation program manager said the city also has issued a request for proposals in an effort to hire an engineering firm to create preliminary engineering drawings as soon as the FRA approves the environmental assessment and a site is chosen.

Ann Arbor has $2 million left from a $2.8 million federal rail planning grant the city must be spend by September 2017 or lose that funding.

Although city hopes to have a final station design completed by late 2017, it is likely to be 2018 before construction can begin on the $44.5 million station. Ann Arbor voters must also approve the final design.

The process to create a new Amtrak station began in 2007. The existing station on Depot Street is a 1970s era Amtrak-built modular structure.

Although the city looked at 16 potential station sites, it initially favored building the station in a portion of Fuller Park in front of the UM Hospital.

Two years later the city and UM formed a partnership to create the Fuller Road Station.

But information from the FRA received in 2012 called the Fuller Road proposal into question and the alliance with UM fell apart.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said in a statement the city is committed to building a new Amtrak station and that public hearings will be held during the design stage of the planning process.

Ann Arbor is served by six Amtrak Wolverine Service trains and has been studying the establishment of commuter rail service.

Michigan Trims Wolverine Service for Summer

July 6, 2016

At the request of the Michigan Department of Transportation Amtrak has annulled some Wolverine Service trains for the remainder of the summer.

Amtrak logoCut from the timetable is eastbound No. 350, which had departed Chicago in the morning and ran only as far as Battle Creek.

Also annulled is an afternoon train from Battle Creek to Chicago, No. 353.

The service cuts mean that Monday through Saturday the first Wolverine Service eastbound train of the day departs Chicago at 4 p.m. A second Wolverine Service train leaves two hours later. Both trains terminate at Pontiac in suburban Detroit.

As for westbound service Monday through Saturday, No. 351 departs Pontiac at 5:15 a.m. while No. 355 leaves at 6:50 p.m.

On Sunday, Wolverine Service returns to normal with three roundtrips scheduled between Chicago and Pontiac.

However, the schedule changes with departures from Chicago at 7:10 p.m., 12:25 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Westbound trains leave Pontiac at 5:15 a.m., 10:35 a.m. and 6:50 p.m.

MDOT asked Amtrak to alter the schedule after reviewing ridership data for May and June and deciding that the cost of providing the Chicago-Battle Creek trains was not being adequately covered by ticket revenue.

During May, ridership and revenue each fell 14 percent from the May 2015 performance figures.

There had been no connecting bus service between Battle Creek and points east on the route.

Michigan is undertaking a track rehabilitation project between Battle Creek and Jackson that involves replacing 26,000 ties, repairing 13 switches, rebuilding 23 highway crossings, and modifying or realigning 29 curves.

The work began in late April and is expected to be finished by Sept. 23 when schedules will reset to normal.

Amtrak recently said that regular service of three roundtrips will be offered during the Labor Day weekend.

The Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water and Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette are not affected by the track work.