Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Michigan service’

Amtrak Michigan Ridership Up 8% in FY2017

November 16, 2017

Amtrak carried 738,837 passengers on its Michigan routes in fiscal year 2017, an 8 percent increase over FY 2016.

In a news release, Amtrak said completion of track work between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, helped boost patronage. The work had slowed operations in summer 2016 and led to fewer trains being operated between Chicago and Detroit.

“This increase in ridership can be attributed to reduced delays as well as a full schedule of trains operating on the Chicago-to-Detroit/Pontiac Wolverine Service corridor,” Amtrak officials said. This year, trains are operating faster and smoother.”

The fiscal year ended on Sept. 30. The Wolverine Service trains saw the biggest increase, with ridership up 12 percent in 2017. That equates to $20.4 million in ticket sales.

Ridership of the Chicago-to-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette trains increased 4 percent, totaling $3.2 million in sales. The Chicago-to-Port Huron Blue Water trains saw a 2 percent increase I ridership, with $6.5 million in sales.

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Michigan City Eyes Commuter Rail Service

November 9, 2017

A Michigan city near Grand Rapids is eyeing the institution of commuter rail service on the route of the Amtrak’s Pere Marquette.

News reports indicate that city officials in Hudsonville recently met with Michigan Department of Transportation officials to discuss a possible revival of commuter service.

Attending the meeting were Hudsonville City Manager Patrick Waterman, MDOT’s Tim Hoeffner and Greg Holcombe of Urban Innovations.

Hudsonville officials have proposed running trains every hour on existing CSX tracks, with more trains possibly scheduled during peak travel times.

Waterman said the idea is still in the early stages and that studies are needed to determine costs, potential ridership and establish the best form of technology to use on the route.

The community leaders promoting the service envision something akin to an interurban rail line that operated 100 years ago in the region.

Hudsonville is not a stop for the Pere Marquette trains that operate between Grand Rapids and Chicago.

Sanders Presents at Michigan Conference

September 28, 2017

Craig Sanders, author of Amtrak in the Heartland, gave a presentation at the 14th Michigan Railroad History Conference titled Michigan’s Boostrap Campaign: Passenger Rail Development in the Amtrak Era.

The conference was held on Sept. 23 at the Maas Conference Center of Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Sanders described how the now-named Michigan Department of Transportation sought to improve rail passenger in the state following the inauguration of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.

Michigan’s intercity rail service in the early Amtrak years was limited to two daily roundtrips between Chicago and Detroit.

Since then service in the state has expanded to three routes linking Chicago with Detroit, Grand Rapids and Port Huron. The Detroit corridor also reaches north to suburban Pontiac.

The state also has purchased much of the Chicago-Detroit corridor within the state, buying the 135 miles between Kalamazoo and Dearborn and landing $511 million in federal funding to upgrade the line for higher speed service.

The state and communities served by Amtrak have also invested in station rehabilitation over the years and many cities not served by Amtrak are linked to it by connecting bus service.

Despite these successes, the state has also had some misses. It ended funding of an Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter operation after ridership fell substantially, and a Detroit-New York train funded in part with the state of New York ended in 1979, in part due to lower ridership between Detroit and Buffalo, New York.

Several proposals to establish service between Detroit and Grand Rapids have failed to come to fruition.

The Michigan Railroad History conference began 30 years ago at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn as an educational outreach program of the Bluewater Michigan chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

The conference features a full day of presentations on Michigan’s railroad history and is rotated among various cities in the state.

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.