Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Wolverines’

Amtrak Offering $5 Tickets to Detroit

August 3, 2017

Amtrak is offering $5 tickets for travel to Detroit through Sept. 4. The fares are good for travel originating on the Wolverine Service route at Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Pontiac, Royal Oak and Troy.

Once in Detroit, passengers can ride the new QLine, a streetcar route that is offering free rides through Labor Day.

The 3.3-mile route on Woodward Avenue features 12 stops, including Comerica Park, the Fox Theatre and Midtown.

QLine streetcars operate Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In another travel promotion, the Detroit People Mover is offering free rides on Monday between 6:30 a.m. and midnight, in celebration of its 30th anniversary. The fare is normally 75 cents.

Detroit SMART Buses to Serve Troy Amtrak Station

June 14, 2017

Local bus service will return to the Troy Transit Center in suburban Detroit, which is also used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains.

The recent signing of a court order this week involving the city of Troy and an Oakland County developer paved the way for the return of bus service provided by Detroit’s SMART bus system.

The settlement ended years of litigation that began in 1999 and had kept the buses away. “We’re very happy that the parties were able to reach an agreement without going to trial,” said SMART communications manager Beth Gibbons.

SMART buses will resume picking up and dropping off riders at the Transit Center.

The City of Troy agreed to pay $100,000 to developer Gary Sakwa and his Grand/Sakwa Properties, owners of a 75-acre shopping center and condominium complex that surrounds the transit center.

An earlier lawsuit was settled when Troy agreed to spend $4.15 million in federal transportation funds to buy the 2 acres under the center from Sakwa, whose ownership he claimed under previous legal rulings.

“It certainly is a welcome step in the right direction” for mass transit in southeast Michigan, said Megan Owens, executive director of TRU, or Transportation Riders United, a nonprofit group of bus riders.

Six daily Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains serve the transit center.

Wolverines Service Disruptions Announced

May 6, 2017

Signal work being performed on the Chicago-Detroit corridor will result in service disruptions for some Amtrak Wolverine Service trains between May 8 and 11.

The work is being undertaken between Ann Arbor and Pontiac, Michigan.

No. 354 will terminated in Ann Arbor on May 8, 9 and 10. Bus service will be provided to passengers destined for Dearborn, Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy and Pontiac.

No. 351 will originate in Ann Arbor on May 9, 10 and 11. Buses will transport passengers from the intermediate stops between Pontiac and Ann Arbor with through passengers transferring to the train in At Ann Arbor.

The replacement buses will depart 45 minutes earlier than the schedule train departure time.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said all trains traveling through the work area may encounter delays.

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.

Fire Forces Evacuation of Wolverine Train

March 2, 2017

An electrical fire forced the evacuation of Wolverine Service No. 352 last Monday in Jackson, Michigan.

Amtrak logoFirefighters arrived at the station about 6 p.m. after a small fire began beneath a passenger car.

The cause of the small fire was determined to have been mechanical failure in its batteries.

The firefighters extinguished the blaze and removed the smoldering batteries from their  compartment.

No injuries were reported. The train, en route from Chicago to Pontiac, Michigan, had 153 passengers and crew members onboard.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the train was delayed by 39 minutes before it continued eastward.

Magliari said the car in question will be repaired.

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.

Creating Ypsilanti Amtrak Station Now in Doubt

November 11, 2016

The future of a proposed Amtrak stop in Ypsilanti, Michigan, is in doubt after a ballot measure to fund a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter train went down to defeat on Nov. 8.

michiganThe city council had about a month earlier halted planning work to establish a station to serve Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains and now some city officials are questioning the benefit of proceeding with the idea.

The city had agreed to commit up to $2.5 million from the city’s general fund and savings to pay for establishing the Amtrak stop.

Plans had called for construction of a 500-foot concrete platform just north of the Cross Street crossing near a former Michigan Central freight house.

At the time that the station planning began, city officials expected the station to serve Amtrak and the commuter trains. Some of the funding was expected to come from grants.

Council Member Brian Robb said he doubted that a station serving 9,000 annual Amtrak riders is worth the cost.

“Now we have to re-evaluate the timeline,” Robb said. “Commuter rail is the holy grail of public transportation for us and we have to see where a platform fits in with that.”

Council Member Pete Murdock agreed, noting that the soonest that the commuter rail proposal could be put before voters again was in 2018.

However, Mayor Amanda Edmonds said the commuter rail tax was never a determining factor in whether the stop would be built.

“It was an extra bonus,” she said. “We’re going to keep working as we were doing to leverage funds from partners, federal agencies, and keep pushing forward on gathering the money, and our timeline will follow from there.”

Although Beth Ernat, Ypsilanti’s economic development director, said commuter service would provide a much larger economic impact than just Amtrak, the decision on whether to continue working to develop the station belongs with the council.

“It’s council’s decision, and we will evaluate all of our options in the coming weeks,” she said.

Council Member Dan Vogt said he is concerned that there is no evidence that investing in an Amtrak stop would be worth the money, noting that the city has “been acting on faith.”

Trackwork Done on Wolverine Service Route

November 7, 2016

Completion of track work has restored full Wolverine Service to the Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) line.

Amtrak logoAmtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation sponsored the project, which included improvement of the signal system, replacing 26,000 ties, repairing or installing 15 track switches, realigning or modifying 29 railroad curves, repairing 23 crossings and improving road profiles at crossings.

Most of the work took place in Calhoun and Jackson counties.

The work was undertaken as part of Michigan’s Accelerated Rail Program which is seeking to improve service reliability, provide for a smoother ride and expand the top speed on the line to 110 mph.

Amtrak operates three daily roundtrips on the route, but has reduced the frequency of service during the construction season.

The passenger carrier also plans to operate 10 extra trains in Michigan during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The service curtailment had an adverse effect on ridership and revenue. Ridership during fiscal year 2016 was 411,625 on the Chicago-Detroit line, a decrease of 11.6 percent. Revenue was $17.8 million, down 6.4 percent from the 2015 fiscal year.

On-time performance improved to 65 percent compared with 39 percent in the previous year.

Amtrak Set 2016 Ridership, Revenue Records

October 22, 2016

Low gasoline prices did not prevent Amtrak from breaking revenue and ridership records fiscal year 2016.

Amtrak logoThe passenger carrier hosted about 31.2 million passengers, up 1.3 percent from 2015, and generated $2.2 billion in ticket revenue, up 0.03 percent.

Former Amtrak President Joseph Boardman had earlier this year imposed various cost-cutting measures, saying that Amtrak faced a $167.3-million ticket revenue shortfall compared with the amount originally budgeted.

However, the carrier’s actual performance exceeded the revised downward forecast by 3.3 percent even as it was 4.3 percent off the original FY 2016 projection.

The California Zephyr posted an 11.2 percent increase in ridership and 6.2 percent increase in revenue.

The removal of full-service dining cars and meals included in sleeping car fares on the Silver Star led to a 5 percent decline in passengers and 11.6 percent in ticket revenue.

The Auto Train lost more than 12 percent of its riders and almost 8 percent of its revenue.

Among state-supported corridor trains, a push to complete infrastructure improvements to create higher speed service depressed ridership and revenue of Wolverine Service and Lincoln Service trains due to service cancellations.

The quad-weekly Hoosier State carried about as many passengers in 2016 as it did the previous year, but revenue increased by about $250,000 or 36 percent.

The offering of premium business class service by operator Iowa Pacific was credited with the increase in revenue.

Although Amtrak’s ridership and revenue data do not show passenger mile or revenue per-train mile comparisons, the 15 long-distance trains generated slightly more ticket revenue carrying less than 32 percent of the passengers of the state-supported trains.

This is partly  because the long-distance trains offer such higher-price services as sleeping car accommodations.