Posts Tagged ‘Detroit’

Amtrak’s Michigan Trains are Invariably Late

February 26, 2020

Passengers board an Amtrak train bound for Chicago at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Chances are they will arrive late in the Windy City.

If you’re riding Amtrak in Michigan the chances are your trip is going to be late.

A report by the Detroit Free Press said the on-time rate last year in Michigan was 43 percent. On the Wolverine Service route between Chicago and Detroit it was just 33 percent.

That compared with a national average of between 60 and 70 percent.

Amtrak considers a train late if it is 30 minutes or more behind the published schedule.

Figures released by Amtrak show that the performance of the Michigan trains is getting worse.

On-time performance fell from 71 percent in 2016 and 2017 to 62 percent in 2018.

Amtrak is hoping that as part of a renewal of the federal surface transportation law that Congress will strengthen the law giving passenger trains preference over freight trains.

Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman based in Chicago, said such a law would give the passenger carrier legal leverage to better deal with its host railroads, which Amtrak blames for delaying its trains.

“It’s a very important issue to us because our reliability is suffering,” Magliari said.

The Free Press said it tracked the arrival times of six Amtrak trains in Troy, a Detroit suburb on the Wolverine Service line.

The trains from Chicago varied in lateness from 30 minutes to more than two hours.

Amtrak figures show that the afternoon Wolverine from Chicago to Pontiac, the Detroit suburb that is the terminus of the route, arrived in Troy an average of 42 minutes late.

Six times it was more than an hour late and once in mid-January it was two hours behind schedule.

The newspaper said passengers it spoke with who disembarked at Troy said that although they found the delays annoying they still liked train travel.

In its efforts to put pressure on Congress, Amtrak has created a YouTube video titled Your Right to be on Time that urges viewers to contract lawmakers to complain about late trains and urge them to support legislation “that puts people before freight.”

The video contends that Amtrak’s host railroads are giving their freight trains priority over Amtrak trains in dispatching decisions.

“Usually, it’s what we call freight train interference. That’s when our trains are delayed by slow freight trains ahead of them,” the narrator says in the video.

The video acknowledges that delays can also be caused by such things as weather, track maintenance, mechanical problems with trains, and obstructions on the track.

“You can be certain we’ll tell Congress that the original law setting up Amtrak in 1970 does not allow us to bring litigation over the poor handling of our trains by the freight railroads,” Magliari said. “Imagine paying for a service from someone who knows you can’t go after them in court.”

Magliari said one reason why Amtrak trains are getting delayed by freight trains is that the latter are getting longer and sometimes are too long to put into a siding to allow Amtrak to pass.

The Association of American Railroads, which represents the Class 1 railroads that host Amtrak trains, contends the federal government should fund construction of additional tracks and longer sidings

“It would be nice to see the public coming forward” — that is, with federal and state dollars — “where they have an interest in keeping passengers trains operating,” said AAR’s John Gray, senior vice president for policy and economics.

Much of the track Amtrak uses on the Chicago-Detroit corridor, though, is owned by Amtrak or the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Wolverine Service trains, though, use within the Detroit metropolitan area tracks owned by Conrail, Canadian National and Norfolk Southern.

Amtrak’s Michigan trains use the busy NS Chicago Line to reach Chicago from Northwest Indiana.

MDOT, which helps fund Amtrak service in Michigan, said most of the delays incurred by Amtrak’s Michigan trains occur on that 40-mile stretch of NS.

The agency owns 135 miles of the Wolverine Service route between Kalamazoo and Dearborn. Amtrak owns the track from Kalamazoo to Porter, Indiana.

MDOT spokesman Mike Frezell said Amtrak trains using track that it and MDOT own have largely unimpeded travel there.

“We’re hoping within two years to have speeds up to 110 m.p.h. on portions of that, and we’ll be raising all the speeds through that section,” Frezell said.

He said the objective in raising speeds in the Chicago-Detroit corridor is to make train travel competitive with driving and flying.

Derailment Disrupted Wolverine Service

December 14, 2019

A fire caused by a freight train derailment disrupted operations of Amtrak’s Wolverine Service in Detroit on Thursday.

Amtrak said on Twitter that it moved passengers by bus between Pontiac and Dearborn.

Officials said 12 to 15 cars of a Canadian National train derailed in southwest Detroit on Thursday morning.

There were no injuries but one freight car appeared to be hanging from the edge of a viaduct over a city street.

A Detroit fire commissioner said five of the derailed cars had contained of hazardous materials, but were empty at the time of the derailment.

Dave Fornell, deputy fire commissioner, said residue from those does not pose any danger to the public.

Detroit Amtrak Station Parking Lot Temporarily Closed

September 14, 2019

The parking lot at the Detroit Amtrak station is temporarily closed through Sept. 16.

The lot is being repaired by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said limited parking is available at an overflow lot south of the station, as well as the railroad embankment at the TechTown parking lot along the west side of Woodward Avenue at Amsterdam Street.

Passengers are being asked to be dropped off and picked up at the station if possible.

Those who must leave their vehicle at the station while traveling may obtain a free parking pass from an Amtrak agent at the depot.

Restoration Work Underway at Iconic Detroit Depot

May 27, 2019

Ford Motor Company said the second phase of rehabilitating the Michigan Central Station in Detroit has gotten underway.

Workers have begun restoring eight acres of masonry and repairing the steel structure of the historic Beaux-Arts building, Ford said in a news release.

Next month scaffolding will be erected around the 15-floor tower with work in the Grand Lobby getting underway in the fall.

Workers are expected to spend the next two to three years removing bricks to fix the steel framework that sits behind, then cleaning, repointing and replacing the damaged terracotta, limestone, and brick that make up the station’s exterior.

Ford purchased the Detroit landmark in June 2018 and said it will become the centerpiece of a new innovation hub in the city’s Corktown neighborhood.

Amtrak used the station between 1971 and May 1994 when it moved to a new modular station in the New Central area of Detroit.

It is unclear if a renovated Michigan Central Station will be available for Amtrak to use.

The station, which opened in 1913, said vacant for 30 years and became an icon for urban blight.

At one point the Detroit City Council ordered the structure to be razed, but it managed to escape the wrecking ball.

Ford said that station has suffered extensive water damage with workers having removed 227,000 gallons of water and installing a temporary roof and plumbing system.

Temporary heating will be installed in the fall to enable the building to continue to dry out naturally.

Other work planned includes restoring 1,184 windows, inspecting the band of steel around the top of the 240-foot-tall structure and removing 1,200 feet of cornice, a decorative molding around the top edge of the building, to examine the steel behind it and make repairs.

Terracotta cornices will be replaced and 106,000 square feet of roof structure repairs will be completed in this second phase of construction.

Ford said masonry repairs inside the building will focus on the Guastavino tile vaulted ceiling in the former waiting room. These clay tiles cover 22,000 square feet of three self-supporting arches.

The tiles will be restored or replaced, with an order of 5,000 tiles having been placed with one of the few manufacturers capable of replicating them.

Other artisan work in the former waiting room, concourse and arcade will be removed to be restored or replicated.

Ford expects the work to be completed and the station ready for tenants in 2022.

Detroit Diamonds Replaced

August 23, 2018

Amtrak, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Norfolk Southern and CSX teamed up to replace a four-diamond crossing at Wayne in the Detroit area this week.

Work at 7:45 p.m. Aug. 14 after an NS freight passed through.

Workers removed the old diamonds and installing a prefabricated unit. Complicating the work was that the diamond has four crossings, making it a heavy lift and requiring precision alignment to reconnect to existing rail lines.

During the work, Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains terminated at Ann Arbor, Michigan, with passengers riding a bus to stations at Dearborn, Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy, and Pontiac.

CSX and NS trains were rerouted or halted.

The project was completed at 4 p.m. on Aug. 15. Amtrak resumed using the route over the crossing on the morning of Aug. 16.

The project received 75 percent of its funding from CSX and 25 percent from MDOT.

Ford Details Plans for Detroit Station

June 21, 2018

Ford Motor Company said Tuesday that it plans to make the former Michigan Central station in Detroit the focal point of the company’s new mobility hub.

Built in 1913 in the city’s Corktown neighborhood, the station will be renovated to provide offices for its autonomous and electric vehicle teams and partners.

The grand hall will be restored to its original appearance and have local shops and restaurants.

The overall mobility hub project will see construction of 1.2 million square feet of space where by 2022 about 2,500 Ford employees will work.

Ford said it will devote 300,000 square feet of space to a mix of community and retail space and residential housing.

In a statement, Ford described development of the Michigan Central Station as critical to its future as it examines how urban areas are changing the overall role of transportation and the revitalization of cities.

An open house will be held in Michigan Central station June 22-23 that will feature exhibits of historic artifacts, self-guided tours through the station’s first floor, and a preview of an upcoming History Channel documentary showcasing Detroit’s comeback and the station’s critical role in the city’s revitalization efforts.

Amtrak ceased using the station in 1988 in favor of an adjacent modular facility. It later opened a station in the New Center neighborhood.

The 13-story office tower of Michigan Central Station stands 230 feet in height. Passenger service at the station began on Jan. 4, 1914.

In recent years, the station had become a symbol of urban decay with all of its windows broken out, and the building being used by the homeless, for criminal activity and by paintball enthusiasts.

Hundreds of antiques have been stolen from the station site over the years.

Ford Buys Detroit Michigan Central Station

June 11, 2018

Ford Motor Company has purchased the former Michigan Central Station in Detroit and plans to make it the centerpiece of an advanced automotive technology development in the Corktown neighborhood.

The station had been owned by the Moroun family since 1995 and had managed to survive a 2009 order of the Detroit City Council to raze the dilapidated structure.

Ford also acquired an adjacent building known as the Roosevelt Warehouse, which had previously been used as a schoolbook depository.

The 18-story Central Station has long symbolized urban blight in Detroit with its vacant offices and broken windows. It is surrounded by razor wire and a chain link fence.

Amtrak used the station from its 1971 inception until moving to a nearby modular facility in January 1988. Amtrak later built a station in the New Center neighborhood of Detroit that it began using in May 1994.

Matthew Moroun declined to disclose the sale price of the depot. “The deal is complete,” he said. “The future of the depot is assured. The next steward of the building is the right one for its future. The depot will become a shiny symbol of Detroit’s progress and its success.”

Ford plans to share information about its plans for renovating the station at a reception on June 19.

Reports that Ford was negotiating to purchase the station have circulated since March.

Based in suburban Dearborn, Ford has transferred 200 workers on its mobility team into a nearby former factory site and is actively seeking other properties in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest surviving neighborhood and located just west of downtown.

Opened in 1913, the Beaux Arts-style Michigan Central Station was at the time the world’s tallest train station.

Although the Morouns failed to demolish the station, they did install more than 1,000 new windows, restored a working elevator and cleaned up the interior.

“The Ford move to the train station is the right play at the right time,” said Robert Kolt, a professor of advertising and public relations at Michigan State University, in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. “Many university grads want to work and live in cool places with an energetic vibe. Ford can remake the area and rebrand what the company does with this type of bold move.”

“I think it’s smart,” Robert Davidman, partner at the Fearless Agency in New York told the Free Press. “If you really want to attract the top talent, you go to where they are. And this allows Ford to take a piece of history and reinvent it. This makes them forward thinkers. Ford is breathing life into something that once was — Ford is going back to their roots, back to where it all began. And it brings back the luster.”

Ford’s plans for the complex it is developing in Corktown include making it the focal point of the company’s efforts to shift toward self-driving, shared and battery-operated cars and logistics.

Corktown is located seven miles down Michigan Avenue from Ford’s world headquarters in Dearborn.

Ford May Buy Detroit Train Station

March 28, 2018

Ford Motor Company may purchase the long vacant and dilapidated Michigan Central Station in Detroit.

The station, which was once used by New York Central and later Penn Central and Amtrak passenger trains, is owned by billionaire trucking mogul Manuel “Matty” Moroun and his son, Matthew.

Ford has neither confirmed nor denied a news report by Crain’s Detroit Business that Ford is talking with the Morouns about buying the depot.

Crain’s said an announcement about the sale could come as early as sometime in April.

The report indicated that Ford would use the former station site for offices that could be used by upwards of 1,000 employees.

The business newspaper said a source familiar with Ford’s pursuit of the station said Ford wants to establish a workplace in an urban setting that can attract younger workers.

“Our young people love . . . living and working in urban areas,” said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. in January at the Detroit auto show.

The news has triggered widespread interest in the purchase of properties surrounding the station site in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood southwest of downtown.

Real estate broker James Tumey said he has received several cash offers, even at the full $540,000 price, for the properties that look out on the 500,000-square-foot depot.

“After this news, people are going crazy. They are buying just based off of Ford maybe coming in, throwing out offers on properties they haven’t even seen,” said Tumey, a Corktown resident who is vice president for Farmington Hills-based Friedman Integrated Real Estate Solutions.

The abandoned railroad station has been an eyesore in Detroit since the last Amtrak train pulled out in 1988 in favor of a new and smaller station in the New Center neighborhood.

Crain’s cited unnamed sources in saying that Ford is also interested in acquiring the former Detroit Public Schools book depository immediately to the east.

The auto company based in Dearborn has reportedly also looked at other properties not owned by the Morouns in the area for purchase.

Developers say that redevelopment of Michigan Central Station and its office building would cost at least $400 million.

Ford has already announced plans to establish offices for its autonomous/electric vehicle division along Michigan Avenue in Corktown.

Matthew Moroun told Crain’s last year that he has broached the idea of Amtrak returning to Michigan Central Station with Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Steudle has said he’s receptive to the idea and connecting the old train station to the central business district in the same way the QLine streetcar system connects the New Center area with downtown.

The Maroun family has reportedly spent more than $8 million over the past five years rehabilitating the building, including installing a freight elevator in the shaft of the depot’s original smokestack and installing 1,100 windows.

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.