Posts Tagged ‘Grand Rapids Michigan’

SW Michigan Wants Reroute of Pere Marquette

January 4, 2019

Transportation planners in southwest Michigan see falling ridership and changing transportation priorities as posing potential threats to the continued operation of Amtrak’s Pere Marquette on its current route between Chicago and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

They are hoping that rerouting the train between New Buffalo, Michigan, and Porter, Indiana, to the same route used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains would help save the train.

Although Ryan Fellows, an associate planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, said that no changes in service are expected in the short term it is the long term that has him concerned.

Studies have recommended revamping intercity rail service in Michigan to form a coast-to-coast network whose main stem would operate between Chicago and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

At Kalamazoo, trains would fan out for Grand Rapids, Detroit and Lansing.

However, the segment of the Pere Marquette route serving St. Joseph, Bangor and Holland might be discontinued and some or all of those cities served by connecting bus service.

What Fellows would like to see is a connection built at New Buffalo between CSX and an Amtrak-owned line that would enable the Pere Marquette to use the same route as Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains.

That route, he noted, would allow the Pere Marquette trains to operate at a top speed of 110 miles per hour while providing connections with other trains serving Michigan.

“A feasibility and engineering study is a necessary step prior to establishing a rail connection in New Buffalo to link the Pere Marquette and Wolverine-Blue Water services,” he said during a presentation to the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study agency.

That agency recently approved a resolution in support of studying building the proposed New Buffalo connection.

The transportation planners fear that funding of the Pere Marquette might fall by the wayside unless the Pere Marquette route become more efficient and reliable.

Between 2007 and 2017 ridership of the Pere Marquette declined by 11 percent, to 93,449 passenger.

During the same period, ridership on the Blue Water rose 46 percent while Wolverine Service trains posted a more modest ridership increase of 2 percent.

Pere Marquette ridership increased by 4.4 percent between 2016 to 2017, generating $3.2 million in ticket revenue.

Planners have pointed to a 2017 Midwest Regional Rail System report that projected that connecting Chicago with Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Detroit would increase ridership from 200,000 to 1.5 million, with connections to cities throughout the region.

However, the existing Pere Marquette route was seen as lacking enough population to attract the ridership that the proposed coast-to-coast network would generate.

Efforts to boost ridership of the Pere Marquette have included making special stops for such events as the Senior PGA at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, and the Tulip Festival in Holland.

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Pere Marquette Now Arriving

October 10, 2018

Although Amtrak’s Pere Marquette originates and terminates in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it didn’t always sit overnight in the station.

For several years the equipment for the Chicago-Grand Rapids train sat overnight in a CSX yard and deadheaded to the station the next morning.

The photo above was made in June 1995 and the train is shown about to arrive at the station.

Pere Marquette to Run Faster

January 30, 2018

Amtrak said in service advisory that the running time of the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pere Marquette will be shortened on Feb. 19.

The schedule changes have not yet been shown on the Amtrak website.

Amtrak said the changes are being prompted by higher speeds being allowed by host railroad CSX between Grand Rapids and Porter, Indiana.

Some Want to See Pere Maquette Rerouted

May 5, 2016

The Michigan Department of Transportation is looking into the prospect of routing Amtrak’s Pere Marquette via Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, train, currently operates via Holland along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Michigan DOT3The study is being made at the request of Grand Rapids leaders who hope that going via Kalamazoo might reduce the travel time to Chicago.

MDOT and Amtrak are working to rebuild the track between Chicago and Detroit to allow speeds of up to 110 mph.

The track being upgraded is owned by Amtrak between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana, and by MDOT between Kalamazoo and Detroit.

MDOT Communications Manager Michael Frezell said his agency has discussed the idea of rerouting the Pere Marequette via Kalamazoo, but not in any sort of definitive way because “it isn’t a priority.”

The route via Kalamazoo is used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverines and the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water. Those trains, along with the Pere Marquette are funded by MDOT.

The Pere Marquette joins the Chicago-Detroit route at Porter with all of the Michigan trains using Norfolk Southern tracks between Porter and Chicago.

The current track work in Michigan is seeking to cut an hour off the travel time between Chicago and Detroit and to reduce the travel time between Chicago and Kalamazoo to less than two hours.

“As Chicago gets more expensive to park and more congested to get into, (rail service) provides a great option,” said Jill Bland, executive vice president with Southwest Michigan First, a Kalamazoo-based regional economic development firm. “And with wi-fi and cars being upgraded, it’s definitely something we use in our toolbox when talking with companies.”

Grand Rapids interests believe that connecting their city with the Chicago-Detroit corridor at Kalamazoo could stimulate greater greater mobility in the Grand Rapids area

However, MDOT’s Frezell said residents of such Southwest Michigan cities as Bangor, St. Joseph and Holland — all of which are served by the Pere Marquette  — need to have rail service, too, and that is why the discussions about rerouting the Pere Marquette via Kalamazoo have not gone very far.

Rick Chapla, vice president of strategic initiatives at The Right Place Inc., a Grand Rapids-based regional economic development firm, said that cutting the travel time and increasing service by rail between Grand Rapids and Chicago needs to be made a priority.

“Anything we can do to enhance connectivity between West Michigan, Chicago and the east side of the state is a positive,” Chapla said. “(A route from) Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo allows us the mobility to go east and west. It’s a critical link.”

That increased mobility also includes rail service linking Grand Rapids and Detroit.

This past February, a study of a cross-state rail passenger route estimated that it could serve 1.71 million travelers annually.

Although the upgrading of the Chicago-Detroit corridor has been linked with increased train frequencies, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier has no plans to do that until after the project is finished and work to alleviate rail congestion in Chicago is completed.

Increased rail service is also necessary because Southwestern Michigan is increasingly become an exurb for Chicago.

Bland of Southwest Michigan First said her organization has been hearing that an increasing number of people working in Chicago are living in areas such as Niles and Benton Harbor and ride Amtrak or the South Shore Line to and from work.

She said that enhancing rail passenger service will help solidify Southwest Michigan’s connection to Chicago.

“As the northern Indiana [rail] passage becomes more reliable and the Chicago project gets completed, it’s fair to say we can market that we are a suburb of Chicago,” Bland said.