Posts Tagged ‘Kalamazoo Michigan’

Kalamazoo Ticket Office to Close Jan. 2

December 13, 2019

The notice said that passengers boarding at Kalamazoo without tickets who wish to pay cash on board may do so, but will pay at the highest published fare. Tickets are subject to availability.

The nearest staffed Amtrak station will be at Battle Creek, Michigan, which is open Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Amtrak said those seeking travel for unaccompanied minors will need to travel to Battle Creek.

Kalamazoo is served by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains and the Blue Water.

It is also a connecting point for Amtrak Thruway bus service to northern Michigan.

Amtrak to Close Kalamazoo Ticket Office in Early 2020

December 10, 2019

Amtrak plans to close its ticket office in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in early 2020.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told a Kalamazoo TV station that the closure is being prompted by a decline in sales at ticket offices in favor of online purchases.

He would not comment on how many Amtrak employees will lose their jobs as a result of the closing but said in the past the carrier has given agents the option to transfer to other stations.

Amtrak has been closing ticket offices in the past two years, including offices in Michigan at Niles, Flint, East Lansing and Jackson.

Kalamazoo is served by eight trains a day, including Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service and the Chicago-Port Huron, Michigan, Blue Water.

None of those trains offers checked baggage or package express service.

The Kalamazoo station is a also a transfer point for Amtrak Thruway bus service to northern Michigan.

The Rail Passengers Association and Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers said it is working with Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation to develop a station host program for Kalamazoo.

A similar program exists in East Lansing and MARP said it has worked well.

Amtrak, MDOT at Odds Over Bridge Repairs

November 29, 2018

A conflict between Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation has halted a bridge repair project in Kalamazoo.

At issue are the northbound and southbound U.S. Route 131 bridges over KL Avenue and tracks owned by Amtrak.

MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa said the dispute centers on a construction agreement.

He said Amtrak has been making “unreasonable” demands.

“There is some consideration being given to Amtrak here, we are going to have an impact on their railroad, that is fair. But I think it’s only fair they make reasonable requests of us. And so far, the requests Amtrak is making of MDOT are unreasonable,” Schirripa said.

One of Amtrak’s demands is a clause to let Amtrak add anything to the project they it wants and to charge MDOT for anything the passenger carrier deems necessary.

The bridge were to be replaced in 2019, but that has been moved back to 2023.

In the meantime, workers have installed netting and screens beneath the bridges to catch any falling debris.

The 55-year bridges are in fair condition but structurally deficient.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the carrier is working with MDOT to solve the dispute, but declined to offer any further information.

Schirripa said the bridges handle 50,000 vehicles a day. He said that the bridges will be closed if MDOT engineers see that the structures may be failing.

Amtrak to Repave Kalamazoo Crossings

February 28, 2017

Amtrak will be repaving four railroad crossings in Kalamazoo this summer.

michiganAlthough the work is not expected to affect operations of Amtrak trains, when combined with another road construction project planned for downtown Kalamazoo, it will create challenges getting to and from the station.

The crossing are located at West Main Street, West Kalamazoo Avenue, North Westnedge Avenue and North Park Street. Detours will be posted for the four crossing.

The Michigan Department of Transportation will also launch a rebuilding of a four-mile stretch of  M-43.

During that project, M-43 will be reduced to a single lane for most of 2017.

MDOT plans to mill and replace pavement on a section of M-43, also known as West Michigan Avenue, from US-131 east to Michikal Street, and a section of M-43, also known as West Kalamazoo Avenue, from Pitcher Street east to Douglas Avenue.

Kalamazoo is served by Amtrak’ Wolverine Service and Blue Water.

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.

Amtrak Wolverine Service Train at BO Tower

July 22, 2016
Amtrak No. 351 passes BO Tower in Kalamazoo on a Saturday morning.

Amtrak No. 351 passes BO Tower in Kalamazoo on a Saturday morning.

I was in Kalamazoo, Michigan, recently and had a chance to visit BO (Botsford) Tower and catch some Amtrak action.

My first glimpse of the tower occurred in early evening on a Thursday as we were walking to Bell’s Eccentric Café.

Several years ago a friend had told me about the café, saying you could see from the café the tracks used by Amtrak as well as BO.

The combination of good craft beer, good food and railroads was too much to pass up.

I did see two eastbound trains pass BO as we were eating dinner at Bell’s, but I didn’t bring my camera or the Amtrak schedules so seeing them was a surprise.

That’s unfortunate because there was good late day light and I could have gotten some good images had I done some planning. But I was more focused on eating dinner than photography.

By the way, I highly recommend eating at Bell’s due to its good food and great beer.

The next morning we had breakfast at Food Dance, another Kalamazoo eatery that I highly recommend.

As we sat in the dining room, I had a good view of the former Grand Rapids & Indiana passenger station across the street.

The GR&I was absorbed by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the depot has been nicely restored. The tracks are now owned by the Grand Elk Railroad.

Three times the gates for the Grand Elk crossing of Michigan Avenue came down, but no trains went past.

Perhaps a train was switching nearby, there was a maintainer at work, or the circuit was malfunctioning.

After breakfast, I journeyed over to get photographs of BO Tower. The first westbound Amtrak train of the day had already passed and we didn’t have time to wait around for the next one.

The next day, a Saturday, we checked out of our motel and stopped by BO a third time.

Amtrak No. 351 was due into Kalamazoo at 9:17 a.m. and I made sure I got there in plenty of time.

The Wolverine Service train was reported seven minutes late out of Ann Arbor and it lost six more minutes en route to Kalamazoo.

The lighting conditions were brutal for a westbound train in mid morning. Earlier, the skies had been cloudy to overcast, but by now they had begun breaking up and the sun was out.

It was my only opportunity to photograph Amtrak at BO on this trip. After the passage of No. 351, we had to begin heading home.

No. 351 had five Horizon fleet cars. What was unusual, though, is that it had just one locomotive.

For several years now every Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) train that I’ve seen has had a locomotive on each end and/or a cab car on the west end.

Someone on a railfan chat list said most Wolverine Service trains have been operating with one unit for several weeks.

The trains are apparently is being turned on Canadian National in Pontiac or Detroit.

Someone speculated that the lack of two locomotives on Wolverine Service trains could be due to a shortage of working P42 locomotives.

I’m not sure if BO is in use. I thought I had read something within the past year saying that it had closed.
During one of my three visits I had seen a vehicle parked by the tower, but there were no vehicles there for my other two visits.

I didn’t see anyone inspect the train when No. 351 came past.

Someone on TrainOrders.com said that the conductor on a Wolverine Service train had told him during a June 24 trip that BO still had an operator.

Yet another poster said that BO can be operated remotely, but I’m not sure if that is by a Norfolk Southern dispatcher or an Amtrak dispatcher.

Amtrak owns the rails between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana. A sign west of BO instructs Amtrak crews what radio frequency to use and welcomes them to the Amtrak Michigan Division.

NS sold the track between Kalamazoo and Dearborn to the state of Michigan more than a year ago and I heard the Amtrak crew calling signals on an NS radio frequency.

Whatever the case, BO is mostly boarded up and appears to have received little external maintenance in recent years. It remains a throwback to an era that has all but ended on American railroads.

At one time, BO controlled crossings of the Michigan Central – which Amtrak uses – with three railroads, two of which were New York Central properties.

These included the PRR’s GR&I, the NYC Kalmazoo branch and NYC’s now abandoned Chicago, Kalamazoo & Southern.

I’ve put it on my “to do” list to get back to Kalamazoo and photograph Amtrak passing BO Tower in the evening in better light.

And, of course, I’ll be sure to make a return visit to Bell’s Eccentric Café.

Amtrak's westbound Wolverine Service train will be stopping in the Kalamazoo station momentarily.

Amtrak’s westbound Wolverine Service train will be stopping in the Kalamazoo station momentarily.

BO Tower could use some new paint. The BO sign was put on by Conrail.

BO Tower could use some new paint. The BO sign was put on by Conrail.

The double track former Michigan Central tracks at BO Tower are now owned by the state of Michigan. The crossing track is now owned by Grand Elk Railroad.

The double track former Michigan Central tracks at BO Tower are now owned by the state of Michigan. The crossing track is now owned by Grand Elk Railroad.

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.