Amtrak

Stateside
4:48 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Amtrak is offering free rides to writers

wikimedia commons

There's quite an excited buzz happening among the ranks of writers.

Amtrak is putting together a "writers' residency" program – free, or-nearly free – train rides to writers.

You write while you're chugging along the tracks, send out a few tweets about your travels and let Amtrak interview you for their blog at the end of your trip.

Today, we found out how this came about, how it might work, and who might be eligible.

Our "resident expert" in all things Amtrak, Adie Tomer of the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, joined us today.

– Listen to the audio above.

Transportation
10:56 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Weather stalls Amtrak train for 8.5 hours in Michigan

An Amtrak train at the Ann Arbor station.
smaedli Creative Commons

NILES, Mich. (AP) - An Amtrak train carrying more than 200 people has arrived in Chicago after weather-related problems caused it to stop for more than eight hours in southwestern Michigan.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says the train's engine lost power Sunday due to cold weather. But he says heat, lights and restrooms still worked.

The train started in Pontiac, north of Detroit, and had trouble between Niles and New Buffalo in the corner of southwestern Michigan. It was later connected to another westbound train and arrived in Chicago around 1:30 a.m. CST Monday.

Magliari says passengers may have been frustrated but they were always safe on the stalled train. He says it was better to keep them on the train rather than switch to buses, even if buses were available.

Transportation
9:24 am
Wed December 25, 2013

Amtrak adding trains in Michigan during Christmas & New Year's holidays

All Aboard! (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

AAA Michigan estimates 2.9 million Michiganders will be traveling more than 50 miles during the holiday season.   

Many of them will be traveling by train.

Marc Magliari is with Amtrak. He says Amtrak is adding extra trains in Michigan to accommodate increased demand during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

“We’re adding trains across Michigan during the busy holiday season because our other trains are selling out,” says Magliari.

Stateside
5:14 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Michigan Amtrak is getting faster and better

The federal government is investing billions to improve rail lines across the country. Will it translate into more riders?
Terry Cantrell Creative Commons

“Let’s take the train.” It seems more and more of us are saying those words these days.

A record 793,000 passengers hopped aboard Amtrak’s three Michigan routes last year and revenue grew to $27.8 million. And there are some changes coming down the track that should make the traveling faster and better for train passengers in Michigan.

Tim Hoeffner, rail director at the Michigan Department of Transportation, joined us today. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Transportation
1:41 pm
Sun September 29, 2013

Michigan's Amtrak subsidy is about to triple

Jackson's train station (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Beginning Tuesday, the subsidy that Amtrak gets from the state of Michigan is about to triple, from $8 million to nearly $25 million a year.   

The reason for the increase is a 2008 federal law that requires greater cost sharing between the federal government and the states where Amtrak operates.

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Transportation
12:27 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Amtrak gets ready to start track improvements

'The Wolverine' at the Ann Arbor station.
smaedli Creative Commons

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - Amtrak is getting ready to start the first of three Michigan train track improvement phases for the 2013 construction season.

Work begins next Monday east of Jackson. The project is expected to cause some delays and modified schedules, but Amtrak says it will result in upgraded tracks and more reliable service for Amtrak Wolverine Service trains as part of the Accelerated Rail Program.

When all 2013 phases of the project are complete in November, more than 30 miles of new track will be installed.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is leading a three-state effort to improve the 300-mile corridor from Pontiac and Detroit across Michigan, through northwest Indiana and to Chicago. Train speeds will increase to up to 110 miles per hour in more places.

Economy
10:39 am
Fri August 9, 2013

New trains to be built for higher speed rail in the Midwest

Inside an Amtrak train.
user Braniff747SP wikimedia commons

States in the Midwest are moving forward with their plans to increase the speed of passenger trains.

The Federal Railroad Administration announced that several states will join together to purchase new passenger rail equipment:

The Request for Proposals (RFP) to manufacture approximately 35 new diesel-electric locomotives in America comes from a groundbreaking multi-state effort to jointly purchase standardized rail equipment to be used on state corridor routes in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Iowa in the Midwest and Washington, California, and Oregon on the West Coast. 

The FRA has set aside $808 million for the purchase of the locomotives and for 130 new bi-level train cars.

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Stateside
5:35 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Michigan's Amtrak subsidy will see a huge jump in October

Gary Cooper Flickr

An interview with Adie Tomer of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program.

There's no doubt about it, more of us are climbing aboard Amtrak trains than ever before.

The three lines that Amtrak runs in Michigan are often packed, especially that Detroit to Chicago Wolverine Line.

Come this October, the State of Michigan's tab for Amtrak will jump. The subsidy will go from $8 million a year to around $25 million.

Why is that happening? What does this mean for you, the taxpayer, and for Amtrak and its passengers?

Adie Tomer is with the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program and he's a member of the Metropolian Infrastructure Initiative.

He joined us today from Washington.

Listen to the full interview above.

Transportation
11:27 am
Wed March 27, 2013

Amtrak derails in Port Huron this morning, no injuries reported

Ian Britton creative commons

More from the Port Huron Times Herald:

Crews are investigating the scene just south of 22nd and Railroad streets in Port Huron where an Amtrak locomotive derailed this morning.

The trailing locomotive derailed shortly after departure about 6:20 a.m. from the station on 16th Street, said Marc Magliari, Amtrak spokesman.

There were 14 passengers on the train, but there were no injuries.

The locomotive is expected to be disconnected from the rest of the train soon so it can continue on to Chicago, Magliari said.

Holly Setter posted this picture of the derailed locomotive on Twitter:


Transportation
5:09 pm
Sat March 9, 2013

NTSB issues recommendations after railroad accidents in Michigan and illinois.

NILES, Mich. (AP) - Federal officials say railroad accidents last year in Michigan and Illinois were caused by workers not following required safety precautions.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Friday that both the Feb. 28 accident in Madison, Ill., and the Oct. 21 accident near the southwestern Michigan city of Niles involved signal maintenance operations. It issued recommendations to address the improper use of jumper wires during maintenance and repairs.

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Environment & Science
12:03 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Coast-to-coast high speed rail map: fantasy to reality?

A new vision for a United States high speed rail system would connect the country with different regional expresses.
Credit Alfred Twu

The “road trip” has forever been romanticized as the epitome of carefree, coming-of-age adventures. But what if instead of hopping into your car, you could jump on a train and arrive at the other side of the country in the same day?

Berkeley graphic artist Alfred Twu created a map of a potential high speed rail system for the United States.

Read more
Transportation
3:25 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Michigan gearing up for high-speed train expansion

The Wolverine in Ann Arbor, MI.
smaedli flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak are saying full speed ahead on expanding the state's high-speed train service.

Amtrak will take over maintenance on the former Norfolk Southern Railway route used by Amtrak's Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains Feb. 16.

MDOT purchased 135 miles of the railroad last year.

MDOT says this will allow track improvements to begin to bring more areas high-speed train service. The department says improvements may begin as early as this spring.

Amtrak trains currently reach 110 mph along an 80-mile stretch between Porter, Ind. and Kalamazoo. The expansion of the high-speed service is expected to start between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek and head eastward.

MDOT and Amtrak say the goal is to get passengers between Chicago and Detroit in about 5 hours.

Business
4:11 pm
Sat February 9, 2013

Report: Midwest firms could benefit from high-speed rail

An Acela Express after its arrival in Washington, D.C. Union Station.
Travail personnel-Nicolas STAMBACH

CHICAGO (AP) - An environmental policy group has identified hundreds of Midwest manufacturers that stand to benefit from the web of high-speed rail routes emerging from Chicago.

A report released Friday by the Environmental Law & Policy Center says 460 supply-chain manufacturers in seven Midwest states are poised to reap new business, along with a dozen highly visible companies that make rail cars and locomotives.

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Transportation
6:08 pm
Wed February 6, 2013

Stateside: Train travel up in Michigan

The state is close to finishing a deal with a freight rail company to buy a 140 mile stretch of track between Detroit and Chicago.
user amtrak_russ Flickr

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

More and more of us not just here in Michigan, but across the nation, are traveling by train and turning to Amtrak.

Its trains carried 31.2 million passengers in its fiscal year that ended last September.

Here in Michigan, a record-setting 793,000 people traveled on Amtrak's three routes, bringing in all-time high revenues of $27.8 million in Michigan.

What's behind our growing affection for the train?

Adie Tomar is a researcher with the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

He joined us from Washington.

Transportation
12:14 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

Amtrak Wolverine train jumps rails near Niles

The Amtrak "Wolverine" arriving in Ann Arbor.
smaedli flickr

An Amtrak passenger train bound for Detroit derailed Sunday morning near Niles, MI.

The train cars, carrying 174 passengers and 4 crew members, stayed upright and remained in line with each other despite jumping the rails.

From the Detroit Free Press:

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Politics
10:19 am
Mon May 7, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 2nd
Brother O'Mara Flickr

State could be forced to pay new Detroit officials' salaries

Under the consent agreement with the state, the city of Detroit will have to appoint new officials to lead the city out of its financial crisis. Who will pay the salaries for these new officials is a new bone of contention according to Jonathan Oosting at MLive:

The [consent] agreement... requires the formation of a nine-member Financial Advisory Board to oversee city budgets and hiring of a Program Management Director to oversee implementation of key initiatives.

The deal calls for the city and state to split the salaries of advisory board members, who each will make $25,000 a year, while the city is required to cover the full salary of the PMD, expected to earn triple figures.

As MLive.com first reported this weekend, some city leaders believe the state may end up assuming full responsibility for those costs.

Some council members feel the Headlee Act prevents the state from mandating new services without compensating the city for those services.

Oosting reports Detroit City Council is expected to meet in a closed door session with the city's law department this afternoon.

U.S. Attorney General says violence in Detroit is "unacceptable"

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told thousands of people gathered at an NAACP fundraising dinner that violence in Detroit is "unacceptable."

He told the crowd last night in Detroit that his administration is directing "unprecedented" resources nationally in order to reduce young people's exposure to crime.

Holder said an average of two young black men get killed each week in Detroit. He called the statistic "shocking."

Higher train speeds between Detroit and Chicago

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says Michigan, Illinois and Indiana are each contributing $200,000 for a study looking into the creation of a high-speed rail corridor between Chicago and Detroit.

LaHood says the study will seek ways to cut Amtrak passenger train times between the cities and to more efficiently move goods.

The Department of Transportation says the study will build on the progress that Michigan has made in achieving 110 mile per hour service between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana.

Amtrak
3:28 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Lansing motorist killed in crash with Amtrak train

user smaedi Creative Commons

DELTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Officials say the driver of a car who was killed in a collision with an Amtrak train near Lansing drove around lowered gates at a road crossing.

The Eaton County Sheriff's Office continued to investigate the accident Friday.

The driver of the car who was killed was identified as Hermes Fernandez-Lopez. The 39-year-old was from Lansing.

No one on the train was reported injured in the Thursday night accident.

The train was travelling from Chicago to Port Huron with about 145 passengers when it struck the vehicle shortly after 9:10 p.m., authorities said. Train passengers left the scene on buses.

Transportation
2:17 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Amtrak gets green light for higher train speeds in Michigan and Indiana

At one point, Amtrak trains were ordered to speeds of 25 m.p.h. on parts of the Wolverine line.
user amtrak_russ Flickr

Maximum train speeds on Amtrak's Wolverine and Blue Water lines can increase to 110 m.p.h. on an 80 mile stretch of track between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana.

Amtrak and MDOT officials say the higher speed is the fastest allowed outside the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak's Acela Express train, which travels between Boston and Washington D.C., can reach speeds up to 150 m.p.h.

Approval was given after successful testing of a "positive train control safety system" installed on the tracks.

From an Amtrak and MDOT press release:

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Developing
3:15 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

Chicago-bound Amtrak train in Michigan derails near Jackson

An Amtrak train collided with a semi-truck near Jackson, Michigan
(JTV)

Update 3:15 p.m. - Workers hope to reopen rail line tomorrow

10 people were injured today when an Amtrak train collided with a semi-truck between Ann Arbor and Jackson.   None of the injuries were life-threatening.

The accident derailed the train’s engine and two passenger cars.   The collision also heavily damaged the tracks and the crossing. 

But a company spokesman says they hope to reopen the line by tomorrow morning.

David Pidgeon is a spokesman for Norfolk-Southern, which owns and operates the railroad that runs across southern Michigan.

 “Six passenger trains a day use that particular line…and another four to five trains of freight (a day) also use that line," says Pidgeon, "So we need to get that line open…as safely and efficiently as possible.”

While the section of track is being repaired, passengers are making part of their trip by bus.

2:17 p.m. - 10 injured

MLive.com reports that "a total of 10 people were injured" in this morning's Amtrak derailment in Leoni Township.

Blackman-Leoni Township Public Safety Director Mike Jester said all were taken to Allegiance Health with non-life threatening injuries. Authorities had previously reported six injured.

11:50 a.m. - Passengers re-routed

A westbound Amtrak train collided with a truck this morning between Jackson and Ann Arbor.

There were no life-threatening injuries. The collision left the train’s engine on its side and knocked two passenger cars off the tracks.    

Marc Magliari is an Amtrak spokesman. He says  Amtrak will bus passengers around the crash site while repairs are under way. 

“Passengers who are ticketed …let’s say eastbound passed Jackson…would be taken by chartered motorcoach…to the Ann Arbor station where they’ll meet another train and continue on," says Magliari.

 It’s unclear how long it will take to remove the derailed train and repair the damage done to the rails. 

About a half million passengers rode on Amtrak’s Wolverine line last year. 

Here's video from the Jackson Citizen Patriot speaking with Blackman-Leoni Township Public Safety Director Mike Jester:

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Commentary
11:12 am
Mon January 30, 2012

Riding the Rails

I have been traveling by air for most of my adult life, and for a few years, flew somewhere at least once a week.

Yet while I took trains in Europe and Japan, it never occurred to me to do so from Detroit. Amtrak, people said, took forever and was a fairly nasty experience; a shabby relic of transportation’s past.

However, air travel has become less and less fun, from the increasingly cramped seats and loss of anything resembling service, and more and more intrusive security procedures.

Read more

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