Amtrak

Economy
3:01 am
Mon December 12, 2011

Removing a barrier to high speed rail from Detroit to Chicago

Amtrak Acela train
(courtesy of Amtrak)

Today could be a significant day for the future of high speed rail in Michigan.    

Consultants have until today to submit their proposals to study how to solve a crucial problem for high speed rail between Detroit and Chicago.  

The problem: a railroad bottleneck between northwest Indiana and Chicago.     

A high volume of passenger and freight traffic already overwhelms the existing rail lines and threatens to put the brakes on high speed trains.   

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Transportation
3:57 pm
Mon October 31, 2011

Detroit to Chicago in less than 4 hours? 3 upgrades for Michigan passenger rail

The 135 miles of rail line from Dearborn to Kalamazoo will be owned by the state of Michigan. The state is purchasing the line from Norfolk Southern Railway with the help of federal stimulus money. Once completed, the upgraded line will increase speeds.
MDOT

Most of the upgrades are happening along the Detroit to Chicago route. That's because this line was designated as a high speed rail corridor by the federal government back in 1992.

With that designation comes federal grant dollars.

And recently, it has meant hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars.

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public transportation
11:44 am
Fri October 14, 2011

Amtrak reports record riders and revenue in Michigan

The Wolverine train pulls into the Ann Arbor station. More than 500,000 passengers rode the 'Wolverine' line between Pontiac/Detroit and Chicago, an increase of nearly percent from the same period a year ago. Wolverine is the most popular in Michigan.
smaedli Creative Commons

Amtrak trains in Michigan had a record number of riders and revenue for the fiscal year that ended last month. Michigan Department of Transportation spokeswoman Janet Foran says Amtrak riders have increased steadily since 2008 when gas prices spiked over $4 per gallon.

Nearly 800,000 people rode one of three passenger train lines in the state bringing in close to $28 million in ticket revenue “It goes to show that people like to have transportation choices,” Foran said.

The record numbers come despite major slow-downs over the summer on the most popular line from Detroit to Chicago.

The biggest ridership increase was on the line that runs from Port Huron through East Lansing to Chicago.

Foran says the summer months and the upcoming holiday season are the busiest times for train riders.

Arts/Culture
10:01 am
Sat October 8, 2011

History of Amtrak rolling into Jackson this weekend

A view of Jackson's train depot
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Jackson will be the place to be this weekend for Amtrak aficionados. 

The national passenger rail service is marking its 40th anniversary this year.  This weekend, Amtrak is bringing a rolling museum of its four decade history to Jackson’s rail road station. 

Christina Leeds is an Amtrak spokeswoman.  She says passionate lovers of all things Amtrak have been flocking to the rolling exhibit’s previous stops around the country. 

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Transportation
5:38 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Michigan close to buying rail line for higher-speed travel

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 state is very close to finalizing a deal to buy almost 140 miles of railway that would complete a high-speed connection for passengers traveling between Detroit and Chicago.

The state could announce a bargain with the Norfolk Southern Railroad as soon as this week.

The cost will be about one million dollars per mile of rail. Most of the money will come from the federal government.

Hugh McDiarmid is with the Michigan Environmental Council, one of the groups supporting the project. He said the rail line could be the first leg of an eventual statewide rapid transit network.

"Right now, someone from Traverse City would have to drive down to Kalamazoo or Detroit or something to hop a train to Chicago and that’s not very convenient," said McDiarmid. "But this is moving us a little bit closer to the day when hopefully we’ll connecting Traverse City to Detroit; we’ll be connecting Kalamazoo to Traverse City to Chicago."

Once the purchase is wrapped up, the state will go to work on upgrades that will allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. The Kalmazoo-to-Chicago stretch is already upgraded.

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Transportation
3:06 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

10 slow Amtrak trains in Michigan

Most of the track that Amtrak trains run on in Michigan are owned by freight companies.
Amtrak

There are three Amtrak routes with trains that travel to and from cities in Michigan to Chicago.

If you ride on any of them, chances are your train will be late.

The route with the best on-time rate in the last year were the trains traveling on the "Blue Water" route between Port Huron and Chicago. On average, you'll be on-time 50 percent of the time on these trains.

The "Pere Marquette" route with trains traveling between Grand Rapids and Chicago comes in second. On average, those trains run on-time 48 percent of the time.

The most popular route is the worst.

The "Wolverine" route, which has trains running between Pontiac/Detroit to Chicago, had an average on-time rate of just 14 percent.

Amtrak provides a detailed breakdown of each train's on-time performance along with reasons for delays on their website.

Here's a breakdown of the on-time percentages for Amtrak trains in Michigan from best-to-worst:

  1. Blue Water #364 - 73.8% (Chicago to Port Huron)
  2. Pere Marquette #370 - 54.2% (Chicago to Grand Rapids)
  3. Pere Marquette #371 - 41.7% (Grand Rapids to Chicago)
  4. Blue Water #365 - 25.5% (Port Huron to Chicago)
  5. Wolverine #350 - 19.8% (Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac)
  6. Wolverine #355 - 18.7% (Detroit/Pontiac to Chicago)
  7. Wolverine #353 - 17.6% (Detroit to Chicago/Pontiac)
  8. Wolverine #351 - 11.4% (Detroit/Pontiac to Chicago)
  9. Wolverine #354 - 9.5% (Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac)
  10. Wolverine #352 - 4.4% (Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac)
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Transportation
2:47 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Feds to invest more than $28 million in new Dearborn train station

A map showing current High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program investments.
Federal Railroad Administration

The Federal Railroad Administration has obligated $28,204,450 to the Michigan Department of Transportation to build a new Dearborn train station.

U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-Dearborn) made the announcement in a press release today:

This funding will allow the City of Dearborn to consolidate its two passenger rail stations into a intermodal station in the west section of downtown Dearborn... The intermodal facility will be designed for the planned Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail as well as future high-speed intercity passenger rail service.  The station will accommodate city, regional and intercity bus systems; local and tourist shuttles; bicycle and greenway linkages; and, auto, taxi, and limousine connections to Detroit International Airport.

In the release, Dingell said "modernizing rail travel will help attract small business development, increase job growth, and enhance the livelihood of communities and business, by helping to expedite the time and efficiency of people and goods getting from point A to point B."

Last May, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced an investment of $196.5 million to improve track and signal systems between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.

The improvements, the federal government said, would reduce trip times between Detroit and Chicago by 30 minutes.

The Federal Railroad Administration selected the Dearborn rail station to be funded under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program.

In total, the government plans to spend $10.1 billion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to improve passenger rail service in the U.S.

The Dearborn Press & Guide reports the announcement puts an end to questions about whether the money would come or not:

[The money] was awarded more than two years ago as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Although the money was awarded, until this week it still had not been obligated and Congressional Republicans are proposing to rescind all non-obligated ARRA funds as part of the upcoming federal budget process.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly was quoted as saying he was relieved by the news, "I was panicked that our shovel-ready project would never come to fruition. This really is key for Dearborn, as we'll now be central to any future transportation planning for the region."

Transportation
9:57 am
Tue June 14, 2011

A slow train to Chicago, Amtrak ordered to cut speeds

Amtrak traveling between Chicago and Detroit.
user amtrak_russ Flickr

On the heels of the federal government's announcement that it plans to increase the speed of Amtrak trains traveling between Detroit and Chicago, comes a slow-down order from the freight company that owns much of the track.

Norfolk Southern railroad says Amtrak trains will have to travel at speeds of 25 m.p.h. on some parts of the line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.

More from Annarbor.com's Nathan Bomey:

The decision means that travelers on Amtrak's Wolverine line may experience 90-minute delays on the trip from Kalamazoo to Dearborn, Amtrak said. Passengers need to check with Amtrak before heading to the station for their trips.

A 90-minute delay is a big deal for trains working to improve their on-time performance, which has been notoriously bad in Michigan.

Amtrak Train number 351, for instance, travels between Chicago and Grand Rapids/Port Huron/Detroit - Pontiac. In the last twelve months, it's been on-time only 17.1% of the time.

Last month, officials from the federal government announced plans to invest $196.5 million to improve the 135 miles of rail line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. The improvement, officials from the government say, will allow trains to reach speeds of 110 m.p.h., cutting 30 minutes off the time it will take to travel between Detroit and Chicago.

The freight company who owns the line, says they won't be responsible for maintenance on the improved track. Rudy Husband, a Norfolk Southern spokesman, was quoted in Annarbor.com:

"If they want to make the Michigan line a passenger route with higher speeds than what freight trains run, then someone other than Norfolk Southern is going to have to pay for the increased maintenance costs," Husband said. "We have been trying to work out a solution to this for a very long time now. But in the meantime we're doing what needs to be done to be responsible to our customers and our shareholders."

So before the trains speed up, they'll have to slow down.

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Auto/Economy
1:54 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Ten high speed train and rail projects announced today

User seemidtn Flickr

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the investment of over $2 billion in high speed rail projects around the country.

But what are the actual projects?

The entire list is available at the Department of Transportation's website, which has the full press release.

But here are some highlights (including full descriptions from the press release on the two Michigan projects.

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Politics
1:01 am
Mon May 9, 2011

Michigan may get more federal money for high speed rail

The future of passenger rail service in Michigan may take a big leap forward today. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation will be in Detroit this afternoon for an announcement concerning “high speed rail." 

Michigan’s been down this track before. State transportation officials had high hopes last year when the Obama  administration planned to invest billions of dollars in developing  high speed rail projects across the country.  

State officials lobbied hard for the federal government to upgrade the  rail link between Detroit and Chicago, so trains could travel between the two cities at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. But, while the administration designated billions of dollars for projects in Illinois, California and Florida. Michigan only received a small amount of money to upgrade some Amtrak stations.  

But, Florida’s new governor decided his state didn’t want the two billion dollars the Obama administration was offering.  It appears Michigan and New York may end up splitting the money. We’ll find out  specifics later today. 

Florida’s not the first state to say “no” to federal high speed rail  money.  Wisconsin and Ohio also declined.  

Amtrak reported last month that ridership is rising on all three  passenger rail lines it operates in Michigan.

Passenger rail
3:01 pm
Thu October 21, 2010

Trains in Michigan: public forum tonight

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

A public forum on the future of trains in Michigan will be held tonight in Monroe.

John Langdon with the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers says college students and senior citizens like trains. He says he hopes everybody else will see that increasing rail service is good for the economy, the environment and their own pocketbook.

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