Michigan Amtrak

After years of delays caused by political infighting and real estate disputes, the Troy Transit Center is finally open for business.

The $6.3 million center will serve primarily as a much-improved Oakland County stop for Amtrak’s popular Wolverine Line.

That line, which connects Pontiac and Chicago, serves 500,000 riders annually. According to Amtrak, about 20,000 of them get on or off at the Troy stop.

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.

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.

Amtrak engine
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.

Canada is dumping its garbage in Michigan. We took a look at why it's so cheap to haul trash over the border and the political reasons making it hard to stop.

And, we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the drive-in movie theater. Did you know Michigan once had more than 100 drive-ins? Today just a hand full are still in operation.

Also, Amtrak is making some improvements. We spoke with Tim Hoeffner of the Michigan Department of Transportation about what Michigan train passengers can expect.

And, Michael Stern from Roadfood.com, and frequent guest on The Splendid Table, stopped by to tell us about his recent trip to the Upper Peninsula and the culinary marvels he found up there.

But, first on the show, Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress are still at odds over federal spending on this, the 14th day of the partial government shutdown. In weekend discussions, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell could not reach a deal to raise the nation's borrowing authority. Stocks are lower as the nation moves to a potentially disastrous default on its debt. Democratic Congressman Sander Levin joined us today to talk about the impasse.

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.

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.

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.

An unhappy statistic: Child abuse is on the rise in Michigan. So, why has state-funding for prevention been cut? We found out more on today's show.

And, in case you hadn't noticed - it is hot out there. But, are these temperatures rivaling those of past record-making days?

And, three ordinary guys are pooling their resources in order to save Detroit’s GAR building from the wrecking ball.

Also, we spoke with Dr. Ryan Shinska, a graduate from the University of Michigan’s dental school, about his plan to move to Uganda to open a dental clinic.

First on the show, numbers show that more of us are climbing aboard Amtrak trains than ever before.

The three lines that Amtrak runs in Michigan are often packed, especially the 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. That's around a 200% jump.

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 joined us today from Washington.

Gary Cooper / Flickr

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.

Major Amtrak improvements scheduled for Spring

Feb 15, 2013
user amtrak_russ / Flickr

The Department of Transportation and Amtrak are planning some big maintenance projects for the three major Michigan routes in the coming months.

Janet Foren is with the M-DOT. She says the partnership between the department and Amtrak to improve the routes is vital for the future of efficient rail travel in Michigan.

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.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Michigan will get just under $200 million to boost rail service between Detroit and Chicago.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the official announcement alongside state and local officials in Detroit Monday.

The federal money comes with no strings attached. Officials say it will let them upgrade a stretch of track between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.

cbassweb / MorgueFile

Michiganders are taking the train more than they have in the past. Amtrak officials say they've seen an increase in the number of riders on all three of their Michigan lines. Two of those lines are supported by the state.

Amtrak’s Blue Water Service runs from Port Huron through Lansing to Chicago. It had one of the largest increases in ridership in the nation.

Janet Foran  is with the Michigan Department of Transportation. She says some of the growth is likely from the rise in gas prices and the interest in building high speed rail in the state:

“Because of the talk about high speed rail in the State of Michigan, this has actually been a major factor in increasing the interest of people to try passenger rails.”

M-DOT said ridership usually increases during the holiday season and summer. They expect ridership will continue to grow in the state.