Trains For America

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UPDATE: LaHood coming to Detroit with ‘major’ high-speed rail announcement | | The Detroit News

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will visit Detroit and New York on Monday to make major high-speed rail funding announcements.

Last month, Michigan applied for more than $560 million in funding — including joining three other states as part of a joint request. Michigan officials expect the state will receive significant funding for some grants sought.

One must wonder about the viability of Detroit as a HST terminus.
UPDATE: The comments section contains some unusually sound and stimulating fact-based (gasp!) discussion. Read and enjoy

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

4 Responses

  1. Wilton Woods says:

    Major upgrades on the Michigan line is wonderful news.

    Detroit-Chicago is the biggest/closest city pair outside the NEC. The Detroit Metro area’s inner 4 counties have a population over 4 million, with another million more a little farther out.

    Already Amtrak owns about 100 miles of the track between the Indiana dunes and Kalamazoo in SW MI. Amtrak and the Michigan DOT have been working for years to upgrade this stretch Porter IN-Kalamazoo MI, removing grade crossings, adding new signaling, improving the tracks, etc., to be ready to run 110-mph trains on that section. Chicago’s on-going CREATE projects could trim more minutes from the timetable as they are completed.

    Recently Amtrak has put more coaches on the existing conventional Wolverine trains. The Amtrak fleet is being increased a bit from the 80 or so damaged cars that were parked for lack of money for repairs. The Stimulus funds paid to rehabilitate them, and Amtrak is using them as they become available. Where 3- or 4-coach trains had been crowded or even sold out on busy dates, adding even one revamped coach expands capacity and paying passengers.

    As a result, the 3-trains-a-day Wolverines have led the pack with ridership increases around 25% above the past year, and now these trains are believed to be at least breaking even on an operating basis.

    The State of Michigan already got HSR funds to buy the barely-used line Kalamazoo-Battle Creek-Jackson-Ann Arbor-(suburban) Dearborn from Norfolk Southern (not sure if this deal has been signed, but everybody wants to do it).

    Now for a couple hundred million more, the Michigan DOT says it can upgrade these tracks to cut 50 minutes from the Chicago-Detroit timetable, bringing it down to about 4 hours.

    O.K., that’s not really “High Speed” rail, but a 4-hour trip time is a huge move forward.

    Next they’ll need to add frequencies, when they can get enough equipment. And Michigan is part of a consortium of states asking for funds to buy Next Generation equipment for key routes: Chicago-St Louis, Chicago-Milwaukee, Chicago-Detroit, and St Louis-Kansas City.

    That 4-hour run time may also allow a train to make three one-way trips a day instead of just two as now. Two trains could sleep in Kalamazoo to make earlier departures from all those small cities, like Ann Arbor, to the really big cities on either end. More frequencies brings more convenient scheduling, giving passengers more choice of travel times. That in turn will tap pent-up demand and bring forth even more passengers.

    The faster trains will arrive at Detroit’s Amtrak station at the far end of the proposed Woodward LRT route, in the New Center district. The light rail will allow passengers to easily visit the Wayne State campus, the Arts Institute and African-American History museum, the ball fields, the Fox Theatre, and other attraction along Woodward.


    The Michigan grants could also be a little twofer. The new public ownership should also let the long-discussed commuter trains with stops Ann Arbor (U of Mich 41,000 students), Ypsilanti (Eastern Mich U 23,000), Detroit-Wayne County airport (32 million passengers), Dearborn (Ford headquarters & The Henry Ford museum), and Detroit’s New City station to piggyback and share some costs on this section. If this commuter line turns out to be successful, it could grow into a regional inter-city service and extend north from Detroit to Troy and Pontiac, as Amtrak’s Wolverines do already.

  2. Regarding your comment on Detroit being a questionable terminus . . . The travel and demographic patterns of the Detroit airport might be the best guide of that. But the beauty of the train is it is easier to make several stops – Ann Arbor-Dearborn-Midtown Detroit-Royal Oak-Birmingham-Pontiac.

  3. patlynch says:

    Thanks for a couple of great posts. What concerns me is the economic condition of Detroit. Christopher, you make a good point on the intermediate stops. Thanks. Those are all good points.

  4. Wilton Woods says:

    Pat, You are SERIOUSLY misunderestimating the Chicago-Detroit corridor.

    Look at the January report, “HSR in America” from the group America 2050, it says (using 2009 figures) that Chicago-Milwaukee was the largest rail market in the Midwest with 740,000 passengers. The Lincoln service Chicago-Springfield-St Louis carried 500,000 on 4 trains a day each way. The Wolverines, only 3 trains a day, carried 440,000 Chicago-Detroit-Pontiac.

    Now we know that the Wolverines are up 25% over 2010 so far this year, so currently the route enjoys at least 550,000 passengers a year.

    Of course, NYC-D.C. (224 miles) had the top score of 20.15, when America 2050 scored various city pairs around the U.S. on their suitability for HSR corridors. They used population within 2, 10, and 25 miles of the downtown stations, demographic factors, connections with local transit or lack thereof, the size of the short-hop air markets between the cities, etc.

    Detroit-Chicago (281 miles) scored a solid 16.80.

    This put it behind Milwaukee-Chicago (86 miles) with a score of 19.38 and barely lagging Indianapolis-Chicago (197 miles) at 17.38.

    But the Detroit line ranked a bit ahead of Minneapolis-Chicago (423 miles) at 16.66, Cincinnati-Chicago (320 miles) at 16.40, and St. Louis-Chicago (282 miles) at 16.19. I’m sure Cleveland-Chicago would have scored in this range too, but it was not broken out in the report.

    btw The infamous Milwaukee-Madison line (82 miles) came in at 13.11, and the ill-fated 3Cs route, Cincinnati-Cleveland (256 miles), only managed an 11.21. But sorry, Kansas City-St Louis got just a 9.62, worth more upgrading, but not a priority for even H(er)SR.

    The Detroit-Chicago route will be a huge success, no worries.

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May 2011


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