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April 2016 edition of OnTrack

We hope you enjoy our new issue. And don’t forget that we like to hear from you. Do you have story ideas? Would you like to write one of your own? Let us know!

Here’s a PDF version of the newsletter: ontrack_55


South Shore Line to Allow Bikes on Board Starting April 2nd

From Curbed Chicago:

The South Shore Line’s long prohibition against bicycles will come to an official end in less than two weeks. Starting April 2, up to 40 bikes per train will be allowed on weekend days through the end of October as part of a one year pilot program.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) has modified seven of the single level cars within its South Shore fleet to accommodate a total of 134 bike racks. The installation required the removal of seats from one side of the center aisle. The new interior setup is intended to allow cyclists to dock their bike and then sit right next to it on the opposite side of the car. The bicycle cars will be marked with yellow decals affixed to windows and will be placed into 14 of the 18 weekend trains linking downtown Chicago to Northwest Indiana.

Due to the configuration of the doorways, boarding with bicycles will only be allowed at existing high-level platforms, where stairs are not needed to enter and exit the train. High level platforms are available at South Bend, Dune Park, East Chicago, Hammond and all Chicago stations except 63rd Street.

Read more:

Transportation officials discuss light rail systems for Ann Arbor

From Crain’s Detroit Business:

Plans for a light rail system linking parts of Ann Arbor are being discussed by city and local transportation officials.

Details were released Wednesday at the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor News reported that

The Ann Arbor Connector could cost $500 million to $700 million and would run through downtown Ann Arbor, the university’s central and north campuses and the school’s medical center.

University planner Sue Gott said in a statement that the system would provide “better transit access to downtown, important U-M destinations and job centers, reducing dependence on adding more parking in core areas.”

The costs would be paid through federal and state dollars, university funding and other sources.

The project is in the early planning stage. Public meetings are scheduled for March 24.

If constructed, the light rail would have its own dedicated lane. The service also is estimated to be 43 percent faster than standard buses and would increase rider capacity by about 52 percent, officials said.

The connector also could be fully powered by renewable energy.

“As our community and its needs grow, the public transportation services that help connect people with jobs, school, appointments, shopping, and family and friends have also grown,” said Matt Carpenter, chief executive of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.


Quicken names M-1 Rail as QLine

From Crain’s Detroit Business:

The name of the new M-1 Rail streetcar line in Detroit will be QLine, Dan Gilbert’s Quicken Loans Inc. announced Thursday.

The name was one of several trademarked by Quicken, as first reported by Crain’s last year.

Quicken is paying $5 million over 10 years for the naming rights to the line.

Quicken Loans Inc. purchased the naming rights on the $137 million streetcar project, now called Qline.

“The launch of QLine marks a significant moment in the development of Detroit,” said Jay Farner, president and chief marketing officer of Quicken Loans. “Quicken Loans is proud to play our part in the beginning stages of modernizing the transit system in our burgeoning urban core.”

The first QLine car is expected later this year followed by safety testing.

Crain’s first reported in May that Quicken purchased the naming rights on the $137 million streetcar project, which is under construction and scheduled to be complete in the first quarter of 2017.

“Community after community has benefited from the economic benefits of urban rail systems,” M-1 Rail CEO Matt Cullen said in a statement. “Each day we are getting more excited for the launch of QLine and all the possibilities it will open for our community and our residents.”

QLine was one in a series of rail-related trademark registrations by Quicken in the last 17 months. In December, Quicken trademarked RocketRail, one month after trademarking the names Quickline, QLink and QLine, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In February 2014, Quicken trademarked the name QRide.

RocketRail appeared to be a play off a series of products tied to Gilbert-related ventures that use the words rock and rocket.

In October, Quicken unveiled a new service for desktops and smartphones called Rocket Mortgage. Gilbert’s Rock Ventures LLC also plans to install fiber-optic cable to provide ultrafast Internet access called Rocket Fiber in downtown Detroit and Midtown.

Quicken is the largest single corporate contributor in the streetcar line at $10 million, an increase made last year from its previous $3 million capital contribution. The $5 million for the naming rights is in addition to that.

The naming rights are for only the 3.3-mile loop now under construction, and don’t cover any future expansion of the line up Woodward or potential spur lines on streets such as Michigan and Gratiot avenues, M-1 Rail organizers said.

The rail line will run from Congress Street downtown to Grand Boulevard in the New Center area with what organizers project will be 5,000 to 8,000 riders per day.

In June, M-1 said it had signed a $32 million contract with Pennsylvania-based Brookville Equipment Corp. for six streetcars, which will begin to be delivered later this year.

Construction of the mostly curbside fixed-rail streetcar line, which will be commingled with traffic, began in 2014. It will have 20 stations at 12 stops between Grand Boulevard and Congress Street, and it will run in the median at its north and south ends.

M-1 Rail has said expected annual operations costs will range from $5.1 million to $6.5 million. Backers said the plan is to have 10 years of operating money banked, after which time the public Regional Transit Authority will assume control of it.

Construction is being funded by a mixture of corporate, foundation and public money, and the intention is that future government investment would expand the line north as far as Pontiac and onto other streets (while linking into other transit systems along the route).

Gilbert and Roger Penske are co-chairmen of the nonprofit project. M-1 Rail CEO Cullen is also president and CEO of Gilbert’s Rock Ventures.


MARP meets April 16, 2016 in New Buffalo

MARP Membership Meeting
New Buffalo Township Library
33 N Thompson St, New Buffalo, MI 49117
Saturday, April 16, 2016, 10:30am – 1pm EDT

Map & Directions

The April 16 MARP meeting will take place at the New Buffalo Township Library. We have invited colleagues from Indiana to join us. Steve Coxhead, President of the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, will have an update on the Hoosier State train now under private management. He will also have information about other projects the Indiana groups are working on. Fred Lanahan, who heads the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association, is unable to attend, but will send a report on the current status of the Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus corridor project which is a primary focus of the group. We will also have an update on the Indiana Gateway projects.

Many of you said you would like to take the train to New Buffalo. GOOD NEWS! John Langdon has succeeded in getting permission for Train #351 to make a stop in New Buffalo. You will have to buy a ticket on Train #351 to Chicago. You can book your return trip on Train #352 leaving New Buffalo at 3:09 pm. For best fares, buy your ticket NOW. If you are a Guest Rewards member, you can earn double points on this purchase. See the Double Points promotion showing on the Amtrak homepage.

Some of our guests may be arriving from the Chicago metro area on Train #350 at 9:37 am. So we have planned a “social hour” with coffee and pastries available at 10:30 am (eastern daylight time). If you are driving, please plan to take advantage of this opportunity for some extra “schoozing”. The business meeting will begin promptly at 11 am.

Lunch will be at the nearby Stray Dog Bar & Grill, just a short stroll from the train platform for those of you who will be catching the train to return home.

We look forward to seeing you in NBU!


New Buffalo is a small beach community with a number of interesting shops and art galleries. The library is just a block and a half from the train and our lunch place is close by. If you want to make a weekend of it, you could visit the New Buffalo Railroad Museum which appears to be operating on a more professional level than in the recent past. The Four Winds Casino, which sends a shuttle to meet most trains, is one of the reasons for the huge jump in ridership at this station. On a nice spring day, the beach is an easy walk to and from the train. For lodging and attractions, visit