June 21, 2005  

Mike Whims, President, MARP: mwhims@detroittransit.org; 248-892-4545
Ed McArdle, SEMG Sierra Club: ecoed@netzero.net; 313-388-6645
John Langdon, Chair, SWM Chapter MARP: john-langdon@sbcglobal.net, 616-218-9009
Kay Chase, Chair, Kalamazoo Environmental Council: chase@wmich.edu 269-387-5237

Please include in local announcements and calendars.

On Saturday, June 25, there will be a press conference and rally to call attention to state and federal budget cuts that threaten the passenger trains that serve Michigan. A pending cut of $1 million from Michigan’s next fiscal year budget could end the Port Huron – Kalamazoo – Chicago Blue Water train and the Grand Rapids – St Joseph – Chicago – Pere Marquette train. In Congress, the budget recommendation from the transportation committee headed by Michigan’s Rep. Joe Knollenberg would severely impact service on the Wolverine trains that serves the Detroit – Kalamazoo – Chicago corridor.

Organizers invite the community to show their support by joining them at the Kalamazoo Intermodal Center, 459 N. Burdick, to greet train Number 353 when it arrives from the east at approximately 2:50 p.m. on Saturday. Local lawmakers have been invited to attend, as have representatives of Metro Transit, the Chamber of Commerce, the United Transportation Union, and the Convention & Visitors Bureau.

On board the train will be members of Sierra Club’s southeast Michigan group (SEMG), the Michigan Association of Rail Passengers (MARP) and Transit Riders United of Detroit (TRU). The groups will rally earlier in Pontiac and Ann Arbor to “Stop the Great Train Robbery!” Along the way they have distributed information and talked to fellow passengers about the importance of letting decision makers know that train travel is an option people want and need. The group will be joined in Kalamazoo by members of local Sierra Club, the Southwest Region Chapter-Michigan Association of Rail Passengers, the Kalamazoo Environmental Council, and Transportation Action Strategy for Kalamazoo.

“There has been great support for passenger rail by our local leaders,” said Kay Chase, MARP member and frequent train passenger, “and they need to know that we are behind them. Senator George just last week was on the losing side of an effort to restore the $1 million that is crucial to continued operation of the Blue Water train. And in Washington, Congressman Fred Upton has been a strong advocate for our Michigan trains.”

According to Amtrak’s latest ridership reports, Michigan ridership is up 12.8% from last year, serving over 600,000 passengers in 2004. Kalamazoo has the 2nd highest ridership in the state-over 75,000 per year. During the first eight months of the current fiscal year, the Blue Water line, which serves the Port Huron-Kalamazoo-Chicago corridor, experienced a 20.4% ridership gain. Amtrak employs 133 Michigan state residents earning $6.4 million annually in wages and salaries. Their paychecks support local economies across the state. A recent economic impact study found that 60 Michigan vendors have contracts with Amtrak worth $2.8 million per year. Train travel reduces dependence on foreign oil and lessens the impact on global warming. Intercity trains emit up to three times less pollution per passenger mile than automobiles and six times less than airplanes. People are finding train travel to be convenient and cost-effective as airline security becomes more intrusive and highways become more congested.

For more information on the Michigan Association of Rail Passengers, visit www.marp.org