FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 8, 2005
CONTACT: John DeLora, Executive Director or Mike Whims, Chairman PHONE: (313) 575-6608 or (248) 892-4545
Michigan House Bill 4831, that proposes to cut $1 million from the fiscal year 2006 passenger rail budget, is threatening Amtrak services in Michigan. If approved, this massive reduction could end the Port Huron – East Lansing- Chicago Blue Water and the Grand Rapids – Holland – Chicago Pere Marquette.
The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers (MARP) opposes any cuts to Amtrak, especially at a time when both the Blue Water and Pere Marquette are experiencing ridership increases. During the first half of the current fiscal year, the Blue Water has experienced a 21% ridership increase and the Pere Marquette has seen an 11% increase compared to the same period a year ago.
“This makes no sense to cut funding for these trains,” said John DeLora, MARP executive director. “Both trains are performing very well and Michigan travelers want the service.”
The threat to the two Michigan Amtrak trains comes at a bad time for Amtrak as the Bush Administration has proposed to eliminate the funding nationally. The Bush Administration wants to “reform” Amtrak by eliminating federal operational funding and have each state be fiscally responsible for intercity passenger rail services should they desire to keep trains running through their respective states.
“Obviously having the states foot the bill for passenger rail will not work.” Mike Whims, MARP Chairman, stated. “If we are fighting over a million dollars out of a multi-billion dollar state transportation budget to keep the Blue Water and Pere Marquette trains running, what will it be like to get the state to fund the Chicago – Detroit – Pontiac trains that are now funded nationally? It’s a plan for disaster.”
Cutting $1 million from Amtrak’s budget forces both the Blue Water and Pere Marquette to be eliminated under the current contract with the state. Plus, there is no fair procedure to determine which train to eliminate especially since both trains are performing so well.
Last month, chambers of commerce and convention bureaus from cities along Michigan Amtrak routes, went to Chicago aboard Amtrak to promote tourism to Michigan. Having Amtrak service in Michigan offers important transportation access especially in times of high gas prices, gridlock on highways, and security delays at airports.
The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers is a non-profit corporation established in 1973 to improve passenger train service, travel conditions for passengers, and to work for the preservation of historic rail stations.
For further information please contact John DeLora at (313) 575-6608 or Mike Whims (248) 892-4545 or visit MARP’s website at http://www.marp.org.