Detroit Renaissance Center/Oakland County Commuter Rail Service Demonstration Could Begin this Fall!


DETROIT, MI – John D. DeLora (of Detroit), Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, Inc. (MARP) and Karen D. Kendrick-Hands (of Grosse Pointe Park), President of Transportation Riders United, Inc. (TRU) jointly announced today the feasibility of a modern commuter rail service demonstration that could be operational between General Motors Corporation’s Renaissance Center in Detroit and downtown Pontiac, Michigan as early as this fall.

DeLora and Kendrick-Hands announced that the Board of Directors for the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) of Seattle, Washington (Sound Transit) this afternoon authorized its “…Executive Director to enter into and execute agreements with other transit agencies in the United States and Canada to lease commuter rail equipment that is temporarily in excess of what is required to provide [Seattle area] service…”.

They noted that the equipment to be made available by Sound Transit includes brand new bi-level coaches similar to those in use in Toronto and a number of recently-established US commuter railroad operations. The available equipment also includes brand new General Motors Corporation Electro-Motive Division locomotives.

DeLora stated that the demonstration would help considerably in showing both the general public and local government officials what modern commuter rail service looks like and how it functions. He stated that the costs, performance, and feasibility of a modern commuter railroad service are considerably improved with respect to the characteristics of the Detroit-Pontiac service that was operated by the former Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA) until the autumn of 1983. “There simply is no comparison. Modern commuter railroad cars are more attractive, they are easier for members of the public to enter and exit, they are quieter, they are more reliable, they can be operated at higher speeds, and they are far less costly to operate than the trains that were used by SEMTA until 1983.”

DeLora further stated that a demonstration service between Detroit’s Amtrak station and Pontiac could be started immediately after the equipment is made available by Sound Transit and negotiations with the host railroad companies are completed. He stated that those negotiations in order to be successful need the combined support of Governor John Engler, Michigan Department of Transportation Director Gregory J. Rosine, Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, and General Motors Corporation. He further stated that service directly to Renaissance Center could begin after a two-month time period required for rehabilitation and reinstallation of a single-track railroad line located just east of the Chrysler Freeway from approximately East Warren Avenue to and beyond East Jefferson Avenue.

Although MARP and TRU agree that the equipment rental, trackwork reinstallation costs, and operating costs will cost several million dollars, Kendrick-Hands pointed out that the demonstration project would help in analyzing public response to a commuter rail service that can diminish the need for the following proposed freeway expansion projects:

MDOT’s proposed two-block $72 million extension of I-375 into the East Riverfront,
MDOT’s proposed $1.244 billion widening of the 6.7 mile segment of I-94 between the Jeffries Freeway and Conner Avenue in the City of Detroit, and
MDOT’s proposed $447 million widening of I-75 in Oakland County.
DeLora and Kendrick-Hands noted that General Motors has requested improved access to its new developments on the Riverfront and stated that MDOT should be examining commuter rail as a quick, effective, permanent, and non-disruptive remedy to solving GM’s present access problems and as a means for catalyzing new development and reducing the need for costly parking structures in the East Riverfront Area, in the balance of downtown Detroit, and in the older Wayne County and Oakland County suburbs along the railroad right of way. He added that implementation of any I-375 extension is at least three years after the date, possibly this fall, that MDOT receives approvals for the extension from the Federal Highway Administration.

DeLora and Kendrick-Hands also noted that the proposed demonstration should be used to transport members of the public who reside in Detroit and work in office complexes in Troy. They noted that the City of Troy already has set aside a 2.7 acre parcel of land along the Detroit-Pontiac railroad line to serve as a public transportation center. They concluded by stating that MDOT is the logical sponsor for the demonstration project, inasmuch as MDOT is the agency that has the resources to do the demonstration and inasmuch as MDOT has the most to gain by deferring or eliminating costly freeway expansions which MDOT is presently proposing.

MDOT and TRU are both non-profit Michigan corporations. MARP was founded in 1973 to advocate improved intercity and metropolitan rail passenger services. TRU was founded in 2000 to advocate for transportation access and mobility in Southeastern Michigan.

Contact person 

 John DeLora 
(313) 882-8132 

Karen Kendrick-Hands 
(313) 885-7588 

BACKGROUND: The Detroit City Planning Commission, the Ferndale City Council, and the Birmingham City Commission in recent months all have passed resolutions tending to favor establishment of a modern Detroit Renaissance Center – Oakland County commuter rail service. For copies of the resolutions or equipment photos (.jpg format) contact