Governor Granholm signed into law the FY 2006 budget act (P.A. 158) which authorizes $6.1 million for operation of the Blue Water and Pere Marquette trains for the budget year. The act requires that both trains run on a 7-day per week schedule and serve all cities along their routes. The act also provides for penalties if Amtrak chooses to eliminate any of the service prior to the end of the budget year (September 30, 2006).
The act also requires MDOT to work toward finding ways to reduce expenses of operating the trains. This could mean a number of things, such as station staffing, food service, and other operational costs.
There is a provision for increasing the funding level to $7.1 million if Amtrak signs an agreement to move its Beech Grove, Indiana equipment repair and maintenance operation to Battle Creek. Amtrak has already indicated that this is unlikely to occur.
The act is silent regarding fares. Amtrak could conceivably raise its fares to make up for the shortfall in state support. Amtrak has already announced a nationwide fare increase to offset rising fuel expenses.
MARP believes these Amtrak routes are a valuable form of transportation for many Michigan communities. In addition, Amtrak provides jobs to Michigan citizens and purchases goods and services from several Michigan businesses. “The increasing ridership proves that Michigan citizens want the service. High fuel prices and airline bankruptcies make train service even more critical for the future,” said Whims.
MARP wishes to thank its members who communicated their support of Michigan passenger rail service to community leaders and state officials. MARP will continue to work with MDOT and state officials toward reinstating the $7.1 million funding level during the budget year. It is important to let people know that both trains are still running.