Category Archives: Press Releases



MARCH 24, 2005

CONTACT: John DeLora, Executive Director or Mike Whims, Chairman
PHONE: (313) 575-6608 or (248) 892-4545  

Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta and the Bush Administration think letting Amtrak go into bankruptcy is the solution for intercity passenger rail. However, the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers (MARP) views this plan weak and irresponsible.

Secretary Mineta is visiting various cities across the U.S. talking about the Bush Administration’s plan for intercity passenger rail, which includes the “Passenger Rail Investment Act” that will soon be re-introduced to Congress. MARP feels this plan is full of holes and could leave many parts are the country without intercity passenger rail service.

Part of the Bush Administration’s plan is to shift passenger rail funding to the individual states. This plan is weak for states to be able to afford passenger rail funding when they are suffering from budget woes. Here in Michigan, the state currently funds the operation of the Chicago to Port Huron Blue Water and the Chicago to Grand Rapids Pere Marquette, while Amtrak funds the Chicago to Detroit Wolverine Service. This year, the Michigan Department of Transportation provided $7.1 million in operating subsidies to keep the Blue Water and Pere Marquette trains running. Under the Bush Administration’s plan, those subsidies are expected to significantly increase if the state is responsible to subsidize the Wolverine Service.

Finding dedicated passenger rail funds will be difficult for the state of Michigan and the federal government. In Michigan, it’s often an annual legislative battle to get transportation dollars while the federal government has to appropriate subsidies from the general fund for Amtrak. Secretary Mineta has not addressed where any dedicated rail passenger funding will come from.

“Mineta commends states like California for creating a partnership with Amtrak and expanding passenger rail.” Said John DeLora, MARP Executive Director. “He (Mineta) does not mention passenger rail gets funding through a dedicated gas tax that California voters approved in the early 1990’s.”

DeLora fears Michigan may not support a rise in gas taxes to pay for passenger rail, especially with the current fuel costs. This could mean all Michigan Amtrak could come to a grinding halt if there is no money.

Mineta contends the long-distance Amtrak trains are the real money losers and the “anchor bringing down the entire Amtrak system.” MARP argues this is not true when the long distance trains help support a bigger network and offer transportation services to places where there are no airlines, buses, or easy access to highways. Mineta thinks it would be cheaper to give a passenger an airline ticket versus subsidizing an Amtrak train. How can this be done in cities like Port Huron, Lapeer, Durand, or Niles where there are no airports or bus services?

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


Proposed Amtrak cuts could hurt Michigan


CONTACT: John DeLora, Executive Director or Mike Whims, Chairman
PHONE: (313) 575-6608 or (248) 892-4545  

The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers (MARP) is deeply concerned about President George Bush’s Fiscal 2006 budget proposal. His administration proposes eliminating all funding for Amtrak, which would be detrimental to all Amtrak Michigan passenger rail services.

Amtrak currently serves three corridors in Michigan, which include Chicago to Detroit (Wolverine Services), Chicago to Port Huron (the Blue Water), and Chicago to Grand Rapids (the Pere Marquette), with a total of ten daily trains. The State of Michigan currently funds the operation of the Blue Water and the Pere Marquette, while Amtrak funds the Wolverine Service.

Should Congress approve zero funding for Amtrak, and then it will be up to each state to foot the bill for all operating costs. Michigan, like many other states, is suffering from budget deficits and cannot afford to make up these costs.

John DeLora, MARP Executive Director, feels these proposed cuts make no sense when ridership is increasing on all Michigan Amtrak trains.

“Over 600,000 Michigan passengers use Amtrak per year.” DeLora states. “It also serves several Michigan cities which do not have air or bus services.”

The loss of Amtrak trains could hit hard on college students traveling from cities like Ann Arbor, East Lansing, or Kalamazoo, business travelers from the Detroit area, and even weekend travelers going to Chicago from Grand Rapids. The train provides the best access to downtown Chicago compared to air. Also, many travelers like to avoid the heavy traffic on the highways by riding the train.

Congestion is getting worse on many roads and airports like Chicago’s O’Hare. Expanding Amtrak services and not eliminating it should be the goal of the Bush Administration to improve overall mobility of the country.

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




Passenger rail service in the United States is seriously threatened! President Bush has proposed to CUT ALL FUNDING to Amtrak beginning October 1, 2005. The national passenger rail system gives Americans a necessary travel choice to highways and airplanes, and is the ONLY intercity service to many communities without air or intercity bus connections.

Nationwide rail travel is at record levels this year, increasing 4.3% over last year. Since September 11, 2001, rail travel is gaining national popularity and purpose. Over 25 million passengers rode Amtrak last year.

Michigan rail ridership has been steadily increasing at double-digit percentages over the past two years. (See chart) The State of Michigan supports passenger rail service with funding for the Pere Marquette and Blue Water trains, but these trains and the Pontiac-Chicago Wolverine service will end unless Congress acts to save and expand the federal support of Amtrak.

Contact your elected officials and let them know that you support continued funding of national passenger rail. Include a personal story about why Amtrak is important to you, if possible. See contact information below.

Call, fax or email your elected officials (postal letters are subject to long security delays). Include the President, Congressional representatives, State leaders and your local mayor and/ or councilpersons in your correspondence.

The President: ph. (202) 456-1111, fax (202) 456-2461, email
U.S. Senate/House switchboard: (202) 224-3121 or go to,
The Governor: (517) 373-3400
Michigan Senate switchboard: (517) 373-2400, or go to
Michigan House switchboard: (517) 373-0135, or go to

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