Category Archives: Press Releases

U.S. DOT awards $196 million grant for Detroit to Chicago Amtrak rail line

Press release from U.S. DOT:

U.S.  Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today awarded a $196.5 million grant to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for track and signal improvements between Detroit and Kalamazoo, MI.  These improvements will allow for speeds up to 110 mph on 77 percent of Amtrak’s Wolverine and Blue Water services between Detroit and Chicago, resulting in a 30 minute reduction in travel time between those destinations.

“This is an important investment that will reduce travel time, improve reliability and on-time performance, and attract more passengers,” said Secretary LaHood. “We are creating jobs in Michigan, building our rails with American-made materials and growing the regional economy.”

Dollars for this 135 mile segment between Detroit and Kalamazoo will support preliminary engineering, final design and construction.  The project includes new, continuously welded rail and ties, fiber optic lines and infrastructure to support a positive train control system, rebuilding 180 highway-rail grade crossings, and gates and flashers at 65 private highway-rail grade crossings.  The project will create approximately 800 new jobs during the construction phase, which is expected to begin late spring 2012, and will facilitate service to current and future freight rail customers, including major shippers like Ford Motor Company.

“Investing in rail service will spark economic development in communities along a corridor linking Detroit and Chicago, two vital Midwest cities,” said Governor Rick Snyder. “A faster, reliable passenger rail system is a priority for younger generations and vital to Michigan’s ability to compete globally as businesses look to locate or expand. The rail improvements will also hasten the transport of freight, a priority for Ford Motor Company and other Michigan businesses along the route.”

“This funding will help move Michigan and the nation forward by making high-speed rail a part of our economic infrastructure,” said Senator Carl Levin. “Our economic competitors around the world have long enjoyed the benefits of high-speed rail service between their cities. They have demonstrated that high-speed service can create jobs and promote economic growth, and that it can provide a more energy-efficient alternative.”

“Construction of new high-speed lines will create jobs and generate more business activity in Michigan,” Senator Debbie Stabenow said. “This effort will not only boost our economy, it will provide residents with more transportation options. With gas prices as high as they are it is critically important that travelers have more choices in addition to driving.”

“The obligation of Michigan’s rail funding is a critical step forward for high-speed rail service from Detroit to Chicago,” said Congressman John Dingell.  “As a co-author of legislation that created one of the first high-speed rail assistance programs in the country, I believe rail is essential to maintaining and improving the economic competitiveness of the United States.  The development of rail and transit creates immediate and needed construction jobs, retains and recruits local businesses, and reduces our Nation’s dependence on foreign oil.  I thank Secretary LaHood, FRA and the Michigan Department of Transportation for their hard work on this project.”

In addition, MDOT is designated to receive $150 million DOT grant later this year to purchase this 135 mile segment of track, when grant conditions are met.  This will allow for the implementation of 110 mph service along the corridor that will bring improved passenger service, ensure capacity for freight operations through double tracking on the busiest freight segment and deliver long-term economic benefits to the State of Michigan.

The Wolverine and Blue Water routes are part of the Midwest rail network, which has a population base of about 29 million people 100-500 miles from one another.   Midwestern states have been working cooperatively together to plan and further develop an integrated, multi-state passenger rail network.   In addition to the goal of expanding service to new cities, trains in the system will travel at 110 mph on the primary routes and 90 mph on secondary lines, reducing travel time, and increasing reliability and on-time performance.

Source: http://www.fra.dot.gov/roa/press_releases/fp_FRA%2030-11.shtml

Amtrak exhibit train to visit Jackson Oct. 8-9

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2011
Contact: Media Relations
202 906.3860

AMTRAK ANNOUNCES MORE EXHIBIT TRAIN STOPS
Free traveling exhibit showcases Amtrak 40th anniversary

WASHINGTON – In celebration of Amtrak’s 40th anniversary, America’s Railroad(sm) is offering the public an opportunity to view an Exhibit Train, a unique traveling display showcasing the railroad’s history.

The free exhibit showcases Amtrak history over the decades, displaying memorabilia like vintage advertising, past menus and dinnerware, and period uniforms. Most locations also will feature train-themed kids’ activities at Chuggington Kids Depot.

The schedule through October is as follows. Information about each stop can be found on the official website at Amtrak40th.com along with other information about Amtrak history.

June 25 – 26: Strasburg Rail Road*, Lancaster, Pa.
July 9 – 10: Springfield Amtrak Station, Springfield, Mass.
July 16 – 17: New Haven Union Station, New Haven, Conn.
July 23 – 24: New London Union Station, New London, Conn.
July 30 – 31: Providence Amtrak Station, Providence, R.I.
Aug. 6 – 7: Boston South Station, Boston
Aug. 13 – 14: Depot Avenue, Freeport, Maine
Aug. 20 – 21: Main Street Landing, Burlington, Vt.
Aug. 27 – 28: Albany Amtrak Station, Rensselaer, N.Y.
Sept. 3 – 4: Steamtown National Historic Site*, Scranton, Pa.
Sept. 10 – 11: Gateway Station, St. Louis
Sept. 17 – 18: TBD
Sept. 24 – 25: Galesburg Amtrak Station, Galesburg, Ill.
Oct. 1 – 2: Chicago Union Station, Chicago
Oct. 8 – 9: Jackson Amtrak Station, Jackson, Mich.
Oct. 15 – 16: TBD
Oct. 22 – 23: King Street Station, Seattle
Oct. 29 – 30: Portland Amtrak Station, Portland, Ore.

*Chuggington Depot is not available at Strasburg Rail Road or Steamtown National Historic Site events.
Note: Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Strasburg Rail Road events which opens at 9 a.m., and Steamtown National Historic Site which is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

In addition, commemorative 40th anniversary merchandise will be available for purchase onboard the train including: Amtrak: An American Story, a144-page commemorative book that chronicles the history of the railroad with archival photographs, a historical timeline and personal narratives for each decade; Amtrak: The First 40 Years, a documentary DVD produced for public television that provides an exclusive look inside America’s Railroadsm with hard-to-find photographs and video footage as well as interviews with past and present leaders; and a commemorative cachet (envelope) that bears a special pictorial postmark authorized by the United States Postal Service.

For more information on Amtrak’s 40th anniversary, visit the official website at Amtrak40th.com. The site provides details of the anniversary celebration and tells the Amtrak story by allowing users to explore 40 years of historic photographs and other materials in an extensive and dynamic archive. The site also hosts a blog, provides a link to an online store, and allows individuals to sign up to receive an email alert when the Exhibit Train is coming near their town.

About Amtrak®:
Celebrating 40 years of dedicated service as America’s Railroad(sm), Amtrak is the nation’s intercity passenger rail provider and its only high-speed rail operator. A record 28.7 million passengers traveled on Amtrak in FY 2010 on more than 300 daily trains – at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph) – that connect 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces. Amtrak operates trains in partnership with 15 states and four commuter rail agencies. Amtrak also is a strong financial performer achieving an 85 percent cost-recovery ratio in FY 2010. Enjoy the journeysm at Amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and more information. Join us on facebook.com/Amtrak and follow us at twitter.com/Amtrak.

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Rail advocacy group honors former Congressman Joe Schwarz

Contact: Kay Chase, Communications Coordinator
Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers
kay.chase@wmich.edu     269-388-3777

Former Congressman Dr. John J.H. “Joe” Schwarz has been honored for his work to improve and expand passenger train services in Michigan. The “Michigan Leadership Award” was presented to Schwarz by Robert Tischbein, chair of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, at the group’s 38th Annual Meeting held Saturday at Clara’s On the River in Battle Creek.

A lifelong train enthusiast, Schwarz has played important roles as a state legislator, a Congressman, and a private citizen. Schwarz has long recognized modern and efficient train service as an economic development tool and a provider of jobs. He has advocated for trains as a vital component of a safe, convenient and energy efficient transportation system that provides access to business, tourism, and educational venues for travelers of all ages and income levels.

Schwarz was recently appointed by Governor Snyder to represent the public on the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission.  His keynote address to the rail passenger’s group detailed the initiatives of this eleven-state compact to promote, coordinate and support improvements to passenger rail service throughout the region.

What:      Presentation of “Michigan Leadership Award” to former Congressman Dr. John J.H. “Joe” Schwarz

When:     1:30 pm, Saturday, 10 September 2011

Where:    Clara’s On The River, 44 McCamly St. N, Battle Creek MI

Who:        The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, 38th Annual Meeting

Details:    Dr. Schwarz will give the keynote address at 1:00 pm; presentation of award follows at 1:30 pm

Visuals:    Presentation of the award by Robert Tischbein, Chair, Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers

 

The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, Inc. (MARP), is a 501 (c)(3) 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. The organization has more than 300 members statewide, publishes The Michigan Passenger quarterly, and maintains a website at www.marp.org.

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Michigan Flyer Proposes New I-96 Route, Twice as Many Trips to Detroit Airport

From an Indian Trails press release

Michigan Flyer — the airport shuttle service of Indian Trails, Inc., and Okemos Travel — plans to add a new I-96 route this fall,  doubling the number of trips it makes each day between East Lansing and Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Currently, Michigan Flyer offers luxury motor coach service along the I-94 corridor between East Lansing, Jackson, Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro.

To establish the new route on the I-96 corridor between East Lansing, Howell, Brighton, and the Detroit airport, Michigan Flyer is seeking a one-time grant of $1.5 million from the federal Transportation, Community, and System Preservation Program (TCSP) to help fund start-up operations. The new route is expected to become self-sustaining in its second year of operation.

“The new route will make airport shuttle service available to communities along I-96 for the first time,” said Indian Trails President Gordon Mackay. “It also represents a major improvement in convenience for other travelers in mid-Michigan, because it will double the frequency of trips — from 7 to 14 per day — between East Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro. That will enable us to offer hourly departures, which many passengers have told us they want.”

To begin the new route, Michigan Flyer would contribute $390,000 in matching funds/in-kind value toward operations and invest $1.5 million of its own funds to purchase three new luxury motor coaches.

Public-Private Partnership

The TCSP Program funds public-private partnerships to improve the efficiency of the transportation system, reduce environmental impacts of transportation, reduce the need for costly future public infrastructure investments, and ensure efficient access to jobs, services and centers of trade.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and studies by many other authorities, public-private partnerships in transportation often result in significant cost savings, shorter project development times, less public sector financial, operational, and maintenance risk, and greater innovation.

Indian Trails and Michigan Flyer are privately owned providers of public transportation services. A significant percentage of Indian Trails inter-city routes statewide are subsidized by the State of Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is sponsoring Michigan Flyer’s application for the TCSP grant. Michigan Flyer plans to begin the new service as early as Nov. 15, 2011, to serve the public during the peak holiday travel season.

The new I-96 project cannot proceed without the TCSP funding.

Green Transportation Alternative

“MDOT realizes that travelers need alternatives to filling their cars with $3.50-per-gallon gasoline, fighting highway congestion, and paying $10-$18 per day for airport parking,” said Indian Trails Vice President Chad Cushman. “MDOT is also interested in reducing air pollution, conserving energy, and improving highway safety.  Michigan Flyer is by far the greenest, most fuel-efficient and safest way to get to the Detroit airport. Plus, with our free WiFi and electrical outlets, passengers stay connected and productive while riding in comfort.”

“Also, Michigan Flyer runs both ways,” Cushman noted. “So the new I-96 route would, for the first time, enable daily commuters from Southeast Michigan, Brighton, and Howell to reach Lansing-area businesses, education and health institutions, and recreation and entertainment venues.”

Support for Michigan Flyer Application

In addition to MDOT, Michigan Flyer’s grant application is supported by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Rep. Mike Rogers, officials at Michigan State University and University of Michigan, the Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, and communities along the I-96 corridor.

“I am impressed by the efforts of Michigan Flyer to improve regional mass transit and enhance the quality of life,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow wrote to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in June. “I hope you will give their proposal your strong consideration.”

On July 5, the Capital Area Regional Transportation Study (CARTS) committee of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission voted overwhelmingly to recommend planning commission support for Michigan Flyer’s proposal by adding it to the “illustrative list” of transportation improvement projects for TCSP consideration. The planning commission is expected to act on the proposal at its July 27 meeting.

Indian Trails, Inc. — which has served as Michigan’s premiere, family-owned, inter-city motor coach carrier for more than 100 years, and is based  in Owosso—operates one of the largest and newest fleets of deluxe motor coaches in Michigan. Its services include charters, tours, shuttles, airport transfers, casino runs and daily scheduled routes throughout Michigan and into Chicago and Milwaukee.  On the web at http://www.indiantrails.com/.

The Michigan Flyer — whose motto is “Why Drive?” — offers affordable, seamless, luxury motor coach connections between Lansing, Jackson, Ann Arbor, and Detroit Metro Airport. Jointly owned by Indian Trails and Okemos Travel, Michigan Flyer has carried nearly 400,000 passengers since its launch in November 2006 — and has achieved an extraordinary 99 percent rate of on-time arrivals and departures.  On the web at http://www.michiganflyer.com/.

NEW REPORT: MOST AGING BABY BOOMERS FACE POOR MOBILITY OPTIONS

TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2011
CONTACT:
Tim Fischer, Michigan Environmental Council, 734-255-9206
Megan Owens, Transportation Riders United: 248-259-2439
Dave Bulkowski, Disability Network/Michigan: 616-560-2293
Karen Kafantaris, AARP of Michigan: 517-267-8916

More than two-thirds in Metro Detroit have poor access to public transportation

Washington, D.C. and Lansing, MI – By 2015, more than 15.5 million Americans 65 and older – nearly a half-million of them in Metropolitan Detroit and hundreds of thousands in other regions of Michigan  – will live in communities where public transportation service is either poor or non-existent, a new study shows. That number is expected to continue to grow rapidly as the baby boom generation ages in suburbs and exurbs with few mobility options for those who do not drive.
The report, Aging in Place, Stuck without Options, ranks metro areas by the percentage of seniors with poor access to public transportation, now and in the coming years, and presents other data on aging and transportation.
It ranks Metro Detroit as tied for third from the bottom among major cities when judging seniors’ projected access to public transportation by the year 2015. An estimated 68 percent of Detroiters will have “poor” access, the report concludes. That ranks only ahead of Atlanta (90 percent) and Riverside-San Bernadino CA (69 percent).
“The bad news isn’t surprising – Detroit is near the bottom when it comes to providing transportation options to its residents, including senior citizens,” said Tim Fischer of the Michigan Environmental Council.
“The bad news isn’t surprising – Detroit is near the bottom when it comes to providing transportation options to its residents, including senior citizens,” said Tim Fischer of the Michigan Environmental Council. “The good news is that there is growing consensus on the tools we need to fix it. Light rail on Woodward in Detroit, consistent funding sources, consolidation of services, regional coordination and other improvements are getting closer to reality.”
Other Michigan regions and the percentages of seniors who will lack access to public transportation include: Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland (78 percent); Kalamazoo-Battle Creek (69 percent); and Lansing-East Lansing (60 percent).
“The baby boom generation grew up and reared their children in communities that, for the first time in human history, were built on the assumption that everyone would be able to drive an automobile,” said John Robert Smith, president and CEO of Reconnecting America and co-chair of Transportation for America. “What happens when people in this largest generation ever, with the longest predicted lifespan ever, outlive their ability to drive? That’s one of the questions we set out to answer in this report.”
Karen Kafantaris, AARP Michigan associate state director for livable communities, said: “As much as older Americans want to age comfortably in the homes and communities they love – and nine out of ten do – they fear being stuck at home when they don’t drive. But the suburbs and exurbs that will turn gray with the boomers in the next few decades are almost totally car dependent. The good news is that the range of public transportation services and improvements that aging boomers will need to get to the doctor, the grocery store and the movies will improve the quality of life for everyone.”
Kafantaris added the report indicates “this is the worst possible time” for Detroit City Council and other municipal governments to consider cutting transit funding.
“Communities like Detroit have an enormous challenge before us, but it’s also an opportunity,” said Richard Murphy of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance. “It’s true that many of our suburban neighborhoods were built without considering the needs of an aging population. But many of the steps we could take to fix that – improving public transportation service, retrofitting our streets to be safer for walking – will improve quality of life for the entire community.”
“The basic findings come as little surprise as the locally available options are already being rationed,” said David Bulkowski, of Disability Network/Michigan.  As the efforts to address this in our area progress, it is great to have a national framework to help show the widespread nature of the need and the many options available to address that need for seniors and persons with disabilities.”
The transportation issues of an aging America are national in scope, and cash-strapped state and local governments will be looking for federal support in meeting their needs. As Congress prepares this summer to adopt a new, long-term transportation authorization, Aging in Place, Stuck without Options outlines policies to help ensure that older Americans can remain mobile, active and independent, including:
  • Increase funding support for communities looking to improve service such as buses, trains, vanpools, paratransit and ridesharing;
  • Provide funding and incentives for transit operators, nonprofit organizations, and local communities to engage in innovative practices;
  • Encourage state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and transit operators to involve seniors and the community stakeholders in developing plans for meeting the mobility needs of older adults;
  • Ensure that state departments of transportation retain their authority to “flex” a portion of highway funds for transit projects and programs;
  • Include a “complete streets” policy to ensure that streets and intersections around transit stops are safe and inviting for seniors.
“Today, about four in five seniors age 65 and older live in suburban or rural communities that are largely car-dependent,” said Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United. “Without access to affordable travel options, seniors age 65 and older who can no longer drive make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor, 59 percent fewer trips to shop or eat out and 65 percent fewer trips to visit friends and family, than drivers of the same age. Also, as the cost of owning and fueling a vehicle rises, many older Americans on a fixed income are looking for lower-cost options.”
To view the full report and see the extended rankings, please click:
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