Category Archives: FYI

Amtrak Plans Events to Celebrate National Train Day

Amtrak National Train DayAmtrak will host the third annual National Train Day on May 8 with events across the country to celebrate America‘s love for trains. National Train Day commemorates the 141st anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad‘s inception by bringing to life the rich narrative of how trains transformed America. Large-scale, family-friendly events will be held in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles.

National Train Day celebrates the train‘s impact on our country and provides an opportunity for Americans to further understand the influence rail has on the future of transportation in America, said Emmett H. Fremaux, vice president, marketing and product management, Amtrak. With a greater national focus on energy efficiency in travel, trains are already a leading alternative with 20 percent more fuel efficiency than commercial airlines and 28 percent more efficiency than car travel per passenger mile.

On May 8, Amtrak will host free events, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., in four of its gateway stations across the U.S. In addition, local communities nationwide are encouraged to develop and host their own National Train Day celebrations. More than 140 local celebrations took place in 2009 and Amtrak expects even more in 2010. As part of National Train Day, each major market event will feature live entertainment, interactive and educational exhibits, kids’ entertainment, model train displays and tours of notable private railroad cars, Amtrak equipment, freight and commuter trains. For more information, visit  or


February 25, 2010

Michigan’s transportation department’s proposal to close the Pere Marquette rail service between Grand Rapids and Chicago would be a costly mistake for the state’s economic development and tourism interests, according to local lawmakers.

State Rep. Bob Genetski was among five southwest Michigan representatives who sent a letter on Feb. 23 to Kirk T. Steudle, Michigan Department of Transportation director, highlighting the importance of the rail line to families and local communities.

“The train service provides economical transportation for workers commuting to jobs between Grand Rapids and Chicago, and families use the Pere Marquette to make lasting vacation memories while traveling to our picturesque local communities along the lakeshore and in the region,” said Genetski, R-Saugatuck. “Our towns are seeing some growth as a direct result of the rail service. Any reduction in the service will diminish the opportunities the train has been delivering successfully for the last quarter century.”

The lawmakers’ letter points to the exponential business and population growth in the city of Grand Rapids in recent years, as well as in other southwest Michigan communities such as New Buffalo, Niles, South Haven and Holland. The document also mentions the valuable link the rail service provides to Chicago residents who travel north into Michigan for recreation and vacation opportunities.

Another argument for the Pere Marquette line comes from MDOT’s own Web site, which reported that “from 2002 to 2008, Amtrak ridership in Michigan has grown by 60 percent,” and “Pere Marquette service has grown every year since 2001.”

“Michigan is searching for solutions to turn our economy and job market around,” Genetski said. “Those answers won’t be found in one magic box, but in many smaller pieces of the puzzle. The Pere Marquette is not only a piece of that, but it actually helps connect many of the other parts.
“It doesn’t make sense for the state department to eliminate or even reduce something that is working for Michigan and its residents.”

BLOG: How About High Speed Rail for Every Major City?

From LA Streets Blog

by Elana Schor on February 9, 2010

HS.png(Image: U.S. PIRG)

Now that the Obama administration has awarded $8 billion in high-speed rail grants to more than two dozen states, with $2.5 billion more coming soon, why not keep thinking big when it comes to bullet-train expansion? 

That’s the ethos of a new report released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) calling for a New Deal-like public works juggernaut that would eventually connect all major cities located within 100 and 500 miles of each other. For a look at how such a system would remake the American rail map, check out the image above. 

“The first step in building the network is to set a national goal with an ambitious time frame, just like we did for the Interstate Highway System or getting to the moon,” U.S. PIRG senior analyst Phineas Baxandall wrote in a blog post unveiling the report. “We can link all our major cities by 2050, if we set our minds to it.” 

Given the political wrangling over the deficit that continues to paralyze Washington, however, it’s worth asking how an ambitious rail program would be funded. The U.S. PIRG answers that question in several ways: First, the group calls for a dedicated revenue stream for inter-city passenger rail in the next long-term transportation bill, with local investments matched by the federal government in the same 80:20 ratio that highway plans receive.

“By financing transportation projects equitably,” the report’s authors write, “states will be able to make rational transportation decisions based on the needs of their residents, rather than on the chances of securing a lucrative federal match.” 

Secondly, the U.S. PIRG aims to put government support for Amtrak — often derided by conservatives for its reliance on federal subsidies that also benefit road projects — in perspective. When evaluated as a share of U.S. GDP, government investment of passenger rail looks stunningly low compared with other industrialized nations. The imbalance is visible in the chart below:

chart_2.png(Chart: U.S. PIRG)

From the U.S. PIRG report: 

To begin to dig out of that hole, the federal government should invest steadily increasing levels of funding in passenger rail. We probably cannot hope to match the $300 billion China will be investing in its high-speed rail system between now and 2020, but we should endeavor to match the level of investment provided by other industrialized nations, as a share of GDP, in their rail networks.

The group does not address the lingering debate over whether all planned U.S. inter-city rail projects can truly be called “high-speed” given that many would achieve maximum speeds little better than 110 miles per hour. Still, its vision of finishing the job begun by the White House this year is likely to fire up rail advocates and give helpful new tools to local planners.

Link to Blog:

Online video: Blueprint America-Beyond the Motor City

Aired on PBS, Feb. 8, 2010

Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City examines how Detroit, a symbol of America’s diminishing status in the world, may come to represent the future of transportation and progress in America. The film debuts nationally on PBS on February 8 at 10 pm (check local listings).

Detroit is the crucible in which the nation’s ability to move toward a modern 21st century transportation infrastructure is put to the test. The documentary shows how investments in the past — beginning with the construction of canals in the 18th century — profoundly shaped Detroit’s physical layout, population growth and economic development. Before being dubbed the Motor City, Detroit was once home to the nation’s most extensive streetcar system. In fact, it was that vast network of streetcars that carried workers to the area’s many car factories. And it was the cars made in those factories that would soon displace the streetcars in Detroit — and in every major American city.

Detroit’s engineers went on to design the nation’s first urban freeways and inspired much of America’s 20th century transportation infrastructure system — from traffic signals to gas stations — that became the envy of the word.

But over the last 30 years, much of the world has moved on, choosing faster, cleaner, more modern transportation and leaving America — and Detroit — behind. Viewers are taken on a journey beyond Detroit’s blighted urban landscape to Spain, home to one of the world’s most modern and extensive transit systems; to California, where voters recently said yes to America’s first high speed rail system; and to Washington, where Congress will soon decide whether to finally push America’s transportation into the 21st century.

Watch the video online at:

Michigan Flyer pick-up and drop-off location changes

Indian Trails announced the Michigan Flyer motorcoach shuttle to the Detroit Metro Airport McNamara Terminal has moved to a more convenient location effective Feb. 3, 2010. The McNamara Terminal is host to Delta/Northwest, Air France, KLM and Continental* airlines.

The motorcoaches will drop off and pick up at curb-side next to the international arrival doors. This level is well known to travelers as International Arrivals level (Ll).

It shares the pick-up and drop off location with SMART, the airport’s intra-city public transportation bus company. The sign outside the international arrival door is marked “Smart Bus/Employee Shuttle”. There is no specific sign for Michigan Flyer, however, the brand new luxury fleet has enhanced decals identifying the motor coach as Michigan Flyer and Indian Trails. Travelers will be able to see the coach arriving at the terminal through the large glass wall.

For detailed instructions please see – Detroit Metro location page.

This is great news for passengers, since they will no longer have to cross the bridge walk to the ground transportation parking ramp areas. The International Arrivals waiting area is well heated, has ample restrooms and a convenience store with soft drinks, snacks, magazines and more.