Amtrak’s Blue Water (train 365) arrives to the new Amtrak station in New Buffalo, Michigan, Oct. 26, 2009 while being greeted by media, passengers, and area residents. The station, located along Amtrak’s high-speed Michigan District line in downtown New Buffalo, opened officially Oct. 26 and replaces the former Amtrak station south of town on CSX served by Amtrak’s Pere Marquette. Amtrak’s Blue Water (trains 364 and 365) and Wolverine trains 354 and 355 now serve New Buffalo. Amtrak’s Pere Marquette (trains 370 and 371) no longer serve New Buffalo as of Oct. 26. (Photo by J.R. Valderas)
ACTION ALERT! Tell your state legislator to restore funding for Michigan passenger trains to 2009 levels ($7.3 million) in the new transportation budget
The Michigan senate slashed fiscal year 2010 funds for Michigan passenger train service by almost half. The Michigan house of representatives followed the governor’s recommended budget and slashed fiscal year 2010 funds by 22%. Two of the state’s three train routes will cease to operate by early or late spring next year under these budgets. What’s worse is that these actions jeopardize the state’s application for $800 million in federal grants to build a high-speed route linking Detroit to Chicago and other destinations throughout the Midwest and to improve train operations and stations throughout Michigan.
Michigan’s continued investment in current train service is essential to leveraging the federal funding available to bring passenger trains into the 21st century, along with the jobs and economic development that will accompany this expansion.
Please PHONE or EMAIL your state senator and representative NOW.
– Tell them YOU RIDE THE TRAIN, and
– Ask them to RESTORE FUNDING for the Pere Marquette and the Blue Water routes to the full $7.3 million provided in the current year.
Phone or email Your Legislator http://senate.michigan.gov/SenatorInfo/find-your-senator.htm – (517) 373-2400 http://house.michigan.gov/find_a_rep.asp – (517) 373-0135
Let Governor Granholm Know You Support Trains http://www.michigan.gov/gov/0,1607,7-168-21995—,00.html – (517) 335-7858 – Constituent Services
The Blue Water route provides daily roundtrip service to Port Huron, Lapeer, Flint, Durand, East Lansing, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Dowagiac and Niles. The Pere Marquette provides daily service for travelers in Grand Rapids, Holland, Bangor, St. Joseph, and New Buffalo.
Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers
Citizen group to State Legislature: Seven-day train service vital for Michigan’s downtowns, travelers
For Immediate Release
30 July 2009
John Langdon, Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers: 616.218.9009
Tim Fischer, Michigan Environmental Council: 517.487.3606 ext. 12
The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers has unanimously approved a resolution of support for continuing seven day a week passenger train service on both the Pere Marquette and Blue Water routes.
“Recent actions in Lansing have prompted us to take this action to protect a travel choice that is more important than ever in this difficult economy,” said John DeLora, who chairs the organization.
Proposed state budget cuts would eliminate at least one and perhaps both of the train routes at a time when more riders than ever rely on them.
“Ridership on these routes has grown more than 50% in the last six years,” DeLora said.
Convenient passenger trains service is an important component of revitalizing Michigan’s economy, said Tim Fischer, deputy policy director with the Michigan Environmental Council.
“Killing rail service will rip vital economic arteries from the hearts of downtowns served by these trains,” Fischer said. “This would be a loss not just for the riders, but for dozens of Michigan towns.”
Passenger trains have become increasingly essential over the last decade despite years of underfunding at the federal level. Last April, President Obama announced a $13 billion initiative to dramatically improve and expand train service throughout the nation.
“Michigan has a good chance to capture some of this funding to complete the high speed rail line connecting Chicago and Detroit,” said John Langdon, governmental affairs coordinator.
The state of Michigan provides operational support for two of the three routes in Michigan. The Pere Marquette, which is celebrating its 25th year of service, serves Grand Rapids, Holland, Bangor, St. Joseph, and New Buffalo. The Blue Water serves Port Huron, Lapeer, Flint, Durand, East Lansing, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Dowagiac, and Niles.
# # #
The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers (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. For more information, visit www.marp.org.
Beginning June 29, the trains shown below will operate according to new schedules:
• Blue Water Trains 364 and 365
• Wolverine Trains 350, 351, 352, 353, 354 and 355
Trains 350, 351 and 353 will operate on an earlier schedule at all stations. Please note: Thruway Motorcoach 8353 will operate 20 minutes earlier to allow passengers to make connections to Train 353 in Battle Creek.
Train 354, 355, 364 and 365 will operate on a later schedule at most stations.
Train 352 will be adjusted a few minutes later at most stations and slightly earlier at others.
For schedule information, visit Amtrak.com, call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) or speak with a ticket agent. Schedules will also be posted at stations.
The new schedules replace those published in Amtrak’s 2009 Spring-Summer System Timetable.
This report was prepared for the Michigan Department of Transportation
by the Seidman College of Business Grand Valley State University.
Passenger rail service is perceived to provide important benefits to Michigan communities. The extent of these benefits has never been quantified in a systematic way and, in 2008, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) contracted with Grand Valley State University to perform a broad based assessment of the community level benefits of passenger rail service.
The main objective of the research project has been to estimate the full range of these benefits at the community level. It is understood that passenger rail services provide important additional benefits to the state and the region in terms of congestion relief, safety, air quality improvement, and energy conservation. These benefits are discussed in the report but statewide or regional benefits are not quantified.
The research included a literature survey of other related studies to assess methodological implications for this project. Conclusions derived were that: benefits are sensitive to ridership activity (which is in turn influenced by service offerings); regional economic data should be used where possible; benefits of foregone travel should be estimated; long term benefits are contingent on local and regional development plans; and, projected benefits represent only estimates at a point in time subject to changing demographics, the economic profiles of different regions and the cost structure of competing forms of transportation.
It is important to recognize that Michigan communities receive only low or medium frequency levels of passenger rail service. Eleven of Michigan’s 22 station communities have only a single daily round trip while the other half have from two to four daily round trips. These levels of service should not be expected to generate the kinds of economic impacts experienced by communities served by commuter rail, light rail, or heavy rail systems with hourly or more frequent service throughout the day. That said, existing Amtrak services to Michigan communities have been found to generate significant benefits and these benefits can be meaningfully quantified.
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, operating under the Amtrak name, has since 1971, been the sole provider of intercity passenger rail service in Michigan. These services are provided to Michigan stations located on three corridors…
- The Wolverine Corridor between Pontiac, Detroit and Chicago
- The Blue Water Corridor between Port Huron and Chicago
- The Pere Marquette Corridor between Grand Rapids and Chicago.
Ridership on these services has grown by over 50% thus far this decade—from 457,000 passengers in the year 2000 to 724,000 passengers in 2008.
The 22 stations vary greatly in terms of ownership, age, architecture, staffing, and operation. They range from simple bus stop type shelters to historic restored depots to relatively modern buildings. Only ten of the stations are staffed with Amtrak station agents. Passengers boarding at other locations must purchase their ticket from a ticket machine, travel agent, Amtrak’s web site, or from the conductor on the train. Thirteen of the stations are city owned, five are Amtrak owned, one each are owned by a local transit agency, Michigan State University, MDOT and a private owner. Operating responsibilities lie with cities, transit agencies, Amtrak, civic organizations or a mix of any of these organizations. There is no common model.
The principal objective of this research was to determine the benefits of passenger rail service to a local community. As such, a unique “Community Benefits Summary Sheet” was prepared for each station community. This Excel spreadsheet approach utilized information from MDOT’s Transportation Management System (TMS). The spreadsheet is easily updatable and could possibly be directly integrated with the TMS system. Benefits may be classified into the following categories:
a. Individual traveler benefits. Passenger trains offer an economical mode of transportation that is usually less expensive than flying or driving. This task compared existing passenger rail costs to costs that would be incurred if there were no passenger rail service in a community and alternative modes were used (or, alternately the trip was foregone). Ridership information was first obtained for each station from MDOT’s Transportation Management System. The second step was to determine whether these travelers would make the trip in the absence of Amtrak service, and, if so, what mode would they use (auto, bus or plane). The 2007 MDOT/University of Michigan on-board survey was used for this purpose. The third step was to determine the costs of alternative mode travel. This was done primarily by internet searches of bus and airline fares assuming a 14-day advance purchase of a round trip ticket on a non-peak travel day. Costs for auto drivers was assumed to be the first half of 2008, IRS rate of $.505 per mile divided by auto occupancy of about 1.8 persons (occupancy levels varied somewhat from corridor to corridor). This information was compiled for all major travel pairs for each station. Total statewide traveler savings were calculated as $20.0 million for those individuals who used Amtrak instead of other modes of transportation. An estimate of the economic benefit of Amtrak service for passengers who would not make the trip in the absence of Amtrak service was calculated at $2.7 million.
b. Local business benefits. Travelers may utilize the train to travel to or from a community where they may use a taxi, rent a car, stay at a hotel, and eat at a restaurant. They may attend a conference or a sports event and they may shop in the community. This may vary from community to community but these and similar expenditures send a stream of benefits to many parts of the area. On-board survey data was used to determine the percentage of travelers that used taxis, rental cars, or local transit to access the train. Information was also obtained on passengers using hotels as well as length of stay. Respondents also indicated a primary trip purpose such as business or shopping. These responses allowed the research team to develop estimates, for example, of the number of persons who used taxis, stayed at hotels and shopped in station communities. The team was careful to isolate persons spending money in Michigan as opposed to Chicago or other out-of-state locations. Since Chicago is an important destination for Michigan train travelers it was important to exclude certain costs for travelers who resided in Michigan and were going to Chicago. As such, a conservative approach was utilized that considered Michigan hotel stays, meals, shopping and other activities for only non-Michigan residents. These types of direct expenditures send a stream of benefits throughout the community and were subject to an economic multiplier that resulted in local community benefits of $25.7 million.
c. Amtrak Expenditures. Amtrak operates all of the passenger rail services in Michigan. As such, Amtrak expends considerable amounts of money in Michigan for employee wages, supplies, and stations. In 2008, Amtrak employed 115 persons in Michigan. There are 48 persons involved in train operations as engineers, conductors, or train maintenance workers. There are 27 persons involved with station services including selling tickets. There are 40 employees involved in track and signal maintenance jobs related to the Amtrak owned track between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana. These employees were assigned to individual stations based on their work assignments. Other costs such as hotel, meal, and taxi costs for crew layovers in Michigan were also calculated by station, as were estimates for fuel and other supplies purchased in Michigan for use on Michigan services. As might be expected Amtrak expenditures are heavily weighted towards those station communities that serve as a crew base for Amtrak employees. Pontiac and Niles are good examples of stations with modest ridership but high levels of Amtrak expenditures. Costs for Amtrak vendor procurements that were not directly related to Michigan train operations were not included (e.g., purchase of over $1 million in shoes from a Michigan vendor). Direct and indirect expenditures associated with Amtrak service in Michigan amounted to $13.6 million.
The 22 Michigan communities with Amtrak stations receive $62 million annually in quantifiable benefits attributable to passenger rail service. These benefits are summarized below for each of the three corridors. It is important to state that these represent quantifiable benefits attributable only to the local communities. Additional benefits more difficult to quantify relate to how the existence of passenger rail service in a community enhances its image as a place to live and do business. Significant additional benefits also accrue to the region and the state related to traffic congestion relief, safety, energy conservation, and air quality improvement. These benefits are substantial and research for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) indicates that safety and vehicle emission costs alone amounted to $.07 per vehicle mile in 1999. It is important to emphasize that these and other macro level benefits must be included in any consideration of the overall value of Amtrak service.
Summary of Quantifiable Community Benefits
|Pere Marquette Corridor||Blue Water Corridor||Wolverine Corridor||Total Statewide|
|Non-traveler savings||$ 345,737||$ 545,449||$ 1,848,575||$ 2,739,761|
|Local business benefits||$3,572,199||$2,942,865||$19,159,480||$25,674,544|
|Amtrak expenditures||$ 551,035||$1,949,089||$11,133,556||$13,633,680|
|Total community benefits||$7,277,351||$9,721,374||$45,013,716||$62,012,441|
Telephone interviews of community leaders and field surveys of each station were conducted as part of the work effort. This enabled the research team to obtain information and determine perceived and actual benefits associated with having an Amtrak station in a community. In general, there was a high degree of community support for the stations. The importance of the station to the community varies depending on the size and nature of the community and the type of station. In the smaller communities, the station may serve as a focal point for local activities and may even provide meeting space for public events or house the offices of the local chamber of commerce. In many cases, the station is seen as the only public link to intercity transportation because of the lack of intercity bus service or access to air service.
In larger communities, the service is viewed as one part of the multimodal transportation system but an important asset to the community. The location of the facility determines its potential for acting as a catalyst for further community economic development. The direct impact of the station on local businesses was generally acknowledged but little hard data was available. Restaurants and bars near stations receive additional business from travelers waiting for the train or disembarking in the community. Taxis serve most stations if the community is large enough to support a taxi service.
In tourist-oriented communities, rail service provides direct access (walking) to local attractions. This is the case in St. Joseph, Dearborn (Greenfield Village platform) and New Buffalo. The survey respondents viewed passenger rail service as an important option for minority 10 and low income populations in the communities. It was also seen as an important service for college students in university communities such as East Lansing, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, and Albion.
A number of station communities have recently improved their stations and others are planning to do so. The report contains case studies of strategic approaches to station development by six Michigan communities. The report also contains a discussion of other community development benefits resulting from station development initiatives. This includes increased employment, increased property values and increased tax base. The concept of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is discussed. Further, a literature review was undertaken of economic impacts associated with rail related developments. Most of the national research deals with developments in high-density urban areas where high levels of transit service are being proposed. This is quite different from the Michigan situation but does offer some insight on the strategic and developmental aspects of station development. The authors did obtain information on economic development issues relating to a proposed new commuter rail service in Wisconsin and the Amtrak “Downeaster” service from Boston to Portland. The latter service is more closely aligned with Michigan type services, but with important differences in terms of corridor length and service frequency. Economic studies of the “Downeaster” service expect significant growth in ridership and local development adjacent to the stations over the next few years.
Significant local economic benefits are associated with the provision of Amtrak service in Michigan. This research indicates local communities currently realize $62.0 million annually in benefits. Additional benefits accrue to the region, state, and nation in the form of congestion relief, air quality improvement, energy conservation, and safety. The benefits accrue to the local community even though service is very limited with only a single daily round trip provided to half of Michigan’s stations. This severely limits the potential for economic development impacts. The implementation of greatly improved levels of service and train speeds such as those in the proposed high speed Midwest Regional Rail System would dramatically change station area dynamics and overall benefit levels for local communities. The addition of commuter services in the southeast Michigan region would also result in major station development opportunities.
104 Capital Avenue S.W.
Battle Creek, MI 49017
The Battle Creek station is an intermodal center owned by the Battle Creek Transportation Authority. It has fairly good access by car, and all city buses come to the station. For short term parking, it is recommended that passengers use the ice skating rink parking lot immediately west of the station. Long term parking permits are available from the agent which allows passengers to park their cars in the station drive. The area is quite safe, and cars can be left in the long term parking area for extended periods without worry.
The downtown area of Battle Creek has undergone a substantial redevelopment in recent years, and the station is surrounded by a 4-star hotel, a water park , a convention arena and the downtown shopping district. The exterior of the station retains the lines of a traditional station, but there’s nothing traditional about it at night. Station eaves, roof lines and columns are lit by neon and fluorescent lights, and the result is spectacular.
Being an intermodal station with substantial traffic and isused by Amtrak, Indian Trails, Greyhound and Battle Creek Transit . The station was built 30 years ago in what was then a popular design which some call “Urban Gothic,” with concrete, steel deck plate and black leather décor. A $3.8 million renovation was completed in June 2012 that changed some of that. The enlarged facility is a light tan, with new, expanded seating and a much more open and inviting interior. One notable change is that the bus ticket counter has been moved down a hallway to the west, and is now more conveniently located to the intercity bus boarding dock. The Amtrak agent occupies one half, the bus agent the other half. Vending machines are available in an alcove. There are plenty of restaurants ranging from fast food to Four Star within a short walk.
The city used another stimulus award to relocate the bus transfer center from next to the train station to across McCamly Street at a cost of $230,262. Battle Creek Transit buses now use a loop west of the station with shelters for the east route.
200 South Railroad Street
Durand, MI 48429
The city of Durand has posted directional signs leading to the station. (Photos by Larry Sobczak)
The Durand Union Station has led a storied life that makes the Perils of Pauline look sedate. Fortunately for passengers, the historic depot still stands today. Access to the station is a bit difficult, as track owner Canadian National Railroad insisted upon closing the most direct crossing to the station. With the help of recently added signs, navigating to the station via Russell Street and a residential district is not nearly as confusing as it once was. Once at the station, plenty of free parking is available, and safety is not a question in this small town. There is no public transportation to this unstaffed station.
The station building is now owned by the non-profit Durand Union Station, Inc., and is home of the Michigan Railroad History Museum. Together, they have restored the 1905-built building bit by bit, and today it is home to several interesting displays about railroad history in Michigan. The Amtrak waiting room is maintained at the northern end of the building, and features a meticulously restored wrought-iron and wood ticket counter, though tickets cannot be purchased at this location. The waiting room is open for the morning and evening arrivals of the Blue Water, and has several wooden benches and a rack full of Amtrak travel information.
Durand has long been an important junction point for trains in Michigan, and remains so today. The station building is enormous for a town the size of Durand, but at one time over 100 trains a day passed through, including up to 42 passenger trains. Due to the volume and variety of trains which still pass through today, the station is a gathering point for hard core railfans from across the country. They can easily be identified as those carrying railroad radio scanners and video cameras monitoring and recording the train movements. The recently installed black fence along the tracks is not just for decoration, there is a $50.00 fine for trespassing on railroad property, and this is strictly enforced by both railroad and city police. Railroad safety is a big deal!
When Canadian National abandoned the station in 1974 and began preparations for demolition, the city undertook a monumental effort to acquire the building for preservation. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the task of stabilization and then restoration began. Cost saving alterations which occurred late in the building’s life were removed, and a new red tile roof was installed. The result is a lovingly restored train station which is one of the most distinctive in the country. Over one hundred years after the station was built, the waiting room is still open, and you can still buy a ticket to Durand.
1240 South Harrison Road
East Lansing, MI 48823
(Photo by J.R. Valderas)
The staffed East Lansing station is the hub for intercity land travel into and out of the state capital region. Access is easy – simply take the Trowbridge Road exit from I-496/US-127, follow Trowbridge to Harrison Road (the first major intersection), turn south and cross the first set of railroad tracks, and the station is immediately on the right. This location makes it convenient to people from around the greater Lansing area, and also to students at Michigan State University, as the station is located at the southwest corner of campus. Parking includes 20 spaces in front of the station; if these are full, an additional 45 spaces are available to the side of and behind the station building. Some spaces are marked with signs indicating an Amtrak permit is required, so be sure to check with the station agent if you park here to see if a permit is necessary or not.
This station is also a stop on the Amtrak Thruway motorcoach to Toledo Ohio, which provides a guaranteed connection to the Lake Shore Limited and the Capitol Limited. Contact Amtrak or a station ticket agent for details about this connection.
Vending machines are available in the waiting room, and there are also several convenience stores and restaurants within a short walk. Local city bus service is provided by the Capital Area Transportation Authority, and the station is currently a stop on CATA routes 20, 30, and 38. Not all routes run at all times, so be sure to check ahead. Taxi phone numbers are also posted in the station.
East Lansing is home to Michigan State University, the largest in Michigan. Adjacent Lansing is Michigan’s state capital, and the beautifully restored 1878 Capitol building is well worth a visit. Also worth a visit is the Library of Michigan, and the Michigan History Museum, an excellent museum full of state history. For decades, Lansing was home to the REO Motor Car Company, and the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors, and the R. E. Olds Museum pays tribute to these important components of the local past. The Greater Lansing Visitors Bureau offers a look at many additional cultural and local attractions of the area.
1407 South Dort Highway
Flint, MI 48503
The access to the Flint station is somewhat better marked than most. The facility is in an area that is isolated from any businesses. The area has recently had a major transit facility constructed next to the Amtrak station, and the main problem now is a tight parking situation. It is safe to leave cars here for extended periods.
The Flint station is an “Amshack” design, and it is just about the right size for the current traffic load. The real plus is an agent who not only keeps it immaculate, but who also plants and maintains attractive flower plantings around the station. The station has vending machines, but there are no restaurants within walking distance.
Local bus service is provided by the Flint Mass Transit Authority. Buses for route # 20 stop across the parking lot from the station; consult the authority regarding bus connections to other routes.
Although local website links are not the best, Flint offers a lot to do for the visitor. Although still primarily an auto-factory town, Flint has excellent museums, educational facilities, and many interesting places worth a visit in the immediate area.
459 North Burdick Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
The Amtrak station in Kalamazoo has a long history dating back to the Michigan Central Railroad. (Photo by J.R. Valderas)
The staffed station in Kalamazoo underwent a year long renovation which was completed in the summer of 2006. Today, it is a fine example of historic preservation efforts, and is Michigan’s second busiest Amtrak station. It is located on the north edge of downtown, between Rose Street on the west side and Burdick Street on the east side. The large sandstone building (built in 1887) is the intermodal transit hub of Kalamazoo, and includes not only Amtrak, but Greyhound and Indian Trails bus lines, and city bus operator Kalamazoo Transportation Authority.
Metered parking is available along Burdick and Rose streets, and another metered lot is located across Rose from the station. A long term parking deck is located across Kalamazoo Street in front of the station building. Taxis are always present for train arrivals; the cab stand is located on the Rose Street side of the station.
The renovation work restored the station to much of its original grandeur. The confusing waiting room created during a 1970s renovation was restored to a more open setting, with a new wrought-iron and wood Amtrak ticket window installed at the center of the building. The bay window was restored, and original and duplicate wooden benches now grace the waiting room. A sundry and snack shop is open at the Rose Street (west) end of the building for passengers to make purchases. There is also a McDonald’s across Rose, and several other excellent but inexpensive restaurants within a short walk of the station.
The station’s only downfall is its close proximity to a local rescue mission, whose clients often drop into the station for brief periods of time. The Kalamazoo Police Department regularly has patrols through the station to keep the situation under control. Although the waiting room is much larger than just a few years ago, it can be a very busy place, and crowds often get quite large for popular trains. Station stops are often longer than normal due to the high passenger count here.
Downtown Kalamazoo has been revitalized over the past years and is full of interesting shops, restaurants, and parks. It is the home of Western Michigan University, and has such attractions as the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Kalamazoo Pedestrian Mall. It is rich in history and preservation, and this is mirrored by the city’s consistent effort to maintain the beautiful station building.
73 Howard Street
Lapeer, MI 48446
Lapeer Amtrak Station (Photo by Larry Sobczak)
The Lapeer station is not easy to find; however, once there, parking is not a problem. Although unstaffed, the Greater Lapeer Area Transit Agency (GLATA), the owner of the station, has personnel on hand to open the station at train times. It is safe to leave your car here for extended periods.
GLATA also provides Dial-a-Ride service to the City of Lapeer and most surrounding Townships. Call (810) 664-4566 to reserve a ride BEFORE your trip.
GLATA has cleaned up and restored the station very nicely, which is also used for community meetings. There is a restaurant and a convenience store one block north of the station.
Interior of the Lapeer Amtrak Station (Photo by J.R. Valderas)
225 North Whittaker St.
New Buffalo, MI 49117
Located in the heart of downtown New Buffalo at 225 N. Whitaker St., the new station opened Oct. 26, 2009 to serve Wolverine Trains 354 and 355, which serves 15 cities from Chicago to Pontiac, Mich.; and Blue Water Trains 364 and 365, which operate to 11 cities from Chicago to Port Huron, Mich. As of Oct. 26, Amtrak’s Pere Marquette no longer stops in New Buffalo. The new station stop provides complimentary parking for up to 25 Amtrak passengers at a parking lot located just west of the station on Oselka Dr., parallel to the railroad tracks.
Public transportation is provided by Berrien Bus. Hours of service are limited, so check first.