ACTION ALERT! Tell your state legislator to restore funding for Michigan passenger trains to 2009 levels ($7.3 million) in the new transportation budget

September 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Press Releases 

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

July 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Press Releases 

For Immediate Release

30 July 2009

Contact:
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.

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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.

Michigan Passenger Rail Station Community Benefits Study

June 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reports 

This report was prepared for the Michigan Department of Transportation
by the Seidman College of Business Grand Valley State University.

 

 Executive Summary 

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
Traveler savings $2,808,380 $4,283,972 $12,872,105 $19,964,456
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. 

 A complete copy of this report is available at the Michigan Department of Transportation website:
http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/MDOT_Michigan_Passenger_Rail_Station_Community_Benefits_Study_299920_7.pdf 
 

 

Bangor (BAM)

January 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Station locator 

541 Railroad Street
Bangor, MI 49013

 
Local officials and passengers greet the arrival of Amtrak’s Pere Marquette during a rededication ceremony for the newly renovated and expanded train station in Bangor, Michigan on May 6, 2005. (Photo by J.R. Valderas.)

The unstaffed Bangor station was built in 1926 and completely refurbished in a year long project that was completed in 2005, which has brought new life to this historic Pere Marquette Railway structure. It is an excellent example of partnership between private business and local, state, and federal governments.

Today, the building houses the Bangor Railroad Café, an Amtrak waiting room, offices for Beacon Specialized Living Services, and the Ed Foster Trophy Collection. The south portion of the building is the enclosed waiting room for Amtrak. Passengers will find the waiting room kept spotless by coffee shop employees, and open during the hours of the café. A caretaker also opens the waiting room for the evening arrival of the Pere Marquette. The Bangor waiting room includes racks which are kept full of useful Amtrak information by MARP volunteers. Those who travel west on the morning Pere Marquette may want to purchase food from the Railroad Café before boarding the train, as dining options on board are very limited at the present time.

Cars can be parked for extended periods without worry along Railroad Street or in the parking lot across the road. Van Buren Public Transit provides limited public transportation in Bangor, call (800) 828-2105 for information.


The Bangor Station from the street side. (Photos by J.R. Valderas)

Amtrak station page:
http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=am2Station&pagename=am%2Fam2Station%2FStation_Page&cid=1229726268282

Dowagiac (DOA)

January 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Station locator 

200 Depot Drive
Dowagiac, MI 49047


Trackside view of the Dowagiac Amtrak Station. (Photos by J.R. Valderas)

 

The unstaffed Dowagiac station is a beautifully restored 1903-built Tudor Revival building dating from the Michigan Central Railroad.  Today, the Amtrak waiting room shares the interior with the local Dial-a-Ride dispatching office and the city Chamber of Commerce & town giftshop.  Both the grounds and interior are nicely maintained by the city.  An expansive parking lot sits just to the east of the station for passengers’ use; leaving vehicles here for extended periods is no worry in this small town. 

Dowagiac is an example of what a determined small community can accomplish with good leadership and a proactive vision.  Faced with a closed train station and a downtown that would be vulnerable to an outlying shopping mall, the city government decided to pre-empt any attempt to draw people away from their commercial district.  They determined that one of the greatest assets of their town was the existing architecture and attractiveness of the downtown shopping district.  A series of grants allowed the town to enhance the downtown area with an attractive streetscape, and restore and improve commercial building facades.  The result is one of the most attractive small towns in the Midwest. 

Included in the town improvements was a complete restoration of the attractive train station, completed in 1995.   The exterior, including the small tower, was carefully restored.  Inside, an original floor mosaic spelling out “MCRR” is in mint condition, and waiting room woodwork has been refinished.  The train platform was also replaced at this time.  Local transportation service is provided by Dowagiac Dial-a-Ride.  Hours and days of operation are limited, so be sure to call ahead (269) 782-3300.  The waiting room is open for passengers during the week, but may be closed on weekends.  The station is located on Depot Drive just one block from the downtown area. 

MARP commends the City of Dowagiac for its vision and hard work.

Amtrak station page:
http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=am2Station&pagename=am%2Fam2Station%2FStation_Page&cid=1229726269987

Grand Rapids (GRR)

January 8, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Station locator 
431 Wealthy Street SW
near Market and Wealthy Streets SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

>
Grand Rapids Station (Photo by J.R. Valderas)

The unstaffed Grand Rapids station is at the corner of Market and Wealthy Streets. Although rather small, the station is in good shape and received a needed facelift just a few years ago. A lot of 45 free parking spaces are directly adjacent to the station. If needed, an overflow “long term” lot is located across the intersection of Market and Wealthy. The station lot regularly fills up on weekends, so be prepared to walk from the overflow lot during busy travel times. The area is safe, and you can leave your car here for an extended period without worry.

 A caretaker keeps the waiting room in excellent shape. Inside is a rack full of Amtrak schedules and travel information for passengers to peruse. The walls have several unique photos of trains in Grand Rapids during the first half of the 20th Century, and are worth a look. The waiting room does not have vending machines, and is only open for the morning and evening Pere Marquette’s. In a small adjoining room a Quik-Trak Self-Service Ticketing Kiosk has been installed by Amtrak; this room is accessible from the outside and is open throughout the day. Grand Rapids is one of the few stations in Michigan that have a platform canopy, to protect passengers from the wide variety of Michigan weather conditions encountered here.

Local public transit is provided by The Rapid, Grand Rapids’ bus line. For schedule information, call (616) 456-7514. Local taxi phone numbers are posted in the station. The station is separated from the downtown area by several blocks, but a short cab ride will get you to the center of downtown. Downtown Grand Rapids has developed a pretty good nightlife in recent years, and the area is currently seeing some significant growth. It is home to such cultural attractions as the Public Museum of Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.


A large crowd of spring break travelers prepare to board the Pere Marquette at the Grand Rapids Station on April 1, 2006. (Photo by Jim Hulsebus)

Amtrak station page:
http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=am2Station&pagename=am%2Fam2Station%2FStation_Page&cid=1229726268432

Holland (HOM)

January 8, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Station locator 

171 Lincoln Avenue
Holland, MI 49423

 
Passengers gather their belongings as Amtrak’s Pere Marquette arrives to the Padnos Transportation Center in Holland, Mich. on Jan. 23, 2005. (Photo by J.R. Valderas)

The unstaffed Holland station was extensively remodeled in the 1980’s, and turned a rather spartan station building into an exceptionally attractive facility. Located right at the entrance of Windmill Island Gardens, the station has 34 free parking spaces. The area is quite safe, and cars can be left for extended periods. The station serves Amtrak, Indian Trails intercity coach service and Macatawa Area Express (MAX) buses; the waiting room hours are from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM Seven days a week.

The interior is attractive and comfortable, and a Quik-Trak Self-Service Ticketing Kiosk has been installed by Amtrak. The exterior has outstanding landscaping, and in good weather, the exterior walkways are so pleasant that many passengers prefer to wait outside. There are vending machines inside the station.

Macatawa Area Express (MAX) service is available for the morning train, but only Monday through Saturday. Call (616) 355-1010 for details.

Much of western Michigan’s Lower Peninsula was settled by the Dutch, and Dutch names are by far still the most prevalent in this area. Holland is the heart of Michigan’s Dutch country, and retains a distinctive Dutch flavor that goes well beyond the souvenir shops. Downtown Holland is a short walk from the station, and is sparkling clean, friendly and delightful. Be sure to visit Holland during its Tulip Time Festival, an annual event in May which draws visitors from all across the nation.

Amtrak station page:
http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=am2Station&pagename=am%2Fam2Station%2FStation_Page&cid=1229726270788

Saint Joseph (SJM)

January 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Station locator 

410 1/2 Vine Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085

The Amtrak platform is adjacent to the former station which has been converted into a restaurant. (Photo by J.R. Valderas)

The unstaffed 1913-built Saint Joseph station is a bit tricky to get to, but what other station in Michigan has a view of Lake Michigan? Be sure to access the station from Vine Street. The station facility is today primarily occupied by the Silver Beach Pizza restaurant. Specific parking for Amtrak passengers is indicated on parking lot signs behind the depot. In the spring of 2011, a new waiting room for Amtrak passengers was added at the north end of the building along the track side. This waiting room features wide windows looking out toward the lake and contains 12 seats along with a Quik-Trak ticketing machine. Be sure to access the Amtrak waiting room directly from the platform; there is no internal link between the restaurant and the waiting area. The area is safe, and cars can be left for days without worry. Food service is very limited on the Pere Marquette at the present time, so consider bringing some food along for your journey.

The former Pere Marquette station and train tracks are literally within sight of Lake Michigan and directly beside Silver Beach County Park. If the weather is nice, it’s worth it to come a few hours early to enjoy some time beside the lake. Downtown Saint Joseph is full of interesting and unique shops and restaurants. The community is delightful and features many activities and festivals, especially during the summer months.

Local transportation is provided by Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority. Days and hours of operation vary, so check ahead: (269) 927-2268.

The restaurant inside the Saint Joseph station. (Photo by J.R. Valderas)

Amtrak station page:
http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=am2Station&pagename=am%2Fam2Station%2FStation_Page&cid=1229726269604

Amtrak Adjusts Schedule of Pere Marquette to Accommodate Track Work

June 4, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Announcements, News, Press Releases 

Temporary Timings from June 4 to June 21

CHICAGO – Amtrak is temporarily adjusting the westbound schedule for the Pere Marquette service on the Chicago-Grand Rapids route to accommodate track work planned by CSX Transportation, the owner of the train’s route in Michigan. The temporary schedule will begin June 4 and continue through June 21, 2007.

The westbound Pere Marquette (Train 371) will be scheduled to operate one hour earlier from all stations. The eastbound Pere Marquette (Train 370) schedule is unaffected. These changes will compensate for anticipated delays due to the track work.

“While we recognize this temporary schedule change might cause some inconvenience for our passengers, they will eventually benefit from the track improvements with a smoother ride and improved reliability,” said Don Saunders, Amtrak Central Division General Superintendent.

Amtrak Pere Marquette ridership for the fiscal year-to-date (October 2006 through April 2007) was 56,827, an increase of 5.4 percent from the same period a year ago. The train often operates at full capacity, so passengers are reminded of the need to obtain reservations in advance from Amtrak.com, by calling 800-USA-RAIL, using a Quik-Trak(SM) Ticket Express automated ticket machine (including the Grand Rapids, Holland, Saint Joseph and Chicago stations) or through a travel agent.

The plans for this temporary schedule change are correct as of the above date. If these plans are changed, Amtrak will notify passengers who have included personal contact telephone numbers with their reservations.

The Pere Marquette is financed primarily through funds made available by the Michigan Department of Transportation and with the support of Westrain, a grass-roots group representing the communities along the corridor. For more information about Westrain, visit http://www.gvmc.org/transportation/Westrain.shtml.

About Amtrak

Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail services to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com.

Amtrak Pere Marquette Temporary Schedule
Effective June 4-21, 2007

Train 370 – Chicago to Grand Rapids – Eastbound Pere Marquette

Station Daily
Chicago, IL – Union Station 5:20 p.m. CT (Depart)
New Buffalo, MI 7:35 p.m. ET (Depart)
St. Joseph – Benton Harbor, MI 8:03 p.m. ET (Depart)
Bangor, MI (South Haven) 8:39 p.m. ET (Depart)
Holland, MI 9:21 p.m. ET (Depart)
Grand Rapids, MI 10:20 p.m. ET (Arrive)

Train 371 – Grand Rapids to Chicago – Westbound Pere Marquette

Station Daily
Grand Rapids, MI 6:35 a.m. ET (Depart)
Holland, MI 7:21 a.m. ET (Depart)
Bangor, MI (South Haven) 8:02 a.m. ET (Depart)
St. Joseph – Benton Harbor, MI 8:39 a.m. ET (Depart)
New Buffalo, MI 9:06 a.m. ET (Depart)
Chicago, IL – Union Station 9:30 a.m. CT (Arrive)

This press release was provided by Amtrak and is available at www.amtrak.com

Full funding proposed for Michigan’s Amtrak services in 2006-07 budget

April 19, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Announcements, Press Releases 

Full funding for Michigan’s Amtrak service (Pere Marquette and Bluewater trains) were included in the Governor’s budget for 2006-07 fiscal year and were introduced to the State House of Representative and the State Senate in February.

The Micigan Legislature cut funding for Amtrak’s Michigan service by $1 million in the 2005-06 budget.

HB 5737, introduced Feb. 21 by Rep. Rich Brown (D-Bessemer) and SB 1097, introduced Feb. 28 by Sen. Jim Barcia (D-Bay City) and Sen. Bob Emerson (D-Flint) both place the Governor’s Executive Budget on the floor. Her budget includes the full $7.1 million for Amtrak funding for 2006-07.

There appears to be no bill that reinstates the $1 million shortfall for passenger rail in the 2005-06 budget yet. The implications for an uninterupted passenger rail service schedule until the end of the budget year (Sept. 30) are unknown as of this date.

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A little hand

January 28, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Photo Gallery 

Assistant Conductor Anthony Barnes helps passengers aboard Amtrak’s Pere Marquette train in St. Joseph on Jan. 28, 2006. The Pere Marquette makes daily runs serving cities between Grand Rapids and Chicago. (Photo by Russell Sekeet)

Holland Michigan

December 6, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Photo Gallery 

Passengers heading south for Chicago gather their belongings as Amtrak train 371, the Pere Marquette, arrives to the Padnos Transportation Center in Holland, Michigan on Dec. 6, 2005. The unusual train consist (two Genesis locomotives and six Superliner coaches) was due to the normal train getting trapped in Grand Rapids, Mich. by a freight train derailment on Dec. 3. (Photo by John D. Langdon)

Rare Fennville stop

October 9, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Photo Gallery 

Amtrak’s Pere Marquette train arrives in Fennville, Mich. to unload passengers riding from Holland, Mich. as part of the Goose Festival’s “train ride” event Oct. 9, 2005. About 90 passengers rode the train from Bangor, Mich. to Fennville on Friday, Oct. 7, 2005 and another set of nearly 90 passengers rode the train from Holland to Fennville on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2005. Tickets were $7, including shuttle bus back to starting station. What a deal! Both train rides sold out. This is the only time that Amtrak’s Pere Marquette stops in Fennville all year. Fennville was a regular stop for Chesapeake & Ohio’s Pere Marquette passenger trains back in the day. (Photo by J.R. Valderas)

Amtrak trains are still running in Michigan despite budget cuts

September 30, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Press Releases 

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.

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TWO MICHIGAN AMTRAK ROUTES COULD STOP IN OCTOBER

September 19, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Press Releases 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

September 19, 2005

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

Many Michigan Amtrak passengers may be left at the station after state Legislators recommended cutting $1 million from Michigan’s fiscal year 2006 passenger rail budget on Thursday. The budget will go to Governor Granholm. If approved, this cut will end the Port Huron – East Lansing – Chicago Blue Water and the Grand Rapids – Holland – Chicago Pere Marquette trains.

The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers (MARP) opposes any cuts to Amtrak, especially at a time when both the Blue Water and Pere Marquette are experiencing ridership increases. During the first half of the current fiscal year, the Blue Water has experienced a 21% ridership increase and the Pere Marquette has seen an 11% increase compared to the same period a year ago.

Amtrak currently receives $7.1 million from the state; however, Senate Bill 281 would cut next year’s budget down to $6.1 million. Cutting $1million from Amtrak’s budget forces both the Blue Water and Pere Marquette to be eliminated under the current contract with the state. The bill contains an amendment by Rich Brown (D-Bessemer) that would restore funding if Amtrak would move a major maintenance facility from Beech Grove, Indiana (near Indianapolis) to Michigan.

“This is political blackmail,” said Mike Whims, MARP Chairman. “Amtrak is not going to move a multi-million dollar facility based solely on getting back the $1 million it already needs for Michigan train operations.”

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.

Citizens are urged to contact Governor Granholm, state representatives, and state senators to voice support for Amtrak.

The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers is an all volunteer, 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 Mike Whims (248) 892-4545 or John DeLora at (313) 575-6608 or visit MARP’s website at http://www.marp.org.

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Busy Day

August 5, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Photo Gallery 

It’s another busy day Aug. 5, 2005 at the Pando Transportation Center in Holland Michigan as Amtrak’s Pere Marquette train begins its 21st year of service. (Photo by J.R. Valderas)

All aboard!

July 11, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Photo Gallery 

All aboard! Amtrak conductor Craig Jensen waves from the vestibule of Amtrak’s Pere Marquette, train 371, after departing from the Amtrak station in St. Joseph, Michigan on July 11, 2005. (Photo by J.R. Valderas)

MICHIGAN TRAIN RIDE & RALLY TO SAVE AMTRAK

June 21, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Press Releases 

MEDIA ADVISORY

June 21, 2005  

Contacts:
Mike Whims, President, MARP: mwhims@detroittransit.org; 248-892-4545
Ed McArdle, SEMG Sierra Club: ecoed@netzero.net; 313-388-6645
John Langdon, Chair, SWM Chapter MARP: john-langdon@sbcglobal.net, 616-218-9009
Kay Chase, Chair, Kalamazoo Environmental Council: chase@wmich.edu 269-387-5237

Please include in local announcements and calendars.

On Saturday, June 25, there will be a press conference and rally to call attention to state and federal budget cuts that threaten the passenger trains that serve Michigan. A pending cut of $1 million from Michigan’s next fiscal year budget could end the Port Huron – Kalamazoo – Chicago Blue Water train and the Grand Rapids – St Joseph – Chicago – Pere Marquette train. In Congress, the budget recommendation from the transportation committee headed by Michigan’s Rep. Joe Knollenberg would severely impact service on the Wolverine trains that serves the Detroit – Kalamazoo – Chicago corridor.

Organizers invite the community to show their support by joining them at the Kalamazoo Intermodal Center, 459 N. Burdick, to greet train Number 353 when it arrives from the east at approximately 2:50 p.m. on Saturday. Local lawmakers have been invited to attend, as have representatives of Metro Transit, the Chamber of Commerce, the United Transportation Union, and the Convention & Visitors Bureau.

On board the train will be members of Sierra Club’s southeast Michigan group (SEMG), the Michigan Association of Rail Passengers (MARP) and Transit Riders United of Detroit (TRU). The groups will rally earlier in Pontiac and Ann Arbor to “Stop the Great Train Robbery!” Along the way they have distributed information and talked to fellow passengers about the importance of letting decision makers know that train travel is an option people want and need. The group will be joined in Kalamazoo by members of local Sierra Club, the Southwest Region Chapter-Michigan Association of Rail Passengers, the Kalamazoo Environmental Council, and Transportation Action Strategy for Kalamazoo.

“There has been great support for passenger rail by our local leaders,” said Kay Chase, MARP member and frequent train passenger, “and they need to know that we are behind them. Senator George just last week was on the losing side of an effort to restore the $1 million that is crucial to continued operation of the Blue Water train. And in Washington, Congressman Fred Upton has been a strong advocate for our Michigan trains.”

According to Amtrak’s latest ridership reports, Michigan ridership is up 12.8% from last year, serving over 600,000 passengers in 2004. Kalamazoo has the 2nd highest ridership in the state-over 75,000 per year. During the first eight months of the current fiscal year, the Blue Water line, which serves the Port Huron-Kalamazoo-Chicago corridor, experienced a 20.4% ridership gain. Amtrak employs 133 Michigan state residents earning $6.4 million annually in wages and salaries. Their paychecks support local economies across the state. A recent economic impact study found that 60 Michigan vendors have contracts with Amtrak worth $2.8 million per year. Train travel reduces dependence on foreign oil and lessens the impact on global warming. Intercity trains emit up to three times less pollution per passenger mile than automobiles and six times less than airplanes. People are finding train travel to be convenient and cost-effective as airline security becomes more intrusive and highways become more congested.

For more information on the Michigan Association of Rail Passengers, visit www.marp.org

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MICHIGAN TRAIN RIDE & RALLY TO SAVE AMTRAK

Pere Marquette in Grand Rapids

June 17, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Photo Gallery 

Amtrak’s Pere Marquette arrives to the end of its journey at the station in Grand Rapids, Michigan on the evening of June 17, 2005. (Photo by J.R. Valderas)

AMTRAK BLUE WATER AND PERE MARQUETTE SERVICE THREATENED

June 8, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Press Releases 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

June 8, 2005

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

Michigan House Bill 4831, that proposes to cut $1 million from the fiscal year 2006 passenger rail budget, is threatening Amtrak services in Michigan. If approved, this massive reduction could end the Port Huron – East Lansing- Chicago Blue Water and the Grand Rapids – Holland – Chicago Pere Marquette.

The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers (MARP) opposes any cuts to Amtrak, especially at a time when both the Blue Water and Pere Marquette are experiencing ridership increases. During the first half of the current fiscal year, the Blue Water has experienced a 21% ridership increase and the Pere Marquette has seen an 11% increase compared to the same period a year ago.

“This makes no sense to cut funding for these trains,” said John DeLora, MARP executive director. “Both trains are performing very well and Michigan travelers want the service.”

The threat to the two Michigan Amtrak trains comes at a bad time for Amtrak as the Bush Administration has proposed to eliminate the funding nationally. The Bush Administration wants to “reform” Amtrak by eliminating federal operational funding and have each state be fiscally responsible for intercity passenger rail services should they desire to keep trains running through their respective states.

“Obviously having the states foot the bill for passenger rail will not work.” Mike Whims, MARP Chairman, stated. “If we are fighting over a million dollars out of a multi-billion dollar state transportation budget to keep the Blue Water and Pere Marquette trains running, what will it be like to get the state to fund the Chicago – Detroit – Pontiac trains that are now funded nationally? It’s a plan for disaster.”

Cutting $1 million from Amtrak’s budget forces both the Blue Water and Pere Marquette to be eliminated under the current contract with the state. Plus, there is no fair procedure to determine which train to eliminate especially since both trains are performing so well.

Last month, chambers of commerce and convention bureaus from cities along Michigan Amtrak routes, went to Chicago aboard Amtrak to promote tourism to Michigan. Having Amtrak service in Michigan offers important transportation access especially in times of high gas prices, gridlock on highways, and security delays at airports.

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 http://www.marp.org.

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