Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Grand Rapids’

As It Once Was in Grand Rapids

March 24, 2017

It is a Saturday morning in June 1995. I am awaiting the arrive of Amtrak’s Pere Marquette to Chicago.

The train originates in Grand Rapids but it lays over elsewhere in the city, making a deadhead move to the station in the morning.

The station is adequate for its purpose and reflective of the type of facilities that Amtrak has been building since 1972 when it built its first station in Cincinnati.

There is no ticket agent in Grand Rapids and I believe there never has been one.

The City of Grand Rapids gave $50,000 toward the cost of building this station and Amtrak service got underway on Aug. 5, 1984.

Amtrak no longer uses this facility, having moved to a new station in October 2014.

Some Want to See Pere Marquette Rerouted

May 10, 2016

The Michigan Department of Transportation is looking into the prospect of routing Amtrak’s Pere Marquette via Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, train, currently operates via Holland along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Michigan DOT3The study is being made at the request of Grand Rapids leaders who hope that going via Kalamazoo might reduce the travel time to Chicago.

MDOT and Amtrak are working to rebuild the track between Chicago and Detroit to allow speeds of up to 110 mph.

The track being upgraded is owned by Amtrak between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana, and by MDOT between Kalamazoo and Detroit.

MDOT Communications Manager Michael Frezell said his agency has discussed the idea of rerouting the Pere Marequette via Kalamazoo, but not in any sort of definitive way because “it isn’t a priority.”

The route via Kalamazoo is used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverines and the Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water. Those trains, along with the Pere Marquette are funded by MDOT.

The Pere Marquette joins the Chicago-Detroit route at Porter with all of the Michigan trains using Norfolk Southern tracks between Porter and Chicago.

The current track work in Michigan is seeking to cut an hour off the travel time between Chicago and Detroit and to reduce the travel time between Chicago and Kalamazoo to less than two hours.

“As Chicago gets more expensive to park and more congested to get into, (rail service) provides a great option,” said Jill Bland, executive vice president with Southwest Michigan First, a Kalamazoo-based regional economic development firm. “And with wi-fi and cars being upgraded, it’s definitely something we use in our toolbox when talking with companies.”

Grand Rapids interests believe that connecting their city with the Chicago-Detroit corridor at Kalamazoo could stimulate greater greater mobility in the Grand Rapids area

However, MDOT’s Frezell said residents of such Southwest Michigan cities as Bangor, St. Joseph and Holland — all of which are served by the Pere Marquette  — need rail service, too, and that is why the discussion about rerouting the Pere Marquette via Kalamazoo has not gone very far.

Rick Chapla, vice president of strategic initiatives at The Right Place Inc., a Grand Rapids-based regional economic development firm, said that cutting the travel time and increasing service by rail between Grand Rapids and Chicago needs to be made a priority.

“Anything we can do to enhance connectivity between West Michigan, Chicago and the east side of the state is a positive,” Chapla said. “(A route from) Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo allows us the mobility to go east and west. It’s a critical link.”

That increased mobility also includes rail service linking Grand Rapids and Detroit.

This past February, a study of a cross-state rail passenger route estimated that it could serve 1.71 million travelers annually.

Although the upgrading of the Chicago-Detroit corridor has been linked with increased train frequencies, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier has no plans to consider that until after the track rebuilding project is finished and work to alleviate rail congestion in Chicago is completed.

Increased rail service is also necessary because Southwestern Michigan has become an exurb for Chicago.

Bland of Southwest Michigan First said her organization has been hearing that an increasing number of people working in Chicago are living in areas such as Niles and Benton Harbor and ride Amtrak or the South Shore Line to and from work.

She said that enhancing rail passenger service will help solidify Southwest Michigan’s connection to Chicago.

“As the northern Indiana [rail] passage becomes more reliable and the Chicago project gets completed, it’s fair to say we can market that we are a suburb of Chicago,” Bland said.

Those Waiting for the Pere Marquette in Grand Rapids No Longer Being Left Outside in the Cold

February 18, 2016

A schedule change last year left Amtrak passengers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, out in the cold for several months but after a local TV station looked into the matter the situation has apparently been resolved.

An investigation by WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids found that the station is usually open before the Pere Marquette departs for Chicago but often closed when the train arrives at night.

Amtrak logoNo. 371 is scheduled to depart Grand Rapids at 6 a.m., but the posted hours for the station say it doesn’t open until 6:30 a.m. The station usually opens at 5:30 a.m.

Likewise, the posted hours say the station closes at 10:30 p.m., but No. 370 is scheduled to arrive from Chicago at 11:39 p.m.

The TV station said its investigation found that the depot hasn’t been open half the time it’s supposed to be open.

Reporters observed Amtrak personnel being able to get inside the station as others had to wait outside.

The Pere Marquette originates and terminates in Grand Rapids.

The station is owned by the Grand Rapids public transportation agency, The Rapid, and leased to Amtrak.

A contract that Amtrak has with the agency says that it is to “use its best efforts to open or close the station” for Amtrak personnel and passengers to use it.

The posted hours for the Grand Rapids station were fine until the schedule of the Pere Marquette changed last May.

WOOD-TV said that records show that Amtrak last month asked The Rapid to have the station open for a half-hour before the scheduled arrival of No. 370 from Chicago.

Amtrak’s request to The Rapid noted that the two parties had a verbal agreement to have the station vestibule open at night due to a conflict with the station caretaker.

However, the vestibule is small and Amtrak has received numerous inquiries from passengers as to why the lobby and restrooms cannot be made available to those waiting for the train to arrive.

Amtrak also asked that the station open at 5 a.m. for the departing train

In an e-mail message, a Rapid spokesperson said “the change in the train schedule . . . did cause some scheduling problems with the contracted station attendant who has been in place for years, first with Amtrak directly and then with The Rapid.”

The spokesperson said The Rapid continues to work with Amtrak.

“We now have a solution in place to ensure that the station is open before and after the arrival of the train as expected.”

The TV station reported that this past week it observed someone unlock the depot and turn on the lights in advance of the arrival of Train No. 370 from Chicago.

He said he had been hired about a week ago, which was about the same time that the TV station began making inquiries of The Rapid.

Located on Century Avenue SW, the $6 million station opened in late 2014. Most of its funding came from a $4.6 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant and a $1.5 million match in Federal Transit Administration, MDOT and local funds.

Amtrak Exhibit Train to Visit Grand Rapids

July 7, 2015

The Amtrak exhibit train will roll into Grand Rapids, Michigan, on July 25.

The train will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as part of the year-old Amtrak Train Days. The train will be parked at the Amtrak station.

Also being featured will be the Chuggington Kids Depot with toy train and coloring tables.

For more information, visit  http://www.amtrak.com/exhibit-train

 

New Grand Rapids Amtrak Station to Open

September 28, 2014

The new Amtrak station in Grand Rapids, Mich., is expected to begin boarding passengers next month.

The last hurdle to opening the station is the rebuilding of a CSX crossing at Century Avenue SW. That work is expected to be finished on Oct. 10.

The $5.2 million station was supposed to open in 2013 but had become bogged down with numerous delays.

Named after former West Michigan congressman Vern Ehlers, the station will replace an existing depot built by Amtrak on Wealthy Street.

The station will be the eastern terminus of the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette, which is funded in part by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“The track work has to be inspected by CSX; that’s a separate agreement, as we own the railroad spur,” said Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid.

Rapid officials touted the convenient location of the new Amtrak station, saying that Central Station, which serves all of the six-city bus system’s busiest routes and the new Silver Line bus rapid transit system, is just down the street.