Posts Tagged ‘Ann Arbor commuter service’

Michigan Officials Mull Options After Voters Spurned Commuter Rail Funding Proposal

November 26, 2016

The Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority it examining its options after voters earlier this month narrowly defeated a tax increase that would have funded an expansion of service, including a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line.

SE Michigan RTAWhat is certain, though, is that the earliest that the SMRTA can return to the voters with the same proposal is 2018.

“Obviously we’re just trying to absorb what happened,” said Michael Ford, who leads SMRTA.

The proposal for a 20-year 1.2 mill tax increase passed in Wayne (Detroit) and Washtenaw (Ann Arbor) counties, divided voters fairly evenly in Oakland County but was rejected in Macomb County.

“We’re going to have to reassess, understand why,” Ford said of why people voted against the tax plan, adding he plans to convene with the RTA board, which includes representatives from the different communities, to discuss possible next steps, including whether to plan to put a proposal before voters again in two years.

Ford said he remains optimistic that something can be done to expand public transportation options and still thinks that the proposed plan of commuter rail and new regional bus services is a good one.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said that had the tax been approved it would have given the Detroit-Ann Arbor rail link a critical boost.

“Commuter rail is a necessity for Ann Arbor to improve our local economy and to improve our local quality of life,” he said.

Had the plan been funded by the tax measure, commuter rail was expected to begin in 2022.

MDOT Seeking to Rework Rail Cars Lease

June 4, 2015

The Michigan Department of Transportation is expected to end its lease of idle commuter rail cars in Michigan.

In doing so, MDOT will continue to have access to the cars for commuter railroad service in southeast Michigan for up to five years.

The 23 bi-level galley cars that once ran in Chicago are owned by Great Lakes Central Railroad, which is storing them in Owosso, Michigan.

Great Lakes would have the ability to use the cars for other uses, including subleasing them to other commuter agencies. MDOT would no longer lease the cars after Sept. 30.

MDOT and Great Lakes are currently negotiating contract terms and conditions for the agency’s continued ability to use the cars when commuter rail operations in Michigan begin in 2019 as projected.

“This agreement remove’s MDOT’s lease expense and protects the state’s investment in the commuter rail cars,” Michigan State Transportation Director Kirk Steudle said.

Steudle had set a June 1 target date to finish a new agreement for the cars. If the railroad and state cannot reach an agreement, MDOT has the option to terminate the lease 30 days after issuing a letter to the railroad.

The cars have been rehabilitated in expectation of being used for commuter rail demonstration projects between Dearborn and Detroit, and Howell and Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor Commuter Rail Being Studied

October 27, 2014

A feasibility study has been launched by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority to study the market for commuter-rail in Washtenaw and Livingston counties in southeast Michigan.

The route would operate between Howell and Ann Arbor and aim to relieve traffic congestion on parallel U.S. Route 23.

The study, to be done in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Transportation, is also expected to identify economic development and new job opportunities in the region. Public meetings will be held as part of the study process.

Funding is being provided by a Transportation and Community System Preservation grant from the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

“Not only are commuters eager to see an alternative to congestion on US 23, but developers and businesses are looking at potential investments around the stations,” said Larry Krieg, an AAATA board member. “This could be the beginning of a new kind of sustainable living for Southeast Michigan, based not solely on private vehicles, but with robust public options based on the fuel and operating efficiency of rail.”

Detroit-Ann Arbor Commuter Rail 2-3 Years Away

January 18, 2014

Michigan transportation officials said this week that a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail service is another two to three years away.

Carmine Palombo, director of transportation programs for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, said his agency is eyeing five roundtrips a day with stops in Ypsilanti, Detroit Metro Airport and Dearborn.

To be successful, Palombo said, the project needs railcars, track, an agreeable owner and funding.

Twenty-three railcars have been refurbished and tested, and the Michigan Department of Transportation is now the owner of the tracks after striking a $140 million deal to buy it from Norfolk Southern in December 2012.

Palombo said track improvements before the route can host additional passenger trains. That work is underway and will take two to three years to complete.

A capacity study also is required to identify additional capacity for passenger trains and that should be starting soon, Palombo said.

“MDOT and SEMCOG are committed to this project and working to overcome hurdles towards a successful opening,” he said, noting the rail line is expected to connect to streetcar and bus rapid transit services at the New Center station in Detroit.

If other issues can be resolved with Amtrak, Palombo said, it’s possible there could be demonstration commuter trains running to certain special events in Ann Arbor and Detroit sometime within the next year or two.

The Southeast Michigan Regional Transportation Authority is expected to be the controlling organization for the commuter rail service.

The route of the commuter trains is currently used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service. There are three roundtrips a day between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) over the route.