Posts Tagged ‘intercity rail passenger service’

Ultimately, It Comes Down to Control and Self Interest

August 10, 2021

I ran across a pair of columns last week that help illuminate why expanding rail passenger service in the United States is so challenging and happens so infrequently.

One piece was written by Jim Mathews, president of the Rail Passengers Association and appeared on that organization’s website.

The other was written by a Union Pacific vice president and appeared on the website of Railway Age although it originally appeared on the UP website.

Mathews was in part writing in response to a recent U.S. Surface Transportation Board decision that established a timeline in a case Amtrak brought seeking to prod CSX and Norfolk Southern into allowing intercity passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, to begin next year.

The proposed service has been in the works for five years and funding is in place for capital improvements and operating expenses.

But Amtrak and the host railroads – CSX in particular – have been unable to reach agreement on what infrastructure improvements are needed.

Mathews pointed out that CSX has demanded work that would cost 19.5 times what a Federal Railroad Administration study estimated was needed.

Mathews doesn’t think NS or CSX have been negotiating in good faith, saying there is ample data available to move ahead on the Gulf Coast service, including infrastructure improvements.

“What are CSX and N-S really after in their long-standing opposition to the Gulf Coast restoration?” Mathews asked, perhaps rhetorically.

He believes the host railroads are demanding study after study until they can finally get a result “that gives them cover to stop the restoration.”

There is likely some truth to that. It’s a strategy Class 1 railroads have used before to stymie new passenger service or expansion of existing service.

If you drag the process out long enough those wanting the service might get discouraged and go away.

A subset of that strategy is demanding expensive infrastructure work that is too costly for Amtrak or a transportation agency to afford. It is all a way of getting to “no” without saying it as such.

And that brings me to the column by Wes Lujan, assistant vice president of external relations at Union Pacific.

He begins by contending UP is not hostile to Amtrak and other entities seeking to use UP rails for expanded service on existing passenger routes or creating new service on freight-only routes.

Lujan argues that UP has worked with Amtrak and state agencies in California and Illinois on projects that enabled expanded and faster passenger service and will continue to do so.

But Lujan said Union Pacific is put off by how Amtrak and others are demanding access to UP rails by announcing those plans and then bringing political pressure on the railroad to agree to them.

He cited the Amtrak Connect US plan announced earlier this year of 39 new routes to be implemented over the next 15 years at an estimated cost of $75 billion.

That plan, Lujan wrote, was created in conjunction with state transportation agencies but not in consultation with the railroads that would host those trains.

“Instead of a unilateral push to expand passenger service, it would be transformational if we faced these challenges collaboratively, as partners with passenger agencies and with a common understanding that the U.S. freight rail network is a dynamic system that moves the physical goods that drive the American economy,” Lujan wrote.

To boil down Lujan’s argument to its essence, if you want new or expanded passenger service be prepared to pay for it. That means funding infrastructure improvements “and (emphasis in original) provid[ing] more reasonable compensation for access to host railroads.”

I would not take everything that either Mathews or Lujan wrote at face value. At the same time each has shown how each side comes at rail passenger expansion from different perspectives that hinder the creation of the partnerships that Lujan espouses.

To have a partnership you need to have willing partners who are committed to working through their differences to reach an agreed upon end goal.

There must be some incentive for both parties to work toward that end goal, and it helps when there is more balance in the relationship than is typically the case when Amtrak or some agency wants new rail passenger service.

Mathews wants more of what Lujan opposes: Using political pressure and the power of government, specifically the STB, to force railroads to be more cooperative in allowing passenger rail expansion and seeing to it that those trains operate on time.

Host railroads, though, see little in it for them in allowing passenger trains to use their rails.

Their purpose is hauling freight, not passengers. It is not realistic to expect freight railroads to respond to every proposal for passenger trains on their rails with a response of “that’s a great idea; let’s sit down and figure out how we can make it work.”

It may be that the partnerships that Lujan cited are more the exception than the rule.

They occurred in states with a long history of paying to fund passenger service and its capital expenses. Those states also have agencies that have a history of working with Amtrak and its host railroads and understand that it takes time and money to get to “yes.”

Many, although not all, of the routes in the Amtrak Connect US plans are in places where state governments have not funded intercity rail passenger service and which lack agencies with experience in overseeing and managing rail passenger service.

Railroads are accustomed to working with state transportation departments on public-private capital projects. But they see something in it for them in those projects.

Those also tend to be one-off projects that do not involve an on-going commitment to paying for such things as operating expenses as is typically the case with intercity passenger rail.

I doubt that Mathews would disagree with Lujan’s assertion that passenger rail development works best when you have a partnership of the willing.

It is just that Mathews is not convinced that railroads are all that willing to establish those partnerships to host new and additional passenger trains. These partnerships are far more difficult to establish than Lujan is willing to admit.

Ultimately, it comes down to control. Like anyone else, railroads don’t like being told what to do with their property and don’t want to be forced into doing something they don’t see as being in their interests or something they simply believe is not necessary.

Senate Committee Puts Brakes on Amtrak’s Expansive Vision

June 21, 2021

Last week the Senate Commerce Committee approved its own version of a new surface transportation authorization act.

The bill, known as the Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021, would replace the FAST Act, which is set to expire on Sept. 30.

What is noteworthy about the Senate bill is how it differs in one key area from a House surface transportation bill approved two weeks ago by a House transportation committee.

Although it boosts transportation funding generally and Amtrak funding in particular, the Senate bill would authorize far less money for both areas than the House bill.

That’s a critical point because much of the much ballyhooed Amtrak service expansion plans are premised on Congress approving a dedicated funding program to pay for that expansion.

The House bill does that but not so the Senate bill.

Before getting into the details about that, let’s get straight that both bills authorize spending but do not appropriate it. Those are separate processes and although they are related.

Think of the surface transportation bill as setting spending priorities that Congress will, presumably, follow.

As for those spending priorities, the Senate bill would authorize just 36 percent of what the House bill would authorize.

The Senate bill increased transportation funding for freight and passenger rail, but not as much as the House bill.

Over the five-year life of the Senate bill, transportation funding would be authorized at $34.2 billion. The current FAST Act level is $14.3 billion.

Missing from the Senate bill is the funding authorization for the grant program that Amtrak plans to use to develop its new corridor services.

The House bill would provide $25 billion for that while the Senate bill provides nothing.

Also in the House bill is $25 billion for grants for bridges, tunnels and stations. The Senate bill has no authorized funding for that grant program.

Senate authorizations for Amtrak funding in Senate bill are lower than in the House bill.

The Senate would authorize $6.6 billion for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and $10.7 billion for the passenger carrier’s national network.

The House bill figures are $13.5 billion for the Northeast Corridor and $18.5 billion for the national network.

The Rail Passengers Association asserted on its website that the authorizations in the Senate bill will be “inadequate to meaningfully add or upgrade new service beyond a handful of routes.”

That, though, may be the point of the Senate bill. It may be a statement from the Senate Commerce Committee that support for a massive spending spree to expand intercity rail passenger service lacks political support in that chamber.

It remains to be seen what will happen once both bills reach the floor of their respective chambers.

There may be amendments offered in both chambers to increase or lower individual line item authorizations.

It seems likely that a conference committee will need to work out the differences between the two competing surface transportation authorization bills.

If the two chambers are unable to resolve their differences, that might lead to yet another one year extension of the FAST Act as happened last year. Some congressional observers believe it might happen this year, too.

Spending authorizations can be highly contentious and subject to partisan differences.

That brings up another noteworthy difference between the House and Senate surface transportation authorization bills.

The Senate bill passed out of committee with bi-partisan, although not unanimous support. The House bill was more of a partisan creation.

The Senate bill does contain a number of clauses that can be interpreted as pro-passenger rail.

These include mandates, for example, that Amtrak maintain a ticket agent at stations averaging 40 or more passengers a day.

Amtrak is also being directed by the Senate bill to provide a host of additional information about a variety of issues including any plans to change the operations of long-distance or other routes.

There is also language in the bill describing the importance of Amtrak service to rural America.

These mandates appear to reflect a likelihood of Congressional support for continuing funding of Amtrak service as it exists today with, perhaps, some modest service increases and enhancements.

The Senate committee, though, did not support the type of far-reaching and expansive additions to the Amtrak network envisioned by the carrier’s Amtrak Connect US plan.

What it all means is that despite the happy talk emanating from rail passenger advocacy groups about how intercity passenger rail service is on the verge of a transformational moment that is not a sure thing.

A lot of things are going to have fall into place and what happened last week in the Senate does not necessarily bode well for that process playing out the way some want to see it develop.

Bill Would Create Indiana Passenger Rail Commission

January 15, 2021

Two Indiana lawmakers have introduced legislation to create a state rail commission to develop rail passenger service through the state.

Senate Bill 9 was introduced by Senators Dennis Kruse of Auburn and Jeff Raatz of Richmond and has been assigned to the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee.

The bill would create the Indiana Passenger Rail Commission, whose goals would be to promote and coordinate passenger rail service in the state, including facilitating development and implementation of improvements to intercity rail service, long-range plans for passenger service, and coordinating public and private agencies and organizations to develop service.

The senators were assisted in drafting the bill by the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association, which has been actively pushing for restoration of intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, via Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Ruminating on What if a Rail Passenger Advocate Could Get Appointed to be President of Amtrak

August 21, 2020

Sometimes when I’m driving a long distance I like to think about what would happen if a rail passenger advocate was ever hired as president of Amtrak.

Some rail passenger advocates might think that once settled into the C suite at Amtrak headquarters in Washington that they could pick up the phone and/or write a series of memorandums that would in short order restore freshly-prepared meals to long distance trains, jawbone host railroads into stop putting Amtrak trains into sidings to allow freight trains to pass, and launch new routes and services that have been discussed for years but have yet to materialize.

It’s fun to think about because it seems so absurd.

It would be a rare rail passenger advocate who has the political capital and connections needed to be seriously considered for the job.

The most recent three Amtrak presidents – Charles “Wick” Moorman, Richard Anderson and Willian Flynn – all were former CEOs, one of a Class 1 freight railroad  (Moorman) and two from the airline industry (Anderson and Flynn).

Other Amtrak presidents have had similar backgrounds.

Joeseph Boardman had been head of the Federal Railroad Administration; Alan Boyd had been secretary of transportation and president of the Illinois Central Railroad.

Paul Reistrup had held vice president positions at Class 1 railroads; David Gunn had held high-ranking administrative positions at several public transit agencies; W. Graham Claytor had been president of the Southern Railway and secretary of the Navy; Alexander Kummant had held vice president positions at Union Pacific, and George Warrington had headed New Jersey Transit and served as president of two port authorities.

Amtrak has yet to hire someone whose credentials largely consist of writing letters to public officials, testifying at public hearings, churning out opinion columns, and serving as an officer of a rail passenger advocacy group.

But let’s say it did happen. It did once, although not at Amtrak but more about that later.

How a rail advocate would fare as president of Amtrak would depend on a number of variables, including the person’s skill sets and what he/she sought to accomplish.

An advocate who limits his/her efforts to saving what Amtrak now has and incrementally improving upon it might have a better chance of succeeding than someone who wants to transform the Amtrak route network into the type of passenger service that the freight railroads offered on principle routes in the early 1950s.

Experience is important but so are appearances because both are critical to establishing credibility with the stakeholders with whom you will work.

At a minimum, you would need to be able to work well with a board of directors whose members you did not appoint and don’t control.

You also would need to establish good working relationships with key members of Congress and their staffs, and top executives in the U.S. Department of Transportation.

There are others you would work with including state transportation officials, executives of Amtrak’s host railroads, heads of the unions representing Amtrak workers, federal regulators, and transportation trade organizations.

Many of them likely would take a dim view of an “advocate” seeking to accomplish things they view as unrealistic and/or undesirable.

That would particularly be the case with the host railroads. Amtrak and Canadian National have been arguing for years about CN’s dispatching of Amtrak trains between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois. There is no end in sight to that dispute.

Try to start a new route and the host railroad will voice objections and make expensive demands about capital needs to make it possible to, say, run the Chicago-New York Cardinal daily rather than tri-weekly.

Are those demands ridiculous? Some of them are. But can the host railroad make them stick? Well the Cardinal is still tri-weekly and so is the Sunset Limited.

One common refrains in the writings of rail passengers advocates is that Amtrak management lacks the will to do anything other than preserve the status quo and gives in to too much to its host railroads and Congressmen such as John Mica who was obsessed with how much it cost Amtrak to provide food and beverage service.

Advocate are quick to criticize Amtrak for its failure to be creative, to promote its services more aggressively – particularly the long distance trains – and to try things that the advocate know will result in sharp growth of ridership and revenue.

Why those things will practically pay for themselves, right?

And what rail passengers advocate doesn’t believe that long distance trains are actually profitable but Amtrak is milking them to pay for the money pit known as the Northeast Corridor?

I’d like to be in the room when the new rail passenger advocate president of Amtrak has his or her first session with Amtrak’s accountants and financial staff.

What looked so simple on a railfan chat list might turn out to be far more complex.

A rail passenger advocate once was appointed to oversee a railroad’s passenger service.

It happened in 1975 when Anthony Haswell, an attorney with railroad industry experience who was a founder of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, was named head of passenger services at the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific.

Haswell was unable to make any appreciable improvements in the Rock’s intercity passenger service, which by then was two state-supported trains between Chicago and Peoria, and Rock Island, Illinois, with paltry ridership.

The Rock also had a considerable commuter train operation in Chicago.

What Haswell probably quickly learned was that the environment you work in may not be conducive to implementing your ideas.

The Rock Island was a bankrupt railroad that couldn’t afford to maintain its track, let alone spend money promoting, expanding and improving passenger service.

Haswell later was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to a seat on Amtrak’s board of directors but withdrew after facing opposition from some senators and union leaders.

That should tell you something about how a rail passenger advocate might fare if he/she was nominated to be Amtrak’s next president.

I would expect that a passenger rail advocate who managed to get named president of Amtrak would be overwhelmed and frustrated by the reality of the position.

It might come with some nice perks and seem to have a lot of power, but your authority is constrained in ways you might not have been able to imagine.

It is one thing to have a vision for what intercity rail passenger service in the United States could be but quite another to have the ability and resources to will that vision into existence.

So What Did Mr. Anderson Mean?

December 11, 2019

Amtrak President Richard Anderson recently gave an interview to the Here and Now program on National Public Radio and a railroad passenger group found in his remarks a commitment toward preserving rail service to all of America and not just a few coastal urban corridors.

As the Rail Passengers Association sees it, Anderson indicated he recognizes Amtrak has a legal obligation to offer a national network.

When rail passenger advocates use the term “national network” they are talking about long-distance passenger trains.

Anderson has been outspoken in the past year that Amtrak’s long-distance trains are money losers and suggested the future of intercity rail passenger is short corridors linking urban areas.

He has hinted that Amtrak wants to eliminate some of those long-distance runners by chopping up their routes into corridors.

An NPR reporter said asked Anderson why if the long-distance trains are the money losers he says they are why that the carrier doesn’t say they are no longer a part of Amtrak’s core business and eliminated them.

Anderson responded this way: “Well, no, that wouldn’t be appropriate for Amtrak because we have a statutory responsibility to provide intercity travel. We also have a statutory responsibility to minimize losses and run this like a business. So we’re at an intersection of both a really important public-policy role and the responsibility to be very good stewards. So, we have to have good answers for rural communities. So we take that challenge.”

But was Anderson saying what RPA claims that he said?

Anderson indeed said Amtrak has a legal obligation to provide rail passenger service but that doesn’t necessarily mean he said that includes long-distance trains.

He said Amtrak needs to have good answers for rural communities, but didn’t say what those will be.

What constitutes a “national network” is a murky concept. There are vast swaths of the United States that lack intercity rail passenger service and haven’t had it for decades.

Amtrak has never served South Dakota. Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, have been off the Amtrak map for 40 years.

Does a national network mean that all 50 states and all principal cities must be served?

Some rail advocates might answer in the affirmative, but that doesn’t mean it is likely to happen.

RPA wants to see Amtrak receive a separate source of funding to grow its network.

The organization rightly fears the corridor services that Anderson is fond of promoting will come at the expense of long-distance routes.

The rail passenger advocacy group said a separate funding source for new Amtrak routes is gaining support in Congress and within Amtrak itself, but it remains to be seen if that materializes.

There have been many proposals over the years for dedicated funding sources for Amtrak, but none of ever made it into law.

Instead Amtrak funding continues to be the annual appropriations granted by Congress that are subject to the vicissitudes of which way the political winds are blowing at the time.

RPA claims Anderson’s response during the NPR program is a subtle but important change from his earlier rhetoric.

The advocacy group is correct in asserting that Anderson’s comment about the need to minimize Amtrak’s losses and run the passenger like a business speaks to a tension between operating a tight ship and the mission of serving communities that are unprofitable.

Getting to where RPA and other rail passengers advocates want to be is a long game that will still be playing out long after Anderson has left his post.

There may be some support in Congress for the type of expansive rail passenger network that advocates want to see – including a mixture of corridor services and long-distance trains – but there remains considerable opposition to it as well.

That opposition is not just in Washington but also in the headquarters of every Amtrak host railroad.

Even if Anderson’s rhetoric has undergone a subtle change, I have yet to see evidence, including in his comments made during the NPR interview that he has changed his mind about the role of long-distance passenger trains in America.

Perhaps Anderson has learned intercity rail passenger service is politically different than airline service provided by for-profit companies and his comments reflect that.

That doesn’t mean that he has come around to the viewpoint that all long-distance trains need to be kept in place in order to maintain a national network that meets the transportation needs of rural America. What constitutes the latter is subject to wide differences in interpretation.

‘Data Nerd’ Creates Ohio Rail Passenger Plan

December 6, 2019

A self-described data nerd has designed an intercity rail passenger network for Ohio that is rooted in the moribund Ohio Hub plan.

It remains to be seen whether the plans drawn up by Kevin Verhoff will get any attention.

Verhoff, who lives 40 miles from Columbus and grew up in Elyria, is seeking to create a public transportation network for the state after riding to work on public transportation while living in San Francisco and Newark, New Jersey.

“It was very convenient for me,” he said of those experiences. “It made a big difference in my day-to-day life.”

Although he grew up in Ohio, Verhoff said he experienced something of a culture shock when he returned to the state and had to do with limited public transportation.

His proposal for a passenger rail system in Ohio is comprised of seven basic routes, including one that is oriented to serving Columbus.

The plan also included the long-discussed 3C corridor between Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton.

Other routes would connect Toledo and Cincinnati via Dayton; connect Cleveland and Dayton on a different alignment than the 3C Corridor; connect Marietta and Toledo while continuing into Michigan to Detroit and Ann Arbor; and connect Toledo and Cleveland with an extension into far Northeast Ohio and possibily to Buffalo, New York.

Not all of the route would link the city’s urban areas. The proposed Keystone Express would be situated in eastern and central Ohio linking such town as Mount Vernon, Millersburg, New Philadelphia and Steubenville. The line could continue to Pittsburgh.

Verhoff’s network would serve half of Ohio’s 88 counties.

In an interview with Ohio Capital Journal, Verhoff acknowledged that creating the network is a tall challenge with issues of funding and right of way acquisition.

It will also be a challenge to get politicians, business leaders and other stakeholders to work together on the plan, which he estimated would cost $9 billion.

The executive director of All Aboard Ohio, a rail and public transportation advocacy group, agrees that Verhoff’s plan faces major hurdles.

“(The) real work comes in educating Ohio’s policymakers how far ahead our neighboring states are in developing, improving and operating passenger rail services, and what benefits they are enjoying from those investments,” said Ken Prendergast.

He said All Board Ohio appreciates Verhoff’s advocacy and hopes the attention drawn to transit issues will make an impact.

Ohio policy makers have supported various statewide intercity rail passenger plans at various times, but nothing has ever materialized.

Those included the 2007 Ohio Hub plan, which envisioned a statewide rail network that would have extended beyond the state’s borders.

The closest the state case to financially supporting a rail route was a $400 million grant from the federal government to pay for work to launch the 3C corridor.

But John Kasich ran for governor in 2010 in opposition to that plan and after he defeated incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland he killed the 3C project. The funding was taken back by the federal government.

Since then, the Ohio Department of Transportation has created its Access Ohio 2040 plan that describes a number of “long-term transportation outcomes” but does not mention a passenger rail network other than making references to enhanced and improved access “to the existing multimodal system.”

The Ohio Rail Development Commission in its 2018 State of Ohio Rail Plan described a proposal to develop a passenger line between Chicago and Columbus.

A feasibility study was completed in 2013 but a environmental impact study is now needed.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is conducting its own study of a proposed rail line linking Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh.

That study is looking at the potential of a hyperloop, which would involve passengers riding in high-speed tubes.

The ORDC plan also touched on Amtrak station improvement projects that were planned or underway in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Toledo.

Verhoff told Ohio Capital Journal that transportation is an issue which intersects with health care, economy, jobs and tourism.

After he posted his map to his blog and on Twitter Verhoff said he was surprised at the number of positive responses he received.

“A lot of people were saying ‘this would totally change my life,’” he said.

Others asked that their communities be included in the network. These comments, Vehoff said, show there is a demand for public transit is widespread across Ohio.

As for funding, Verhoff said it could come in a variety of ways, including municipal bonds or shifting highway and gas tax funding toward transit priorities.

Verhoff said much of the $9 billion project cost could be mitigated by using and upgrading existing rail lines in the state.

FRA Has Grants to Pay for Passenger Service

November 7, 2019

Grants to launch, restore or enhance intercity rail passenger service are available from the Federal Railroad Administration as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

The agency said it is taking applications for $24 million in grant funding that can be applied to operating assistance including staffing, administrative costs, host-railroad access costs, station expenses, and lease payments on rolling stock, among other uses.

Amtrak and other intercity passengers are eligible to apply, as are states, groups of states, cities, and other governmental agencies.

“We’re encouraging applicants to leverage federal Restoration and Enhancement grants to support large-scale, intercity passenger rail improvements,” FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory said in a statement.

The official Notice of Funding Opportunity describes a list of projects that will receive funding priority in funding including “applications that …restore service over routes formerly operated by Amtrak, including routes in the Gulf Coast region between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Orlando, Florida.”

Chicago-Columbus Passenger Line Hearings Set

October 17, 2018

Four public meeting have been scheduled in Indiana and Ohio to discuss a proposed intercity rail passenger route between Chicago and Columbus via Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The meetings are being conducted by the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association and will cover recent work that has been done to bring the service to fruition as well as how to secure funding for the service.

The only Ohio hearings will be held Oct. 23 between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in Lima at the Lima Municipal Center.

Other hearings are set for Oct. 24 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne; Oct. 24 between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the city hall council chambers in Warsaw, Indiana; and Oct. 25 between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.  at the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce in Valparaiso, Indiana.

At each meeting, there will be a brief presentation from HNTB, a consulting firm hired to complete an analysis required under federal law in order for the rail project to receive federal funding.

The analysis includes a purpose and need assessment, a public involvement plan, an analysis of the route options, development of service alternatives along the preferred route, and preliminary engineering to develop cost estimates of the service alternatives.

That work is being done in phases and the meetings and analysis to be presented will focus on the corridor between Lima and Gary, Indiana.

PennDOT to Study Pittsburgh-Altoona Train

September 25, 2018

A feasibility study will be conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for a Pittsburgh-Altoona passenger train.

PennDOT will review several studies on the Keystone West Corridor and gather information about the existing right of way, and current and projected freight-rail activity on the line.

The study will also develop cost estimates of the proposed service as well as three potential service plans, a travel-demand marketing assessment and ridership estimates.

The service would supplement the existing Amtrak Pennsylvanian, which operates between Pittsburgh and New York and is funded by PennDOT.

The route between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg is owned by Norfolk Southern.

Pennsylvania has commissioned previous studies of additional Amtrak service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh but thus far nothing has materialized.

Group Wants Michigan Demonstration Trains

April 26, 2018

A Michigan environmental group is pushing for demonstration trains to operate in summer 2019 between Traverse City and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Ground Center for Resilient Communities has been seeking intercity rail passenger service on the route for several years.

The group has raised $100,000 to conduct a study of the route’s potential that it expected to be completed this summer.

Preliminary findings have shown that the A2TC route as it has been dubbed could generate enough ridership to support a passenger train.

Much of that is based on the projection that tourism in Traverse City is expected to double from 6 million a year to 13 million by 2045.

“It could provide options for baby boomers moving up to the region and for college students at Baker, Alma, CMU, U of M,” said Jim Bruckbauer, deputy director of the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. “We see the potential for what this can do for the downtowns between Traverse City and Ann Arbor — Owosso, Clare, Cadillac.”

Permanent rail service on the route is years away, but the group is eyeing operating some specialty trains in summer 2019.