A system of regional mass transit in southeast Michigan has moved further down the track thanks to a $25 million federal grant and an Amtrak ridership survey that shows the number of train commuters continues to increase.
"I believe that southeast Michigan is as close as it has ever been to implementing higher levels of transit," says Carmine Palombo, transportation director for SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.
He says SEMCOG and the Michigan Department of Transportation "continue moving forward on the commuter rail project from Ann Arbor to Detroit. Amtrak ridership on the Pontiac to Chicago line is up significantly. These are all positive signs that could lead to enhanced transit being in our future in the not too distant future."
The positive prognosis comes after the award of a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the building of the Detroit Light Rail Line. The grant comes from the Transportation Investment Generating Recovery - TIGER, a program of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
The first phase is the construction of a light rail line that runs 3.4 miles along Woodward and has 12 stations connecting downtown Detroit to Grand Blvd in the New Center area. The second phase would extend the light rail line 5.9 miles from Grand Blvd to 8 Mile Road near the Michigan State fairgrounds.
Separately, according to a report from the Michigan Dept of Transportation (MDOT), Amtrak ridership and ticket revenue increased again.
From October to December, 130,683 passengers took trains on the Pontiac/Detroit-Chicago corridor -- or Wolverine line -- for an increase of 22.7 percent from a year ago. Ticket revenue increased 26 percent to $4,949,889, according to MDOT. Ridership and revenue also increased on the Blue Water train that goes between Port Huron and East Lansing and the Pere Marquette line between Grand Rapids and Chicago.
Janet Foran, a spokesperson for MDOT, which helps fund the Pere Marquette and Blue Water lines, says "certainly there is a lot more effort in southeast Michigan to get new projects off to a start, one being the Woodward light rail line…Clearly there is much more defined interest train travel."
Palombo and Foran say, as always, funding will have to follow the interest.
Source: Carmine Palombo, director of transportation for SEMCOG and Janet Foran, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Transportation
Writer: Kim North Shine