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Is the renaissance of train travel upon us?

There's a lot of talk these days about high-speed rail throughout the United States. Unfortunately it'll take more than talk -- like a lot of money and a lot of time -- to realize such a network. But with the support of the Obama administration, the U.S. just might be on course to a train travel renaissance.


Despite the controversy, the president is on board (no pun intended). During a speech back in April, Obama praised high speed rail by saying, "Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation and ending up only blocks from your destination." That does sound idyllic, though in small cities, it might not be that easy.

Thanks to suburban sprawl, many downtowns, especially in upstate NY, don't offer much in the way of public transportation. If the lines do get built, this would be an easy problem to overcome; zipcars or bike rentals are one option. There's also the possibility that the trains would create a resurgence in downtowns, bringing small business, shops, even upscale housing back to smaller cities.

Assuming some of the states who have applied for stimulus money actually receive it and are able to build the high speed lines, it will still be years before they are ready to roll. Guess only time will tell if it will be worth the investment and if we'll, once again, be a country of train-travelers.

Read the entire article here.

High-speed hydrogen rail between Grand Rapids and Detroit and learning from the 'Simpsons'

It's a bit Jetsons-y, an elevated high-speed rail that's powered by hydrogen. But, what the heck, right? Let's get a little futuristic. The trip from Grand Rapids to Detroit is expected to take 40 minutes. If it comes to fruition, it should be a nice economic bump to the city, bringing in people from Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Ann Arbor for the games and festivals Detroit has to offer.


The project was proposed by the privately owned Interstate Traveler Company, located just north of Ann Arbor. Company officials are asking the state to provide free use of the right-of-way along Michigan's interstate freeway system.

The railway's cars would levitate on top of an elevated hydrogen-based track and be propelled by energy from magnets. Cars holding people, freight and vehicles would cycle at high speeds, stopping in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit.

Local business leaders say the concept has the potential to create a new manufacturing base in Michigan and spur economic development.

"Clearly this would bring a competitive advantage to our state if we could move people and freight and cars and vehicles from Grand Rapid to Detroit, and eventually to other Midwestern states," said Jared Rodriguez, a lobbyist with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Read the entire article here.

Additional piece from the Grand Rapids Press that links this high-rail plan to The Simpsons. Complete with hilarious clips. Check it out here.

Detroit's rail projects are working together to maximize funds

It's usually a good sign when you see organizations -- both private and public -- or regions working together. And it's a good sign when you see both the privately backed rail line and the public rail line project working together to maximize their funding.


"We're in full commitment. We're working together," White said. He's the city's lead on the Detroit Department of Transportation's Detroit Options for Growth Study, a $371 million plan to run light rail from downtown to the state fairgrounds at Eight Mile Road.

The M1 plan is a 3.4-mile, 12-stop curbside line, with 12-18 months of construction starting by year-end. It will operate as a nonprofit and eventually be turned over to a regional system.

Backers include Penske Corp. founder Roger Penske, chairman of the project; Peter Karmanos Jr., founder of Detroit-based software maker Compuware Corp.; Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings and co-founder of Little Caesar Enterprises Inc.; and Quicken Loans/Rock Financial founder Dan Gilbert, the project's co-chairman.

DDOT's study calls for a center-of-street rail service from downtown to the state fairgrounds at Eight Mile Road. The project now calls for the M1 Rail plan to replace a portion of its route, and needs money spent on M1 Rail to act as the required local match for federal funding.

Read the entire article here.

Could Detroit be the man-on-the-moon for the nation's high speed rail?

There's going to be a lot of talk about high-speed rail now that Biden and Obama are talking stimulus for really fast trains. So, The Atlantic asks, why not start this project here in Michigan?


Instead of scattering nickels and dimes across dozens of states, a better idea would be to increase the train fund at least tenfold so America can have at least one legitimate high-speed rail line like Spain's Madrid-to-Seville train, which runs at 186 mph (Amtrak averages only 79 nationwide). And let this man-on-the-moon project start in Detroit.

Yes, Detroit. The city that was once part of FDRs "Arsenal of Democracy," for its part in retooling auto plants to make World War II tanks and bombers, has easily a dozen empty auto plants that could be making train engines and train cars.

In Flint, Michigan, United Auto Workers Local 651 President Art Reyes says Plant Six at the Delphi Flint East site, which once made air filters and has been idle since September 2008, offers 500,000 square feet, 45-foot ceilings, 26-inch-thick concrete floors, fiber-optic wiring, and, conveniently, a rail line.

"I have a workforce of 900 that's been downsized from 9,000," says Reyes, "but every one of them is computer-literate and ready for cutting-edge, green-technology stuff, whether it's wind turbines, next-generation auto batteries, or rail. We're hungry for work."

Read the entire article here.

Read a piece here by Michigan Public Radio about the future of Michigan train travel that asks "Is the future of train travel in Michigan?"

Michigan's hybrid economy: Public transportation

Not to belabor the point but our transit system here in the metro area is a bit lacking - and that may be an understatement. There is room, so much room, for improvement. And now, finally, people are realizing not only the public benefit of public transportation, but also the economic benefit.


Read and listen to the entire piece here.

Israel company helping Michigan to patch leaky pipes, create jobs

We got some leaky pipes here in Michigan and leaky pipes, unless patched, can really mess up your daily commute, or keep your kids out of school, or just plain destroy the infrastructure. So an Israel-based company is working alongside our state to help fix the problem.


Representatives from Israel-based Miya will work side by side with experts in Michigan to help identify faulty pipes, and leaks, and will together develop ways to go about fixing problems.

Project organizers say they plan to expand the program to the entire Michigan region to help stimulate jobs in water engineering, maintenance, installation and manufacturing.

"As these projects expand, we will train more Michigan workers and develop expertise that we can export nationally and globally as well," said Lt. Gov. John Cherry at the official opening of Green Jobs for Blue Waters.

The initiative will not only create new jobs, but will in the long term save taxpayers money, as water savings translates to energy savings.

Read the entire article here.

Time for high-speed rail and Michigan to meet

Detroit to Chicago in under three hours sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Well, that's the plan, hopefully. A bunch of Midwestern governors, including ours, put together a letter requesting a high-speed rail linking a number of our Midwestern cities... and when they say high-speed, they really mean it. They're talkin' 'bout 110 mph.


Last month, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and seven other Midwestern governors signed a letter asking Washington for a share of that stimulus money to breathe life into a long-dormant dream of high-speed rail service connecting Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, St. Louis and all points between.

The states' plan is called the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. They first got together in the mid-1990s to promote and design a better way of quickly moving people around the industrial heartland.

Fast, clean, efficient and affordable transportation can help tighten the "Rust Belt" into a region knitted tightly together with high-speed rail service.

How does this grab you? Downtown Detroit to downtown Chicago in three hours and 46 minutes: Around $57, according to a 2004 Rail Initiative report. And you arrive fresh and ready for a day of doing business or a Saturday of just wandering down the Miracle Mile.

Read the entire article here.

Metro Detroit gets $16M for transportation projects

Looking for a new bike path or some park lighting or a few patches of pretty flowers? Well, if you live in one of the 67 communities slated for federal transportation aide you're in luck.


Ten metro Detroit projects valued at nearly $16 million are part of a $47.3 million in transportation enhancement funding paid for with federal stimulus and other transportation-related dollars announced in a statement by Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry on Thursday.

Sixty seven communities in 27 counties will get money. Twenty two projects will be funded by federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money that requires no local match.

The money will pay for enhancements such as bike paths, paved shoulders, lighting, landscaping, sidewalks, crosswalks, and preservation work on bridges and rail facilities, the statement said.

Read the entire article here.

$44 million pledge brings Detroit regional transit authority closer to reality

Transit just doesn't exist in a vacuum. And for it to work it must have guidance (and a clear train of thought) as well as cooperation. Well, finally - though it isn't set in stone yet, a regional transit authority is nearly flesh and blood. Such an authority should get things moving along, so to speak, in the regional transit department.


After decades of missed chances, southeast Michigan appears closer than ever to getting what other major cities already enjoy -- a true regional transportation system.

The first link in that potential system got a major boost last week when the Kresge Foundation and Detroit's Downtown Development Authority pledged a combined $44 million to the proposed M1-RAIL light-rail line on Woodward in Detroit.

The potential is big. Beyond actually moving people from place to place, regional transit systems tend to spur nearby creation of residential, retail and other development. The regional transit plan being considered for southeast Michigan envisions 30,000 new jobs, $1.4 billion in annual payroll and almost 11,000 housing units built near the transit lines, as well as boosted retail sales and other benefits, all spurred by the year 2035 if a regional transit system is built.

Read the entire article here.

Detroit to Ann Arbor light rail slated to begin in October

After years of speculation and meetings, the Detroit to Ann Arbor light rail should begin in October. Some communities, like Dearborn, are hoping to get a jump on the process to expedite the ride.


A three-year trial system of a proposed intermodal rail passenger station that would allow passengers to ride from Ann Arbor to Detroit is slated to begin next October.

Officials in the city of Dearborn are looking to get a jump on the process, as on March 2, the Dearborn City Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Mayor Jack O'Reilly to execute an amendment to renew and extend a contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) through Sept. 30 for site selection, environmental assessment and preliminary engineering and design of an intermodal station in Dearborn.

Read the entire article here.

IKEA Canton will start bussing in shoppers

For some people there is nothing more glorious than pulling up to the giant blue and yellow IKEA building. It's kind of like that scene in "2001: A Space Odyssey," minus the violent imagery. It is that monumental. And now you can get there without your car. IKEA shuttle service has been implemented for your IKEA shopping pleasures.


IKEA Canton's hourly destination shuttle will start Thursday, transporting patrons from the store at Ford and Haggerty to Campus Martius Park in Detroit and back.

The 40-seat bus, covered with IKEA's logo and a picture of its iconic Pong chair, will run four consecutive days each month in conjunction with various events at the park to generate interest and revenue for both communities, said Kelly Frieze, store manager of IKEA Canton.

"While the IKEA store sits here in Canton, it was built to serve the entire Metro Detroit market," he said. "We're looking to broaden that appeal."

Read the entire article here.

Detroit-to-Chicago high-speed rail project could get boost from Obama's stimulus package

How many times have you heard stimulus in the last few weeks? Probably a lot, right? Well, here's one more time. Money, through the package, has been put away specifically for high-speed rail connections between cities. And that means cities like Detroit and Chicago.


The Detroit-to-Chicago project is part of the Midwest High Speed Rail Initiative, which should get priority for new money. The Midwest projects use existing routes and track, making improvements less expensive and faster to do. Making the track, signal and other technology improvements needed for high-speed service for the 280 miles between Detroit and Chicago should cost less than $1 billion and could be done in two years.

"We'll be in a very good spot to go after the money," Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, told local leaders in downtown Detroit Thursday, as they met at the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments to discuss the stimulus bill.

Read the entire article here.

Washtenaw County is pushing toward a more integrated public transit system

It's something new popping up to the old question of transit. In Washtenaw County there is a push toward a fully integrated public transit system that includes buses and commuter rails. Of course it's still in discussion and all the communities and counties have to jump on board but, still, at least there is the talk.


Irwin makes it clear that he prefers an integrated system that includes expanded bus service and both the proposed Ann Arbor-Detroit and Ann Arbor-Howell commuter rail lines, possibly all overseen by AATA.

"I would like to wrap all that in and have a complete, countywide transit system," Irwin said.

AATA expects to hear soon from an attorney investigating how it might change itself from an agency chartered by the city of Ann Arbor to an authority for a wider area.

Read the entire article here.

Gov. Granholm passes legislation that will advance downtown Detroit's light-rail link toward reality

Gov. Jennifer Granholm approves legislation that will advance the process to creating downtown Detroit's 3.5-mile light-rail link.


Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently signed legislation that aims to create non-profit entities to build and operate rail lines in the state, and provide financing mechanisms to operate the lines.

The legislation will help advance The Regional Area Initial Link (TRAIL), a 3.5-mile light-rail line along Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit. TRAIL would serve as the first corridor in a proposed 406-mile regional transit system. The line would run between Hart Plaza and the New Center.

Read the entire article here.

Cities along proposed commuter line look to funds depots

It's getting closer and closer and closer. And, soon, coming to a city near you, will be a depot station for it. Cities running along the Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter line are looking for funding for their rail stations.

It's another step forward, and closer to all aboard.


City of Dearborn officials have said they have a three-phase plan in place to complete the city's new high-speed rail passenger intermodal station that will be a part of an Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter rail line. If funding is allocated, the station would sit on the south side of Michigan Avenue just east of Brady near the Henry Ford.

But Dearborn isn't the only city looking for funding for an updated station, as each city on the line -- Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Wayne/Westland and Detroit -- have plans for new or updated intermodal stations, according to city of Dearborn Director of Economic & Community Development Barry Murray.

Read the entire article here.
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