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Posted on Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

When will Ann Arbor train station project go to a public vote? Council members differ on issue

By Ryan J. Stanton


Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje still wants to see a new train station built on the footprint of an existing parking lot the city leases to the University of Michigan on Fuller Road in front of the U-M Hospital, where an estimated 30,000-plus people go every day. The project is still in the planning stages and officials haven't completely ruled out re-using the existing Amtrak station site on Depot Street. No matter which site is selected, the project must go to a public vote before construction occurs.

City of Ann Arbor

As the city of Ann Arbor's train station project continues to chug along, a big question mark still hangs in the air: When will the project go to a public vote?

The City Council agreed last fall to eventually put the question of a new Amtrak station on a city ballot before construction occurs, but exactly when that happens isn't decided.

Some argue the project, which has been controversial the past few years as it's moved through the planning stages, should go to voters before any more money is spent.


City Council Member Jane Lumm, an Independent who represents the 2nd Ward, continues to question the push for a new train station.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"The city should not have spent the substantial amounts we have on the project already without a clear mandate from the community," said City Council Member Jane Lumm, an Independent who represents the 2nd Ward and questions the need for a new train station.

Lumm estimated the city already has spent about $2.7 million of residents' money, counting money spent on consultants, and studies and sewer and water main improvements along Fuller Road, the city's first choice for where to put the new station.

Mayor John Hieftje said the $1.34 million worth of utility work done on Fuller Road had been planned for a long time and was needed regardless of any potential train station project there.

"The work provided much-needed improvements for the medical center, Fuller Pool, and, as I recall, 30,000 Northside residents," he said.

Lumm now questions the latest projections that show the city might have to spend another $9.4 million in local dollars for design and construction.

"Where is that local money going to come from for the upfront capital cost? Don't know that," she said. "How about any incremental costs for operations? Don't know that either." put the question of the timing of a public vote on the Ann Arbor Station project to all 11 members of the City Council this past week. Nine responded, and their answers varied widely.

Their answers suggest there likely won't be a public vote this year.

Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, questioned the logic of going to voters before completing the final design.

"The investment to design an adequate Ann Arbor train station will be money well spent," he said. "It makes no sense to put an incomplete proposal before the voters.


Fellow 3rd Ward Council Members Christopher Taylor, left, and Stephen Kunselman, right, see the train station issue differently. Taylor is in favor of completing a $2.6 million final design phase before going to voters. Kunselman said there's no need for council to include a new train station design in the city's fiscal year 2014-15 budget since there still remains, in his opinion, a great deal of ambiguity about the location and funding sources for a new train station.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"We cannot develop a financing plan without a final design. No one, neither voter nor council member, would be able to make an informed decision about a new train station without a final design."

The city's tentative capital projects budget shows a $2.6 million line item for final design in the fiscal year starting July 1, 2014.

The city is counting on 80 percent of those funds coming from the federal government, leaving roughly $520,000 tentatively planned to come from the city's general fund.

The city's staff acknowledges the final design is unfunded at the moment. For the project to move forward, the preliminary engineering and environmental review phase — costing more than $3 million — must be completed with a determination to head into final design on a specific site the federal government will help choose.

The city received a $2.8 million federal grant for the work that's being done now, and voted in October to chip in another $550,000 from the city's general fund cash reserves as a local match.

The actual construction cost of a new train station, estimated at $44.5 million, is another piece that remains unfunded, though the city expects the same 80-20 split between federal and local dollars.

For now, the city is assuming $35.6 million in construction funds will come from the Federal Railroad Administration, leaving an $8.9 million placeholder in the city's general fund in 2015-16.

The city's staff expects to work with other potential funding partners to meet the local match for construction, according to a recent memo shared with council.

Hieftje said he's not discouraged by critics who question whether federal funds will be forthcoming for eventual construction of a new train station in Ann Arbor.

"They're building and working on stations across the state along the rail line," he said of the federal government's interest in rail in Michigan. "There's absolutely no reason to believe they're not going to be prepared to (fund a station in Ann Arbor). They've already given us the first stage funding and are working closely with our people. There's absolutely no reason to believe that they won't be following through with upgrading the stations, particularly the busiest station in the state."

Council Member Sumi Kailasapathy, D-1st Ward, said the city first must decide whether there is majority support on council for spending general funds for a train station, wherever it might be located.


Council Member Sumi Kailasapathy, D-1st Ward, said the city should be cautious about spending any more general fund money on a new train station.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The city has focused heavily on the site on Fuller Road — on the footprint of what's now a paved parking lot in front of the University of Michigan Hospital — but it hasn't completely ruled out re-using the existing Amtrak station site just a stone's throw away on Depot Street.

If there is support for spending more money, then the city needs to wait for the FRA to approve a site for that train station, Kailasapathy said.

"Only after the FRA has made a determination, and only if the FRA recommends the Fuller Park site, should we ask voters to approve the use of that parkland for a train station," she said.

"While we wait for these things to happen, we should spend no more general fund money planning or preparing for a train station," she added.

Kailasapathy said it's possible the current council, which has a few new faces, does not support spending any further general funds to plan or build a train station.

Since the council last voted 8-2 to spend the $550,000 from its general fund cash reserves, Kailasapathy, Sally Hart Petersen and Chuck Warpehoski have joined the council's ranks.

Petersen, D-2nd Ward, said an appropriate time for a public vote would be after the conceptual planning and before the final design.

She said it's noteworthy that the first phase of the contract with SmithGroup JJR, one of the city's consultants, requires a conceptual plan workshop, public meetings, and conceptual designs of both the Fuller Road and current Amtrak site plans.

"So, the public can expect to weigh in on the conceptual design before its completion and before any voting," she said.

Warpehoski, D-5th Ward, said he hopes the city will pursue other sources of funding to help make up the local match for the next phases, so the general fund contribution will be much less.

He pointed out the council isn't being asked to make any additional funding allocations for the train station project in the coming fiscal year that starts July 1.


Council Member Chuck Warpehoski, D-5th Ward, said he sees two logical windows for a vote: Either after the environmental review work that's being done this year, or after the final design work expected in 2014-15.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"So I don't see it as a factor as we pass this year's budget," he said.

Warpehoski said he sees two logical windows for a vote: Either after the environmental review work that's being done this year, or after the final design work expected in 2014-15.

One concern Warpehoski said he heard from voters during the library bond debate last fall was the lack of a design or final plan for the new downtown library the bond would have funded. The result was that the $65 million bond proposal was defeated with less than 45 percent in favor.

"Given that concern, my preference would be to bring this to the voters when we can have all the relevant questions addressed: Where will it be? What will it look like? Who else is contributing funding?" Warpehoski said, suggesting he wants to see the city proactively look for funding partners so it's not on the hook for more than half the final design costs.

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, noted the resolution the council approved last fall stipulated the project would go to voters "at or before the completion of a final design."

Briere said the already-funded work being done includes a recommendation about the location, and the federal grant the city received contains enough funding for preliminary designs.

"So, after the environmental assessment is completed, but before more money is spent on a final design — that seems to be the meaning of the resolution," she said.

Briere said she believes the public vote must take place before any final decisions are made regarding the location of a new train station.

Hieftje told in an interview this past week the $520,000 from the general fund for final design is only a rough estimate, and it actually could be more than $700,000. He said it's not written in stone which will come first — the final design or the public vote.

"For one thing, we don't have a good determination of what the match will be for the final design, because if the FRA frankly chooses the Fuller Road site, then the design work that's already done greatly reduces whatever match is required," he said. "It looks like the maximum would be about $700,000 and change, but again that could be split between our partners."


Council Member Sally Hart Petersen, D-2nd Ward, said an appropriate time for a public vote would be after the conceptual planning and before the final design.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Hieftje said there are two ways to look at the timing issue.

"Some people believe that if you don't have a complete design, it's really not fair to voters to say, 'Hey, you really don't know what you're voting for.' Others believe you don't need the complete design," he said. "But again, if it came back that most of the match was already covered, then why not wait for the full design? And if it comes back that there's a whole lot that we would have to come up with as a city, then we may make the decision another way."

Hieftje said there will be a public vote regardless of which site is chosen — not just if it happens to be proposed on city parkland in Fuller Park.

"Basically it's the federal government's money, so they're going to make a decision on where they spend it," he said. "But we need to get through this stage — the environmental work — before we can make the next decision."

Lumm thinks a voter referendum on the project needs to happen now before the final design is complete. She believes once the design is complete, proponents will argue too money has been invested in a new station not to go forward with the project.

Lumm also continues to question whether the tens of millions of dollars in federal funds for construction of the station will materialize.

"And we continue to spend money on a project where the fundamental need isn't clearly established, at a site that I believe — despite claims to the contrary — is pre-determined, is parkland, and is likely not the low-cost alternative," she said, suggesting there are more pressing city needs and priorities, as well as a great deal of uncertainty regarding regional transportation in Southeast Michigan.

Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, said there's no need for council to include a new train station design in the city's fiscal year 2014-15 budget since there still remains, in his opinion, a great deal of ambiguity about the location and funding sources for a new train station.


Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, said he was amazed the train station project was included in the city's updated Capital Improvements Plan without clear direction from council.

Ryan J. Stanton |

As long as Fuller Park remains the preferred site for a new train station, Kunselman said he doubts the mayor has the necessary support of the majority of council members to even approve ballot language for any initiative to proceed with a new train station.

"Until Fuller Park as a proposed train station site and WALLY are removed from further consideration, and community trust in train transit can be restored, I have no reason to support a ballot proposal asking for community support for a new train station," he said.

Kunselman said he's personally a staunch supporter of inter-city train travel, but it is seems the mayor's "transit by train" initiatives such Ann Arbor Station have created widespread community distrust due to citizen expectations that city tax subsidies will be required.

He predicts any ballot proposal soliciting community support for a new train station — if it even makes the ballot — will be defeated by voters.

Kailasapathy agreed.

"I believe there is a strong possibility that voters will not approve the use of the Fuller Park site for a train station," she said. "For that reason, I believe we should not spend any more money on planning the station until we have permission from the voters."

Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, said he was amazed the train station project was included in the city's updated Capital Improvements Plan without clear direction from council.

"At this time, I would not be in favor of building a new train station since we have a train station now that functions well for the community," he said. "City staff time and transportation resources are better placed on providing better bus service, since bus service is more reliable and nimble and therefore able to respond to current and future needs and travel timetables."

The local Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club has been concerned about the precedent that would be set by building a train station on a portion of Fuller Park, even if it is a parking lot now.


A westbound Amtrak train to Chicago pulls into the Ann Arbor station on Depot Street in this photo from last year. In the background is the University of Michigan Hospital, where the mayor and other city officials want to build a new train station on Fuller Road.

Melanie Maxwell I

Chairwoman Nancy Shiffler said her group continues to support both rail transit and protection of parks, but the question to be presented for a public vote is currently vague at best.

"We want the city to present a clearly defined question to the public for a vote," she said, "including the proposed location, and the city's costs to build and operate, all of which will be best understood after completion of the environmental assessment and preliminary engineering designs, as required by the federal grant accepted by the city in the summer of 2012."

While the Sierra Club has been mostly critical of the project, the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center has endorsed it.

Mike Garfield, the Ecology Center's director, said his group's position remains unchanged from October when it lobbied council to approve funding the current phase of work.

"I'd be open to relocating the train station development to another adequate site, but I haven't seen an adequate alternative suggested," Garfield said.


The parking lot along Fuller Road where the mayor would like to see a new train station built. Others, including the local Sierra Club, have been concerned about the precedent that would be set by building a train station on a portion of Fuller Park, even if it is a parking lot now. City officials said the FRA will make the final choice on a location for the station.

City of Ann Arbor

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

Shouldn't we be honest about this Amtrak business? It is almost entirely about environmental tokenism and environmental posturing by local Ann Arbor politicians. This project has at best very meager environmental benefits, serves only a very small select group of people, and is wildly expensive for the returned benefits. Funding for environmental projects is very scarce and should go to projects with much higher chances of meaningful success and greater paybacks.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

We need a single, coherent transportation plan that addresses buses, trains, road improvements, and zoning rules. Until we have that, we will have terrible traffic and incoherent development in the suburbs that degrade the quality of life. Simply impersonating the TEA Party and saying "no" to everything without offering viable alternatives, like Lumm, Petersen, and Kailasapathy do, will not give Ann Arbor a viable future that avoids the problems of metro Detroit.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 9:34 p.m.

Central planning by political elites has a proven record of failure almost everywhere it has been tried. If we want to make a better environmental future for ourselves in Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan, we should be tackling our human overpopulation and overconsumption problems. We do not need more people and increased development of any klnd here. We have to learn to live within our ecological limits.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

Why isn't the former MichCon site across the racks from the current station being discussed. There's room for parking, bus access and the location would seem to serve the City better than the U. The site is ripe for redevelopment. The Fuller Paring Lot was intended to be temporary and should go away. Any vote should include option for a site.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 2:27 a.m.

I will politely comment that until I see funds better managed at both the educational and the road maintenance levels, I won't vote for sale of park lands or a train station or art or a replacement library or creating more downtown parks or ... well, you get the picture. I understand that we all want AA to be a great place to live, but I feel that we are neglecting the core services that affect the lives of the citizens who live and work here daily, while talking instead about 'extras' or upgrades that are "nice to haves" but not top priority.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 4:23 a.m.

@kurikoo: EXCELLENT comment. NO one is talking about the degradation of core services in AA, and yet AA mayor and council spend thousands and thousands on "pie in the sky" projects that have never left the drawing board, like a Fuller Rd train station that AA residents don't want. Restore police and fire services and staff, PLOW the roads when it snows and not just after 4" (pathetic and dangerous policy), and FIX the potholes which are craters around the city. And stop all public so-called art projects until police services, fire services and roads maintenance are restored. Can we vote out the mayor and council any time soon?


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 12:26 a.m.

I see one big problem with the idea of ever putting this up to the voters. The majority of people who would use such a transit center would not be able to vote. The station, combined with a commuter rail program along the soon to be State of Michigan owned Michigan Line, would bring people into the city, not serve as a way out of the city like many think. AA is now a town where people commute to work in, rather the leave town to work. It is those people who would benefit from a new quality station to replace the Amtrak dump on depot street. In addition, the location on Fuller Rd would be better able to serve the people who would be commuting into AA to work.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

Are communters going to pay the full costs of their commuter rail service? Of course not! But why shouldn't commuters pay for the whole costs of the service they are receiving. Why should a few people get special breaks and benefits?

Tom Whitaker

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

The good citizens of Ann Arbor voted to pay to buy up development rights in the townships to preserve open space, protect our watershed, and to preserve agricultural lands. We have agreed, to some extent, on new downtown development incentives to provide more urban residential units (although the results so far have not been good--only providing places for students who wouldn't live in the townships anyway). We've also repeatedly voted to fund our parks with millages and to protect them from sale with a charter amendment. So, why on earth would we want to pay for a train station on our park land that would only serve to make it easier for people to take an Ann Arbor job, but live outside the city? If UM is having trouble getting workers to and from their jobs, then UM should be looking at providing charter commuter buses. Or even better, UM should stop tearing down every house and apartment building near campus and start providing incentives for employees to rent or buy close to work--maybe even build some affordable staff apartments near the hospital, or sell some land to a developer who will. Maybe on those acres of vacant land on Plymouth Road?

Sam S Smith

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

Then let those people pay for it. We want a vote so that we're not stuck more with the cost.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 2:22 a.m.

So IF (and I don't think we need a new train station) this is even partly true - that the majority of users would be folks who commute into A2 to work - the most sensible site is downtown. The U can always operate a shuttle bus to campus if they want to support external commuters. I don't think there are enough commuters to pay for the station, and I don't want to pay for it.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 1:37 a.m.

"It is those people who would benefit from a new quality station to replace the Amtrak dump on depot street" As a local person who actually uses the Amtrak station regularly, I don't consider it a dump.The Greyhound station was truly a dump and even they cleaned that up.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 8:32 p.m.

Why would we ever invest in anything as a city when we could always spend more on fire trucks, police cars, and a tall, electrified fence to keep out the Millennials?

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

"Hieftje told in an interview this past week the $520,000 from the general fund for final design is only a rough estimate, and it actually could be more than $700,000." Isn't $520,000 enough? More than $700,000? Then it will more than... The city council needs to bring this to the voters right away! What is the difference between Kwame and cronies ripping off Detroit and Hieftje and cronies ripping off Ann Arbor? Answer: No difference!

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

Who hired Smithgroup JJR?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 6:53 p.m.

The current station works just fine. I've started trips to Chicago, Glen Ellyn, Seattle and Royal Oak from that station. I never had a problem with parking, finding a seat, getting to the restroom, etc. The only downside is that the track quality in and around Detroit is so poor, the train just crawls through that area. Also, the views on the way to Royal Oak are like something from the Apocalypse. 44 million sounds like an awful lot of money. There is a lot more empty land in Ypsilanti, but Amtrak is not currently stopping there. IF we really need a new station, has anybody considered that?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

Has Amtrak showed any interest in building/relocating a new station?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

They have not. However, as the mayor for some reason thinks is significant, they are entirely in favor of Ann Arbor paying to build one for them.

Rita Mitchell

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

Ryan, Thank you for more clearly pointing out in this article that repurposing of PARK land is a major issue of concern. If this park space (Ann Arbor's original public golf course) can be repurposed for a train station, what will protect any of our parks from similar degradation by parking, followed by loss of collective memory of the quality of the open space, and subsequent transformation into permanently built structures? It just takes time, and persistently being on-message to redirect people's perceptions. The proposal to place a train station in Fuller Park appears to be one of eating away at our public open space from the inside. We have a functioning rail station. Sometimes it gets crowded, but it works. Sometimes there are parking problems. If we are serious about encouraging alternate transportation, then encouraging significantly more on-site parking is not a solution. We need data on the problems before we move to spend additional significant public funds on building projects. Creative minds can find ways to solve the problems that have been raised. Ask a qualified engineer.

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

Are the designs going to be free or are we going to have to pay for them as well? Regardless of any designs, the vast majority are against this project and it needs to go to the voters before any more money is spent on this!

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 6:42 p.m.

I like China for many reasons but I don't want to be a citizen of it!

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

Yep, I'm all for adding to the federal deficit especially with all the wonderful budget cuts! Thank you Ann Arbor! You're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem!


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 6:09 p.m.

I would just like to add emphasis on the "COUNTING ON" part. As in if it doesn't come through (and frankly I think it's a tragic waste of money even if it does), then we are boned. Again.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

The story notes the federal grant the city already received contains enough funding for preliminary designs, but the final design is another $2.6 million line item shown in the city's 2014-15 budget. The city is counting on 80% of that coming from the federal government.

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

Train station, a roundabout, people walking or transported up to UMMC from Wall Street = too much traffic and inconvenience. UMMC may think of itself as Mecca but with all the other great hospitals in southeast MI, it is not. This proposed congestion in a very small area would be reasons for people to keep away not attract them to this area.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 4:15 a.m.

Glad you mentioned that roundabout they are considering at Fuller and Wall. With a train station on Fuller and that roundabout at Fuller and Wall, good luck! What a nightmare!

Steve Bean

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:58 p.m.

A vote on repurposing parkland would be appropriate per city code. A vote on a train station would not.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:57 p.m.

HERE is the MONEY : Rep. JOHN DINGELL iusses $ 200 Millon for the TRAIN in 2009. M DOT flyer in 2010 EVENTS TRAINS to run in fall 2010 >to the Thankgiving PARADE DETROIT. THE MITRAIN is boarding soooo, DEPOT TOWN RAG :commuter train a "bit" behind schedule! Nov. 10 2010 The Michigan House passed HB 6484 with $ 100 millon bond /This will match $ 150 millon for High speed rail . heritage .com Oct. 4, 2012 FEDS seek fedback on High-speed rail plan. GREAT LAKES .. plus the GOLDEN SPIKE under "reasearch for over 30-35 YEARS? THE question is .WHO is IN CHARGE.? Since this is a STATE WIDE Project ...NO reaseon for ANn ARBOR to "VOTE or SPEND MONEY"! lets get the whole picture ! And quit dribbling and Costing taxpayers money FOr an EGO trip ..t most council members HAVE no Idee How to build a STATION...IT IS ONLY BRICKS , call the ARMY ENGINEER ( our BOYS /soldiers are back from foreign land) the Build IT over night. IF EUROPA would have Waited for the .........they still be in breadline...


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

Got caps?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

The City is behind on road maintenance, has cut back on parks maintenance, is understaffed in emergency services... and spends hundreds of thousands on consultants to help sell the idea of a pet project, a new transit station that would require additional maintenance dollars, resulting continuing to neglect the core. A dumb cycle.

Tom Whitaker

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:45 p.m.

I'm a little confused. I thought the public vote being considered was to be on the issue of whether or not public parkland could be re-purposed for a train station, not on whether or not to build a train station at any location. When the public approved a charter amendment several years ago that banned the sale of parkland without a public vote, many thought that would protect our parks. Parkland is currently zoned as PL or Public Land, and only receives its park designation through a less definite mention in the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan. A previous make-up of city council recently changed the PL zoning to allow for transportation facilities (anticipating the train station). That same council also considered a long-term lease for a large parking structure in Fuller Park, and also leasing Huron Hills golf course to a private operator. These actions drew concerns that council was simply attempting to subvert the will of the people in their desire to protect our parks from development. Based on comments made by several candidates in the last council election, I thought there was a pledge to take the idea of re-purposing of Fuller Park to a public vote. Conflating this specific parks issue with an up or down vote on a train station (at any location) will only lead to the same confusing and unhelpful referendum as the recent one on public art funding.

Tom Whitaker

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

The issue isn't compatibility with uses for PUBLIC land, but compatibility with uses for PARK land. Unfortunately, those running the City have failed to create a dedicated park land district in the zoning ordinance. Instead, park land designations are handled in a more precarious manner via the PROS plan. Your comment shows how the conflating of public land and park land by city officials makes it easier for them to contemplate new uses for park land, even though this goes against the popular sentiment of the citizenry as evidenced by the broad support for the charter amendment a few years ago. Another example is the map at the top of the article, which I believe was included in the last round of environmental assessment done by the City's consultant. Notice that nowhere on this map do the words "Fuller Park" appear. Even though the lease with UM for the parking lot calls it the Fuller Park Parking Lot, in this report, it was renamed the Fuller Road Parking Lot (much like the Fuller Road Station Sewer Relocation Project was renamed to disassociate it with the train station project, even though that was its sole purpose). I would hate to think that this creative labeling was an attempt to hide the park designation from the Feds. Federal regulations put locally-designated parks into a category called "protected lands." Federally funded projects on protected lands must show that there is no reasonable alternative to the location chosen. Non-protected lands have a lower standard of "no significant impact."

Basic Bob

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

That confusing and unhelpful referendum could be used as a mechanism to proceed, even if the majority of voters reject it. Repurposing of park land is allowed, as is evident by the fact that this part of Fuller Park is an employee parking lot for UMHS. A train station is far more compatible with public use than a dog park or airport, and is more in line with a water treatment plant or city hall.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

As has been come to be usual, Mayor and his gang don't think public over-site is needed. Anything that sounds good to them has got to be what the paying public wants as they know far better than anybody else. Just ask them.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

Thanks for the additional links, Ryan. Here is one that readers might like to see. It shows the current finances of the different Amtrak lines. The Wolverine (Detroit-Chicago) is running a $17 million operational deficit.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

Yes and I bet this loss of $17 million probably greatly understates the true levels of annual losses for the Detroit-Chicago line. There are many deceptive accounting tricks used to lessen the true costs of government operations.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

These are not my data but as far as I understand, that does not include any subsidies. It is the difference between income (revenue) and cost of operation. Note that beginning in October, the state of Michigan will be taking on the entire subsidy (difference between cost and revenue) of operating the Wolverine Line. The Federal government will no longer be subsidizing these shorter routes. The $17 million is actually a more hopeful number than earlier ones I have seen.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

Ms Armentrout - Does your number include the state subsidy on the revenue side, I can't tell from the link you posted. Remember there are both State subsidies and Federal Subsidies on the line.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

BUSINESS ALWAYS RUN in THE RED. hench no taxes to pay!


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

This needs to be voted on ASAP before they waste any more money on consultants and's going to be overwhelmingly voted projects are done for now in Ann Arbor like elsewhere nationwide...

Stan Hyne

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

It would be nice to have a decent train station with enough reasonable or free parking to enable someone to go to chicago without driving.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 9:55 p.m.

Isn't it right that commuters parking their cars at a train station should pay for the building of that station? No Free Parking!


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

Mr Hyne - I have never had a problem using the existing train station. It works for me to go to Chicago, when I have the slack in my schedule to deal with the fact that the train probably will not run on time. If it ran on schedule, I would probably use it once a month, instead of a couple times a year. If it actually saved me time, that would be better. Average driving time to Chicago - just over 4 hours to the Loop, average train time last year just under 7 hours on the 3 round trips I took.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Stan, I've got just the thing for you. There's a train station at 325 Depot St. It could probably use a little expansion and additional parking. Maybe they can use some of that vast unused tract of land that is adjacent to the current train station parking lot.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

How much are you willing to pay for this?

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

Yes! The parking issue at Fuller has not been adequately discussed. Surely a new parking structure would be necessary - and those don't come cheap. Assuming that one could be built that was not immediately filled by UM employees, intercity travelers would almost certainly be faced with stiff parking fees.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

I agree, but don't think that parking will be free at a new station, I am sure that long-term parking fees are part of the cost-recovery being considered for any new station. Like almost everything else in this town it comes down to money.

Dog Guy

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

Unless they come up with a clever way of selling it to the U. of M. sophomores who re-elect them, the Hieftje gang will schedule a station vote for the second Tuesday of next week.

G. Orwell

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

In order for our city to function properly, we need a few more independents like Jane Lumm. People that can think for themselves for the betterment of the city and its people rather then be TIED to a party, ideologies (i.e. over emphasis on "sustainability" when it makes no sense and costs too much.), special and self interests.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

Vote no ! Good Day


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

If this station is going on Fuller, we get to vote. Important to remember, it is required that the re-purposing of parkland be approved by voters. Despite the circumvention by 'long-term lease' that currently makes the Fuller park site off limits to all but Blue Tag holders (or whatever designation that lot is), we get to vote on permanent re-purposing. Which brings up my second question. If I as a city resident park in there without a UM tag, even though that site is designated city parkland, will I be liable for the ticket costs? Can I still have a picnic there on the grass? How about we organize a ticket-resistance parking day?

Nancy Shiffler

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 6:30 p.m.

Currently we only get a public vote for the actual sale of parkland, not for leasing or other re-purposing. A proposal for a ballot initiative to add language requiring a vote on leasing and repurposing was turned down by city council last summer. The south parking lot in Fuller Park currently has a joint use agreement between the city and the University. The University gets it as metered parking from 6 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday. City parks have use of the lot (free) after 4 pm and all day on weekends and holidays. University employees have, of course, been known to make use of the free parking during the non-week day hours.

average joe

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

The reason the city is hesitant to 'put it to the voters' is because they are afraid that it will be voted down, and then they will be forced to do the will of the people. As DonBee stated, they are trying to get it to the point financially that when they do have the people decide, it will cost the city less to go forward with it than was already spent. Instead of spending millions before having the public vote on it, the city should have said- This is what we think is needed, this is where we think it should be located, this is how much we think it will cost the city, and most importantly this is WHY we think it's needed at this time. After investing minimal dollars to get these questions answered, then the city should have gone to the voters and ask if the residents want the city to proceed with planning, go forward with this huge project.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

Council is wasting its collective time and taxpayer funds discussing this issue. Due to the reality of the times the community will never place significant importance on another train station. Not until the more important issue of police and fire staffing and road construction are solved. Put another way, we have an adequate train station, however, we do not have adequate public safety and roads. This issue is a pipe dream of the mayor and most of the other members of the city council. The consistent voice of reason displayed by Jane Lumm, and now a few others who can get past the ideology of a new train station, give me and others hope that this issue will soon be placed at the lower end of the council agenda going forward.

Ren Farley

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

What is the economic future of Ann Arbor? The number of people in Michigan reaching age 18 each year is falling and will continue to decline. Undergrad enrollment at U of M will not grow much in the future. Concordia is not prospering at present. However, the number of people reaching age 65 every year is increasing. Ann Arbor residents need to think about the economic future of the city and metropolis. The medical sector is the one industry in the state that is clearly growing and will continue to grow. U of M is the second largest employer in southeast Michigan. Ford is the largest. Employment at the U of M medical center probably exceeds 12,000. Ann Arbor residents need to see the U of M hospital system compete effectively against Henry Ford, the DMC and other hospitals for patients. Some of the older individuals needing medical services find it hard to drive. Excellent rail service with a station on Fuller Road would allow staff, patients and visitors to easily get to the U of M Medical center. It appears highly strategic to invest taxpayers dollars in a rail depot that will contribute to the long term economic development of Ann Arbor. As I recall, at one point there were plans to build a very large and revenue generating parking deck to adjoin the new Fuller Road depot and the U of M hospital.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

High taxes in Ann Arbor are increasingly making it difficult for Seniors of average means--and that is the overwhelming majority of Seniors--to live here. Do we want Ann Arbor to become a place where only affluent seniors can live? Ann Arbor has a pretty elite and privileged cast to it now. Do people want to make it even more so in the future?


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 4:10 a.m.

"Sam Smith writes: Mr. Farley, the number of people reaching age 65 every year is increasing but we will not be able to afford to live here. This will be the economic future of Ann Arbor. All that will be left is a few U of M Professors, the very rich and the students." Mr Farley is one of the rich UM profs living in AA.....


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 2:16 a.m.

I just can't envision elderly patients boarding a train to come to U of M when they are sick, having health concerns, or just frail, then going to procedures and appointments and boarding the train in recovery mode to go home. Many will have walkers and other medical devices that aren't easy to transport without help. No, they will have friends/family/caregivers drive them in so they can stay comfortable, have someone help them into the building, not hail a cab at the station for another ride to the hospital. I don't envision tons of employees using the train - some will- but how will you get the mile or so to the hospital? Walking from Fuller would be ok, but I can't imagine that there will be enough ridership to break even. Additionally, people with kids often need to drive so that if a kid is hurt or gets sick, they can leave and get their kid. Not so easy if you factor in a train schedule.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 11:44 p.m.

My Opinion - Double check what happened to the total population of the US vs Michigan and then what happened to the under 18 - I think if you do the math - Michigan is pretty much in sync with the nation - we are losing people of all ages. Remember Michigan was the only state in the USA to lose population from 2000-2010.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 9:45 p.m.

The elderly are the most expensive health care patients. There is also a growing wave of aging veterans coming. Employees paying the tab are already maxed out and their pay is shrinking. Overpopulation (immigrant flooding) is a very bad and ultimately implosive idea in a limited resource environment. A convenient politic way to pass the buck. Like DDA builder scams. The U will likely grow "virtually" and shrink physically to compensate for the growing loss of tax and donor revenue. Cost services will become minimized and standardized - automated. If a wall were build around Ann Arbor today, could it pay its own way? Sustain itself? Even survive? Not at this level. If not self-sufficient now, then fewer amenities can be expected in the future - like subsidized rail travel. If it has to come from the public pot then it won't. There are fewer options remaining and most payers are wise to "corporate success" based upon the public trough. Only the producers can afford producers. Once there was plenty of production to go around. Nobody was worried back then about services. Production got outsrourced. How did those rails and trains ever get built in the first place?

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 9:10 p.m.

Ny Opinion, I'll copy your post so that I can give this to the children and thank them when they are in preschool for paying for all of this! Wow 9.71%-- so much for the American Dream!


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

DonBee, The <18 population in Michigan is not moving in -sync with other states. Nationwide, the <18 population grew by 2.61% in the past decade. The number for Michigan? -9.71%.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

Mr.Farley - The UofM takes out of state students, the student population in Michigan has very LITTLE to do with future enrollment at the UofM. With the small number of rail stations on the Amtrak system between Detroit and Ann Arbor, most patients will probably arrive via a different route. As to the under 18 population in the state - it is moving in sync with the national numbers, based on the overall state population.

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

Mr. Farley, the number of people reaching age 65 every year is increasing but we will not be able to afford to live here. This will be the economic future of Ann Arbor. All that will be left is a few U of M Professors, the very rich and the students.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

"...large and revenue generating parking deck..." Generating revenue for whom? From the Q and A session, the ONLY answer to how any revenue could be generated for the city was "we MIGHT be able to charge Amtrak for the use of those spaces meant specifically for them." That was IT. No other idea was forthcoming. And that was from the transporation manager. And that was after a lot of money had already been spent.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

If the U of M hospital wants a train station, they should pay for it.

Nicholas Urfe

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

"Lumm thinks a voter referendum on the project needs to happen now before the final design is complete. She believes once the design is complete, proponents will argue too money has been invested in a new station not to go forward with the project." Lumm knows. She knows exactly how they intend to play this. They want to piddle away millions of dollars, and then guilt and extort taxpayers by making THEM take the blame for throwing away that money. I have yet to hear a good case made for why this is even necessary. ALSO - get that parking lot off our park land.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

It's ike Bob said. U folks can't park here. because it is our park here. Hear? No driving, biking, or skateboarding on the grass, neither.

Nicholas Urfe

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

That's right Bob - you know the drill. Don't make me get the hose! I will spray you. If I have to get the hose, you will get a soaking.

Basic Bob

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 4:48 p.m.

You kids get off my lawn!


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

The arguments for a commuter hub are hilarious. 1. The current rails will not support high speed trains. Maybe 100MPH max in brief spurts but more like the 75MPH cap. New railbeds and rail types have to be installed which means that any true "high speed" train station will not be built along the curvey, wrong-rail tilt, slow freight line on Fuller. Either this is a new station for old trains or a new line has to be surveyed and built first (hundreds of billions of bucks). Federal "highspeed" rail money is being spent for "renewing " the same old rail structure and for building double-decker conventional cars - just more of the same.. 2. The UM hospital complex is slated to move out to Plymouth/Earhart eventually. If that is the 30,000 visitor reason, why not build the commuter hub station of the future out there? 3. If it ain't broke - don't fix it. If it is broke - you can't afford to fix it.. And it is definitely broke. 4. If the City can only afford one more big project should it be this or energy and food independence? A new library or an art gallery? A highrise themepark or a Jolly Giant greenbelt?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

Excellent questions. What the University plans to do and actually does is always a mystery. "Since 1992, University planners have envisioned a convenient, off-site ambulatory care center to accommodate an ever-expanding need for outpatient programs and services. With 200 acres of land on the southeast corner of Earhart and Plymouth roads, they decided to turn vision into reality and, over time, the University of Michigan East Medical Campus has evolved." [UM] 200 acres is a lot of real estate for what little brick exists there now. While the U says that E A2 Health is "complete", the U has also started occupying Dominos Farms which includes another 220 acres of land very close by. Why? The big move elephant is the fact that the UMHS is a teaching complex. The teachers and students "prefer" to stay in town rather than commute but consolidation and patient/worker access (like St. Joe's) makes a move too much "cents". 70% of the patients come from elsewhere as does most of the staff. Maybe NCRC will start filling up with those high R&D doctors and UMHS admins (Prescovitz). Split the commute difference for the specialists. Perhaps the Mayor should build a highspeed Plymouth Road trolley station instead?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:06 p.m.

Is your item 2 true? I've not heard of that. Is it a specific PART of the complex that will move? Or are they just going to build a second complex and use both? They just built that massive children's hospital, so surely they're not moving anything related to that, right? Is there some info on this somewhere (he asked, not bothering to Google)?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

I can hear the ballot discussion now: "You have to vote for it, it is foolish to throw away the $20 million we already spent in utilities, water, sewage, studies, architect's fees and other planning that we have done. The Ann Arbor share of the remaining money is much less than we have already spent" Right now the $20 million is not real, but if they keep going down the path they are on the City Council will have spent that much before a public vote.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

In the " real " world this would be a non event it ( the train station ) wouldn't happen in the first place...but sadly like everything here in OZ the big talking heads will rule over the sheeple and spend more and more $$$ on their petty projects while ignoring the real needs of the community ..a classic example of dumb and get what you vote for and sadly thats what we got...


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

We need candidates who will make voting by issue simple, safe, and available to all residents> Remote votes or mail-ins once each weekend for the active citizens. City leaders meet, corral the technocrat commissions, and present the bigger issues complete with pro/con analyses and their rebuttals to the public. The people were able to vote for their parks and schools. Vote against art and a new library. Maybe more of those "other" people would be empowered and vote wrong (sarcasm- there is only one person who is not those "others"). So what? This is a democracy. Either the "others" are included as community members and brought up to speed or they will suffer the blowback after the "other others" quit and leave.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

If, as a majority populace, we are too lazy (ignorance, lazy, don't know better, not enough qualified candidates, etc., etc., etc.) to vote for the right people to lead our city and lead our school system, then we own what we get.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

I agree completely with Motor and B2. I think the reasons we keep getting the same people are: 1) Apathy (the voter turnout has been depressingly small) 2) Lack of better choice (that "race" between Heifte and the other somewhat weird and crazy guy was just ludicrous) 3) Misplaced trust 4) Ignorance. Not stupidity, but a lot of people have busy lives to lead and aren't directly aware of a lot of the insane waste going on. Several A2 residents at my job that I discussed the "fountain" and train station with did not even know about them. I think the incumbents have become very secure in the knowledge that they can get away with a LOT due to some combination of the above. In fact, sometimes it seems like they push the envelope every once in a while just to see how far they can go. Sadly, the results have delighted and perhaps even surprised them. A more involved public is really the only answer to this.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

And yet voters keep voting them in,- just like they did Kwamye


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

I agree with you. The school board is another example of this same issue - chasing personal priorities instead of issues in the best interest of the AA citizens and voters.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

Out new tax assessment just came out, and ours, once again, as in all the previous years of real estate bust, went up a LOT-- again! For this we get poor salting and sanding and plowing after the storms and icing we've had, no leaf pick up, no real animal control, cut backs in police and fire. Our city is spending money on art, greenbelt, train station studies and other non-necessary things while our quality of life goes down!


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

Couple million here, couple million there, pretty soon you are talking about some real money.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

1) Ryan, don't forget you're still waiting for real, actual, good recent numbers about ridership. From a post of yours earlier: "I asked Amtrak back in August if it had any official or unofficial ridership projections for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years for the Detroit-to-Chicago corridor, including the number of people getting on and off in Ann Arbor if possible. I was referred to MDOT, which pointed me to a 2004 report found here:,4616,7-151-11056-166461--,00.html" You asked for more recent figures, but were not given any. 2) I'd still like to find out what would actually stop this project; they've spent so much money already, and keep pushing it forward with virtually zero justification, so it seems like a good way to get to the root of things would be to find out what would possibly STOP it. What would possibly make the mayor say "OK, now I'm going to stop trying to spend huge amounts of money on this?" 3) Don't forget, readers, that all these "we hope" and "we anticipate" "we;re confident that" and similar phrases are not only indications of "build it and they will come" philosophy, but they are also very expensive; I believe they assumed they were getting some kind of matching on the money they spent, and SURPRISE, turns out not. Perhaps Ryan could find the link to that as well, as I can't.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

Just in case someone didn't see the Q and A session when this thing started having lots of moeny SPENT on it: In the public meeting with Q and A from 2010, when they were trying to sell this as a parking and commuter cure for all our ills: at 49 minutes 24 seconds, in response to a query about any data indicating the need for this, Eli says a 10-year old study showed "interest" in rail from Lansing to Detroit; not only is it ten years old, but it shows "interest", not that something was actually built and wound up working or generating revenue, etc. 52:45: Eli says Amtrak has 75 spots at the existing station, and MIGHT need to double it within the next TWENTY years. So $40 million (and that was JUST the parking portion of this project, not even the station part) for 75 spots over TWO DECADES. 56:25: admits that funding was denied because ridership showed the project was not feasible (no justification). So they decided to do it anyway, to prove that they needed to do it. Thus, the "demonstration" project. This station was (and is still, as far as I can tell) a DEMONSTRATION project. As in "we can't prove the need for it, so we're going to do it to prove we needed it." I lost the time reference for this, but in here is also Eli answering the question of how this new station might somehoe pay for itself, or at least generate some kind of cost-offsetting revenue. He said that POSSIBLY we might be able to LEGALLY charge Amtrak for the use of the new parking spots. That was it. That was the idea, charging the 150 AMtrak parking spots, to pay for a hunreds-of-millions dollar project.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

We can discuss the voting, etc., but what this is all really highlighting is that the people don't trust the city "leadership" on this. Why? Because of the games they're trying to play with Fuller Park, going forward with the infrastructure upgrades in the area, etc. It's a shame.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

sounds like some of "projects" Kwamye and Ferguson were playing in Detroit doesn't it ! But that would never happen here in this intellectual city (sarcasm)


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

So in a sense, I agree with what the city council is saying here. These individuals have been elected by the voters of this city to make decisions. They are not puppets who are there to answer every poll. To that extent, we elected them to engage in tasks such as performing cost/benefit analyses and suitability studies on capital projects such as train stations, both of which involve up-front cost. This is not a direct democracy, and the people shouldn't be asked for permission for everything. On the other hand, once these studies have been completed, and a concrete proposal has been formulated, I most certainly advocate putting that to a popular vote. If the city council can come to the people and say "we have done a suitability survey for a new train station; it will cost XXX, be placed here, serve YYY people, and take ZZ years to complete," then that's something voters should be asked to approve. Not least of which because they will be footing the bills for years to come in the form of bonds floated to fund the project.

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

Go Navy, the studies would only support the train station. I want to know who is conducting the studies, how and how much it costs, etc. before any more studies are being done.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

I totally disagree with the premise that politicians are better informed and more judicious concerning the welfare of their voters than the residents themselves. At least in this above-average smart-town (Hey, thanks et al). While City Council is by and largely intelligent, caring, and sensitive of their maddening constituents, in this schmooze democracy money demands to have a vote too. Business and University interests wield lots of money. The continuous electronic plebiscite (one human voter one vote) form of democracy vacates the unwanted money lobbiests. The free "value" market impact of people's decisions will find the fairest balance favouring their own survival - firstmost, faster, and more precisely than any two year City Council money changers. Pyramid rule works in corporations. No money no life too bad start over. Pyramid rule fails in human civilization. No security, no food, no water too bad that's it.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

I agree however I would add it has to be an independent survey; I recall AATA paying for their survey that was sketchy and raised more questions than it answered. It comes back to being able to trust what these individuals are telling us.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

You are correct that everything can't be handled with a public vote, and that there is some trust (although sometimes taken advantage of) associated wth voting in the people who make the decisions. However, I believe that, when it serves the mayor and his cronies, that philisophy is contradicted by them as well. For instance, I don't think part of the mayor's duties should involve trying to sell this project to people by sending out a letter to a select group of residents extolling the virtues of his pet project (especially when deliberately misleading info is used, like that Amtrak is in favor of it; of COURSE they're in favor of it, it's the city spending its money on a station Amtrak wouldn't pay a single penny for). Or city council members purposefully guiding the timing of a public art millage vote to coincide with high UM student population (which I found to be one of the more aggregious misuses of public office Iand voter trust I've seen). I agree with your point that this should be an objective presentation to the public. However, it's already gotten to the point at which it's obvious they're pushing for it; they've already spent lots of money, and they've already conducted sham sell jobs, complete with warm fuzzy powerpoint slides. Your scenario already can't exist, because they've already gotten to the point of "we have moved forward assuming we need a new station. We already spent X million dollars assuming we're going to put the train station at Y, without knowing whether or not it will serve z customers. We also thought we'd be getting GG dollars from the Feds and KK dollars from the U, which turned out to be incorrect. So we spent HH more millions looking into STILL putting a new station at Y."


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

" put the question of the timing of a public vote on the Ann Arbor Station project to all 11 members of the City Council this past week. Nine responded, and their answers varied widely." Nine responded, but the two 4th ward "representatives", as usual, were absent. So who is it out there that is actually voting for these women? Who thinks they are doing anything near an acceptable job?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

The absence of Ms. Higgins and Ms. Teall from any part of executing their duties is mind-boggling. Given a complete lack of evidence to the contrary, it is too easy to conclude that they are both simply puppets who silently provide votes in favor of whatever the Mayor supports.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

"80 percent of success is just showing up" — Woody Allen


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Any chance there is some graft involved here? Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, questioned the logic of going to voters before completing the final design. Well Mr Taylor! Maybe you should have gone to the voters to see if they were interested in spending millions for a study and plan! Absolutely ludicrous!

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

Who selected Smithgroup JRR? Was this the most reasonable company as far as cost, environmental, etc., goes? Did other companies bid on this project?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:56 p.m.

BTW So you do not think there is any chance someone in city hall is making money off this? Maybe not. Probably not because most of those in city hall think THEY know what is best for us low life's! But can you say for sure?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

It seems there are some that push for things to the point that is beyond logic. I am sure the folks in Detroit did not see what was happening until it was too late. Years ago.

Basic Bob

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:43 p.m.

I don't see the graft in your argument. Planning is a normal function of government, but some plans will be rejected and never come to fruition. I good analogy would be the library millage. Some voted against it because there was no design to approve and it seemed like a blank check. Mostly I think they know a vote would fail but they want to keep it moving along anyway. It's not illegal.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

Here's a recent blog post from WATS about the roughly $200M worth of federally funded improvements coming for the tracks that pass through Ann Arbor. It indicates Norfolk Southern will transfer rail traffic control to Amtrak in phases during the next three years. MDOT also put out a news release: "Expected to take two to four years to complete, the upgrades will include new, continuously welded rail and ties, improvements to highway-rail grade crossings, fiber-optic lines for train and signal control systems, and gates and flashers at highway-rail grade crossings. NS will retain an exclusive freight easement to preserve and grow its freight business.",4616,7-151-9620-291086--,00.html

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 5:11 a.m.

While you may not want to learn about the track ownership changes and upgrades that are coming, I believe many others on both sides of this issue do.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 6:40 p.m.

Why have you become an apologist for the City Council? Whats your reward? This certainly isn't journalism.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

Sometimes things cost money. In FY2013 alone, we'll spend $38.9 million on police and fire, $16.3m on street repair, and $17m on parking. That's not justification for a train station, just a little perspective on the city's ability to "afford" it, whether it's $700k or $8.9m or whatever; spread over many years, it's doable. So let's have the actual discussion. The current station is in the floodplain. Parking there are the wrong time will drown your car. If you have a disability, the current station is very hard to access. In general, the station will not be able to handle much growth in the future, especially as track improvements are made throughout the corridor (2000 ridership: 91,066; 2011 ridership: 141,522). Does this justify a new station? I guess the voters will decide.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 6:04 a.m.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 5:57 a.m.

Maybe Ryan will post the pictures of fish flopping in the field on Fuller Rd. when the river crested the bank and flooded the entire area. Didn't take long for "fishermen" to show up and reap an incredible harvest. "One hundred year flood." When The City wants to build in a flood plain they will.....witness the Homeless Shelter on Huron....

Tom Whitaker

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Also, there appears to be a fair amount of public land underneath the Broadway bridge. If it helped, a new station could be built a bit farther to the east than the current station, maybe even under the bridge, if that's allowed.

Tom Whitaker

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:58 p.m.

The current station is NOT in the floodplain. The FEMA maps show that the floodplain peters out at the west end of the current station parking lot (although in 33 years, and witnessing many flooding events in Ann Arbor, I've never seen the water make it that far). A small detention basin or underground detention system would take the minimal amount of flooding that might ever reach this site out of the equation. And note that this proximity to the floodplain did not stop city planners from suggesting an underpass under the tracks to get traffic from North Fifth Ave/Depot into the proposed new park on the DTW site. If anything would be prone to flooding, it would be an underpass! Maybe we could kill two birds with one stone? lol


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

I cannot believe that the Fuller Road proposed location is also not in a floodplain. The soccer fields on the other side of the road used to flood every year, and years ago, when that parkland-turned-parking lot was just parkland, it too, flooded. Be sure to include in an actual discussion the fact that the current WORKING and paid for station location has vacant land, not designated as parkland, available adjacent to it, that the traffic on the Fuller/Maiden intersection is already heavy before the coming addition of 750 cars from Wall Street, and the possibility that Federal dollars could be dramatically reduced or eliminated in the future, perhaps as part of future 'sequestration'. Then we all will be stuck holding the bag, that is clearly marked 'for friends of the mayor'.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

Why is the City of Ann Arbor so anxious to foot the bill for a new train station that should be the responsibility of the federal government? Keep soaking Ann Arbor's taxpayers.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

Why should the feds pay for this mess?


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

A new train station is neither needed or wanted by the residents of this city. It will never come to a public vote. The mayor and city council know that its approval by the voters would fail. If the planning money is spent they'll argue that all that money would be wasted. This should be stopped now before another dime is spent.


Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 4:04 a.m.

Absolutely correct @barzoom.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

The throwing good money after bad because "we spent so much already" is a common political approach, and it's almost a given they will apply it, and have purposefully been spending as much and as quickly as they could in anticipation of using it. We just have to make sure we fire the people that did it as soon as we can.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

Once again, annarbor,com has not given a full range of choices in their poll. Where is: Do we need another train station, or: do you want another train station? And what happens to Fuller Road during any construction of a train station?

Anthony Clark

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 : 1:20 a.m.

The article is about when, if ever, the idea of building a new train station will be put to a vote. Therefore, that is what the poll asks. If you don't believe the train station should be built at all, you should probably select "as soon as possible before any more planning is done".

Sam S Smith

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 4:30 p.m.

Mr. Stanton, haven't you been reading the posts with all the questions and reasons not to have a new train station?

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

I also would encourage you and everyone else to chime in here on why you do or don't want a new train station in Ann Arbor. What are the pros and cons as you see them?

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

Those seem like questions that we could answer through our continued coverage, but the poll was meant to gauge interest in putting the question of a train station on the ballot. I believe every likely scenario is sufficiently covered in the four answers.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

The vote should occur before any more money city/state or fderal, is spent.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

The only reason to put a train station at the Fuller Road location is to serve the UofM. So, let them pay for it.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

"Mayor John Hieftje said the $1.34 million worth of utility work done on Fuller Road had been planned for a long time and was needed regardless of any potential train station project there." I watched that meeting, and it was VERY CLEAR that this very non-urgent project was given priority over projects addressing more immediate needs because of its relationship with preparing the site for a train station. The question was asked and answered, and Anglin changed his vote on it because of the answer; he voted to do the work first, and then, after realizing so much of the emphasis was on preparing for a new train station, he either changed his vote or on record said he would have voted differently. I recall Hieftje's and a couple other councilmembers' snide comments about knowing what they voted for. Several people are pushing very very hard for this station, and have been for a long time, and it's NOT because we need it. It's time for people to start wondering what that's all about. BTW, do we have that whole percent for Art thing figured out yet, like if they're going to keep illegally, or at least inappropriately skimming off our taxes paid for services while they raise our taxes? Are we still paying the enlarged Public Art Commission staff while that's all figured out?

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

This is what you get with a one-party system where party bosses, not the voters, determine the representatives. Until we can see past (D) and (R) and actually look at candidates for who they are, we will continue to have a morally bankrupt city government.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:08 p.m.

Thank you for response and links, Ryan. I believe the unanimous vote had misguided and/or dishonest motiviations. I have several times posted a link to one of the Q and A's I attended, with references to times in the video at which you can witness some of the more ludicrous and damning answers to legitimate questions. I'll do so again here (you know, just in case people aren't tired of seeing it).

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

I also was present for the meeting in August 2009 when the Fuller Road project first came to council for a $541,717 conceptual planning phase. The vote was 9-0 with John Hieftje, Stephen Rapundalo, Leigh Greden, Marcia Higgins, Margie Teall, Mike Anglin, Sabra Briere, Sandi Smith and Tony Derezinski voting yes to move the get the project started. Christopher Taylor and Carsten Hohnke were absent.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

Here's the story where Anglin changed his vote and took some criticism, as you referenced:

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

They're aiming to put the art program changes on the March 18 council agenda. Here's my last story on the task force's work:


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

I believe that this should never go in front of the AA voters. If Ann Arbor leadership wishes to have a bright, shiny, new train station, they should find a way for Obama to buy it. Oh wait! Obama only spends tax payer money. Oh wait! We are broke as a nation and borrowing from China. So, Ann Arbor leadership should find a way to go straight to China to have them pay for a new train station. Cut out the middle man, you know. Maybe just like Solyndra and A123 Systems.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 11:53 a.m.

I certainly do hope to see more "information" on exactly why the new station is needed. The importance of a public vote on this should not just be about where the station would go. I was at meetings where the cheerleaders for this were asked very direct, very necessary questions about what made a new train station necessary. The answers were appalling. From the very start, this project smacks of people sitting on a lot of money trying to figure out what to do with it, NOT people trying to address a clear need and figuring out how best to do it. The most reasonable, or perhaps least laughable, reason: The current station is pretty busy on some weekends. That's it. I hope no one loses sight of the necessity for real, clear justification for this project; the problem it solves, the need it addresses. If THAT were the only thing put to a vote, with honesty, I don't think we would need to spend ANY more money, and hopefully someone would be put out of office for the money already spent.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

A train station on Fuller Road? Absolutely not. As a University of Michigan employee who uses the lot where the proposed station would be placed I and others would be negatively affected by such a station. If I were ever to vote on this I would vote no for that and other reasons; the city cannot afford the station anyway.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

There is a 725-space, six-story parking structure along Wall Street in the works

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.

The original plans for what was formerly known as Fuller Road Station, in partnership with the university, included a nearly 1,000-car garage that would have been five stories (and cost more than $40 million) but those plans fell apart in February 2012. Where are you getting your information about there still being plans for a garage of that size? I haven't heard that.


Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

U of M is building a parking structure on Wall St to handle current and future employees. Additionally, the most recent plans for the new station include 988 parking spaces within the 5-floor structure. The current lot serves approximately 240 cars.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 3, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

Where do you commute from? Is there another way to get to work without a personal vehicle? Of course, I would hope the U would find a way to accommodate you and others who might be affected.