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Posted on Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Mayor John Hieftje details his vision for funding proposed new train station in Ann Arbor

By Ryan J. Stanton

Mayor John Hieftje says Ann Arbor could get a new $30 million train station, and the city's share of the cost could be less than $3 million.

In his opinion, that's a bargain.

But that's only hypothetical, and others still aren't convinced.

"Where is the money to build this train station? That's my question," said Sally Hart Petersen, who is running as a Democrat in Tuesday's primary in hopes of ousting 2nd Ward City Council Member Tony Derezinski, one of Hieftje's allies and a supporter of the vision for new train station.

"I just don't know where the money is supposed to be coming from to do this to sustain it now and in the future," Petersen said at a candidate forum this week.

The issue has divided the eight candidates seeking election to the Ann Arbor City Council in Tuesday's primary. With Amtrak ridership on the rise, four of the candidates — Eric Sturgis, Margie Teall, Chuck Warpehoski and Derezinski — support the idea of a new train station in Ann Arbor.

Their four opponents — Sumi Kailasapathy, Jack Eaton, Vivienne Armentrout and Petersen — have opposed the idea and have questioned where the money would come from.


Mayor John Hieftje responded this week to continued criticisms by his political foes that federal funding isn't available for a new train station in Ann Arbor.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Hieftje is leading the charge to pursue a new train station as the federal government makes hundreds of millions of dollars in rail improvements along the Detroit-to-Chicago corridor.

He responded to his political foes' concerns about funding for a new train station on Thursday, mentioning the city already has a first-phase federal grant of $2.8 million that's paying for the planning stages, and he fully expects more federal funding for the actual construction will follow.

"As I have said repeatedly lately, more and more jobs are coming to our city and this is not expected to change," he said. "We can decide to spend money building more parking structures or we can expand transit options. Using federal funds, rather than having them go to some town in California or New York, to expand rail capacity in Ann Arbor makes a lot of sense."

Hieftje noted the city of Dearborn is preparing to move forward with construction of a new 16,000-square-foot, $28.2 million Amtrak station that's being fully funded by federal stimulus dollars.

By comparison, Hieftje said, Ann Arbor's station could cost about $30 million. And in that hypothetical scenario, $24 million would come from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Hieftje said that leaves $6 million that would have be locally contributed, and that could come from any number of sources, including the city of Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, the University of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

He suggested the money from contributing parties could pay for specific elements, including bus capacity in the station, rail sidings, a walkway into the U-M hospital (assuming the station is built on Fuller Road), rail platforms, pedestrian and bicycle improvements, and parking.

With all of those parties able to contribute in some way, the city's investment could be less than $3 million for a $30 million station, Hieftje said.

"It would be one-time money so the city would have options," Hieftje said, adding it could come out of the city's fund reserves, possibly a small bond if a secure revenue stream is in place (he says not the general fund) or even a one- or two-year millage that would have to be approved by voters. He said there also might be revenues from the station that could offset the costs over time.

"Operating costs are expected to be paid by Amtrak and there could be other income from parking, fees charged to concession operators, taxis, etc.," he noted.

"This would all be nailed down before finally going forward. Everything would be spelled out. In fact, the FRA requires development of a financing plan in the current planning phase."

Hieftje and other city officials have their sights set on Fuller Road as the location for the train station, right in front of the University of Michigan Hospital, but alternatives — including renovating or rebuilding the station on Depot Street — remain under consideration.

"I can't stress enough that all the facts will be in front of council and the public, and all the financials will be analyzed before anything goes forward," Hieftje said. "All costs would be nailed down before the community made a decision. And of course, at this point the location of a new station is yet to be determined — it could be rebuilt in the same place."


A view from the railroad tracks of what a new $28.2 million Amtrak station in Dearborn will look like.

Rendering by Neumann Smith architects

Asked this week about the prospect of federal funding for a new train station in Ann Arbor, U.S. Rep. John Dingell responded: "That appears to be under control, and the mayor seems to be content. I haven't talked to him about it for a while, but when last I did everything was in good order."

Hieftje acknowledged the likelihood of funding could depend on who is in charge of the FRA after November, but he pointed out Ray LaHood, the current transportation secretary, is a Republican.

"Even still, again as I understand it, this is regular FRA funding and is not contingent on any special funding or stimulus," Hieftje said, noting Amtrak stations are being upgraded and replaced all along the corridor, and Ann Arbor remains the busiest stop between Detroit and Chicago.

Hieftje said he wouldn't be surprised if the number of Amtrak passengers riding the rails between Detroit and Chicago doubled in just a few years.

"As you know, even with the current slow, undependable Amtrak service, ridership has been growing," he said. "With a $400 million investment in improving the corridor leading to dependable, higher-speed service in brand-new cars, there will be significant increases in ridership.

"It will be a much better option than flying to Chicago and it will present very convenient service to all points east and west on the line."

Amtrak sends three passenger trains through Ann Arbor in each direction each day. Hieftje said Amtrak has mentioned the possibility of adding two new passenger trains to accommodate expected growth in ridership.

"If that happened, Amtrak could easily become the commuter provider without even including the train MDOT has for this purpose," Hieftje said.

Amtrak is in agreement with the mayor that Ann Arbor has outgrown the train station on Depot Street, but it's leaving the decision to build a new station up to the city.

"What is clear in the case of Ann Arbor is our passenger volumes have exceeded the size of the current station and its parking, particularly the difficulty passengers face when using the parking lot on the opposite side of the tracks from the station," Marc Magliari, a Chicago-based spokesman for Amtrak, said earlier this year.

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.



Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

I like trains - but not a waste of resources. We have a train, it runs. We have a bus and train station, they work. East-West and North-South high-speed trains would be great, but they require brand new aka straight rail beds. How about a "produce station", where local products are shipped out to the coasts for export ? I also like un-fenced recreation parks..


Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

Sometimes I wish we had money for this. I am a personal fan of train transportation, but we just don't have the money to do it, and it honestly is not worth it right now. Honestly, Michigan will never run on trains. It's the Motor state, we're so far behind it's sad. I mean, besides busses all we got is the people mover in Detroit, it's sad. People don't want it, so mind as well not give it to them. It's so sad how far behind we are in terms of train technology from the rest of the 1st world countries in the world.


Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 3:10 a.m.

So,apparently if you ask the author of articles on this site a question regarding their data... they delete you. So don't be pointing out innacuracies of articles...


Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 2:23 a.m.

Maybe the mayor can call the station art and use the 1% to build it. Yet another egocentric mayoral project. Let's put a sculpture of the mayor with his hand in everyone's pocket out front.


Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 12:13 a.m.

Local governments need to realize that the Federal Government cannot afford excess. We have how many trillions of dollars in Federal Debt? And, what is the deficit? This strategy of getting someone else to pay for it may work in Detroit, but I'd expect more in Ann Arbor. A very poor strategy.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 9:10 p.m.

I have a feeling that Jim's perspective is common among many car loving, tax paying voters in our state. Because of our fractured, amateurish and psychotic transit message, even the well read often have little idea why anyone wants or needs trains, how they are part of the wider transportation plan or why they should support them …..or not. In Ann Arbor, we are awash in misguided transit support from the crunchy who think mass transit is about changing the earth's weather and social justice - it's not. Their cousins – the anti open road driving cabal – think it's about leaving our cars behind for the joy of consuming, doing and living less – it's not. Others think it will reduce traffic on our roads – it won't. On the other side, there are the "cheapskates" who think that the less Michigan invests in our economic development and the fewer AMENITIES we have, the more successful we will be! From what you read here and elsewhere, you have no idea why almost every other region in the United States enjoys light rail transit and is constantly working to expand their systems. They don't care that the fares don't pay all the bills because they understand what does. They also send their pro-transit Senators to Washington – some of the most tenured and well connected in the nation – to make rules that give them an edge when it comes to federal funding while ours stand around wondering how they can screw over the Republicans. Jim should be a huge supporter of collector muscle cars, BMW cruisers and mass transit – they live very well together. But why?

Jim Walker

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

In almost every case, with the possible exception of the dense Northeast commuting corridor, train travel has to be permanently subsidized by taxpayers. It does NOT pay its own way, and never will in most travel corridors. Supporting train projects means permanently taking money away from other uses at the local, state and national levels. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI

Jim Walker

Sun, Aug 5, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

I would beg to differ with Mr. Faust on several grounds. Roads bring far more people and far more economic activity to cities than passenger rail can ever hope to achieve. The only reason that roads currently require some subsidies is the lack of courage on the part of state and federal legislators to update the fuel taxes which have been fixed at their cents-per-gallon levels for 15-20 years with no index for inflation. Fuel taxes worked very well and very fairly as properly apportioned user fees for decades - until we quit adjusting them for inflation. Passenger rail can only feasibly connect reasonably sized population centers today, unlike roads that connect virtually everywhere to everywhere else in today's reality of suburban sprawl. Admittedly I prefer driving, but at age 67 I last road on a passenger rail trip as a teenager. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI

Jacob Faust

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.

Dear Mr. Walker, the exact same statements can be said of roads. Roads are subsidized and do not earn the value back directly (excluding toll roads).


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 6:14 p.m.

"Mayor John Hieftje says Ann Arbor could get a new $30 million train station, and the city's share of the cost could be less than $3 million." ("could" does not equal "will") "As I have said repeatedly lately, more and more jobs are coming to our city and this is not expected to change" (Really, how many jobs have been added - yearly - over the past 5 years? How many are expected to be added over the next 5 years? AND, most importantly, how does improving the rail station in AA help this? How many people take the train TO Ann Arbor for work?) Hieftje noted the city of Dearborn is preparing to move forward with construction of a new 16,000-square-foot, $28.2 million Amtrak station that's being fully funded by federal stimulus dollars. (maybe they're moving forward because it ACTUALLY - see first comment above -- is being fully funded)! "Hieftje acknowledged the likelihood of funding could depend on who is in charge of the FRA after November"..."Even still, again as I understand it, this is regular FRA funding and is not contingent on any special funding or stimulus," HUH...which of your statements is the truth? know...he sounds like a few guys I know: I know this "guy" who says he's got a great deal on this bridge in New York. He'll give it to you for almost free. I also know this "guy" in in Kenya...really rich...and he needs to move his money out of the country. Now he'll send you a cash it...keep 50%...and wire him the rest....I also know this "guy" who's great with give him you're money and he'll return 15% per year, can reach him at the Butner Federal Correctional Institution, Register #61727-054...tell him "Louie" sent ya.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Ryan, thank you for your reporting on that SEMCOG forecast. It is worthwhile reading the entire report and drilling down on the details. They outline 3 scenarios and many hypotheticals underlay their predictions. The most jobs are in the "health services and education" sector. I'm guessing that they are relying on UM's own predictions of its growth. SEMCOG isn't prescient; they collect data and predicted growth figures from others and try to extrapolate from there.


Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

Excuse me You deleted my comment why? I only asked which of the docs on his link he quote and quoted a paragraph out of the first doc. How does that violate the guidlines?

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 7:28 p.m.

SEMCOG's regional forecast shows Washtenaw County's population jumping by 41,444 people from 2010 to 2040 (up 12%), including 27,254 new households (up nearly 20%) and 48,979 new jobs (up more than 20%). There's a gain of more than 10,000 jobs predicted just from 2010 to 2015.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

It's a train station to nowhere but it's easy to understand in the context of this lazy, stupid transit conversation we've been dragging around in circles for decades in this embarrassing state. "...well, it's a big building and it goes right over there!" …"what's it for?" "…huh? goes right over there – they have parking!" Nobody ask why we need it and who in Gods name would ride a passenger train with it's high cost, slow speed and lousy service. This train station can wait for a decade while Ann Arbor builds light rail through the City connecting UM, urban centers, Briarwood and parking to bus stations, future regional light rail and last of all, wider regional passenger train service that actually makes sense. The best solution for everyone who is tired of asking why Michigan can study mass transit for generations but can't get a shovel in the ground, is to move to a state that knows the difference between talking and doing.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 5:07 p.m.

How about we join with the Dearborn station and use their plans as well? Seems to me this would allow better use of the parking lot across the tracks that is almost inaccessible and inconvenient at the moment while allowing for a larger building to accommodate larger crowds waiting for the trains. We would both save on architecture costs.

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 4:17 p.m.

1. Federal funds should pay for a train station. The people that use it do not all live in Ann Arbor. Probably way less than half. But Ann Arbor benefits when people drive in from elsewhere, especially if they don"t encounter all the negativity. 2. It's not a park, it's a gravel parking lot. The city has more parks than they can properly maintain. Think of the metro stations in Washington DC. It is still park-like around the station, this won't change. It will be in the middle of Fuller Park. 3. We can't ask voters to approve every project. The city will grind to a stop. Just nuild the thing.


Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 3:01 a.m.

Well, since"federal funds should pay"...i'm sure it's certain they will.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 4 p.m.

I was going to take my family of 4 to chicago on the train but it cost $80 a piece. We drove and I save over $200. Why does anybody use the train?


Mon, Aug 6, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

Rick Your argument is valid for one person. I am not sure of many people going by themselves to chicago unless you are a business man and if that is the case your company is usually paying for it anyways so it doesn't matter. I parked for for $15 in the hotel parking lot and didn't move until we left.


Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 2:59 a.m.

@rick..."gas $96.8" one person round trip..i'm guessing he's not having everyone in his family drive separately.

Rick Neubig

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.

Not to mention the cost of parking in Chicago.

Rick Neubig

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

It's cheaper ($64 not $80) if you book in advance plus you can read or do work the whole way into downtown unlike driving or on an airplane. Plus gas for one person round trip (@20mpg) is $96.8. Many reasons to ride the train.

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

Because I don't need a car in Chicago

Bob W

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

I hope this is not another of those "build it and they will come" [trains that is] ideas.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

Just the fact that he responded is news!


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

meh I dont know about all of the hoopla, but I would like a nice train station to take me to Chicago and back.

George Gaston

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

A few thoughts: First - This proposed project really should be referred to as the Fuller PARK train station, not the Fuller ROAD train station. Second - The Feds require that there be no viable alternative before approving such a project be built on public park property. Third - If the University is really interested in having the Amtrak station located where it will be integrated with their own transportation network,why has the University's own Mitchell Field been removed from consideration? It is adjacent to the proposed Fuller Park site. It already contains a much larger parking lot (with room for expansion) than that at Fuller Park, the railroad tracks run through it, and there is better access to Fuller Road with an already functioning intersection with a traffic light.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

Let's review the facts: the Mayor wants to spend money on a train station. The station would serve Amtrak, a money-losing, deeply subsidized rail service. Various members of the U.S. House and Senate have threatened to downsize and/or eliminate Amtrak, save the nominally profitable NE corridor (Boston/NY/DC). The station to be built/subsidized by the City relies on track service controlled by freight companies, functions to move people to and from Chicago, and has no clear "commuter" related purpose. At any of the currently discussed locations, it would serve only the Detroit/Chicago line, and could not serve a theoretical north/south line. Based on all of that, this makes sense as a way to spend our money how?


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

I am excited about electing a qualified, representative city government to handle the intricate details and determine the feasibility of this project. I will be voting in next week's primary! Complex infrastructure problem-solving is one of the best examples of why we have a representative government instead of a vote on every little thing in our little big town. I'm glad to be able to vote on millages, but there are many things that we can't possibly know all the details on and still conduct our daily lives, and we should leave these to our representatives. A three-to-30-million dollar project like this is one of them. Thirty million dollars is just not that much money in the context of infrastructure. Campaigning candidates can't say that, though, and risk sounding flip or unprepared. I think it's an exciting and visionary project, and I hope the people we elect decide it's worth going forward and don't throw up roadblocks at every turn. The proposed land near the hospital is nice, but not a heavily used park, not a landmark, not downtown, and just not all that precious. The city is gaining greenbelt land regularly; we're not running out of green. See you at the polls on Tuesday!

Jacob Faust

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

I agree completely. Thank you justcary.

Stephen Landes

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Per Bloomberg News Service, "Amtrak Food Service Lost $834 Million In 10 Years, [REP John] Mica Says". Is this the same AMTRAK that our Mayor is counting on to provide commuter train service on time and often enough to attract real riders? Yes, it is -- good luck with that!

Ann-Marie Murphy

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

It's not clear to me why Ann Arbor needs a new train station. We already have trains bringing people to the city via the Amtrak station on the Northside. Why not instead of spending millions on a seemingly unnecessary new station, we put money toward tax benefits for small businesses. Wouldn't that go further in attracting new businesses and new jobs than another train station?


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

@Bcar, You must know by now that King john doesn't deign to read Ann nor does he deign to even read let alone answer any rude dissenting grumbles from the peasants. So I would expect any answers, logical or not, from him. (PGTGTD don't you know?)

Bob Johnson

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

It is clear from these comments that the mayor has given up on any idea that there will a commuter service between Detroit and Ann Arbor. This is a welcome return to rationality since the likelihood of a new railroad company being formed to operate commuter rail in SE Michigan is zero. There is no organization or corporation in view that is going to take on that money-losing job. So clearly, the only trains that are going to be running on the Detroit-Chicago route are Amtrak and the freight trains of the Norfolk Southern line. Perhaps Amtrak will increase the number of trains per day, perhaps not, but there is no reason to spend millions of dollars on the basis of a vague speculation by some unnamed Amtrak official. Don't forget that the current Ann Arbor station belongs to Amtrak, and if it is inadequate, the fault lies with Amtrak. It is not clear that the city of Ann Arbor should build Amtrak a new station in a city park, when Amtrak has failed to upgrade the one they now have. If we agree that it would benefit the City to subsidize a better station for Amtrak, it makes far more sense, both financially and from the point of view of preserving parkland, to renovate the existing station. There is certainly no need to use 10 acres of the City's parkland to bail out Amtrak's neglect of their own station.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 4:15 p.m.

So exactly why do we need to upgard a station. It is a place load and off load passengers. If you take a look at commuter trains in Chicago. Most stops have small shelter stops and they offload a lot more passengers then we ever would!

Stephen Landes

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

Thank you,, for providing the voters with an excellent reason for voting out ALL incumbents in the coming election. The last thing we need is a "visionary" mayor and his "visionary" block of council members. Ryan -- would you please put some numbers around the supposed increase in AMTRAK ridership? How many are commuters vs how many are really heading to Chicago or other non-commuting points? Is the ridership on Monday through Friday between Ann Arbor and Jackson or Detroit/Dearborn increasing?


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

Millages (for the most part) need to be put to a vote of the people. For the rest, we live in a republic, not a democracy, a deliberate choice of the founding fathers. The job of our elected representatives is to make the best decision possible in the context of other decisions, not just avoid every hard vote with a plebiscite. For example, while I may disagree with Vivienne Armentrout's conclusions about the need for a train station (as my understanding is that she is opposed to some, if not all, aspects of the mayor's plan), she has more than once displayed the ability to tackle issues with an open mind, think about ideas in the larger context, and weigh the pros and cons. That's why we elect representatives, and I'm sure she'd do her best to be a good representative, even if she comes to conclusions that would be different from how I would vote in a direct election. We have a example of what direct government by the people looks like: it's not pretty and it's called California (and I say that as a Democrat).


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

I am not saying that a new train station is a bad idea. In a democracy even good ideas need to be questioned. If something is indeed a good idea it will stand up to rigorous questioning. Democracy has the potential of bringing good ideas to the table only if we have a vigorous debate about all aspects of the idea –including its short term and long term financial implications. We need to make sure that funding is not hypothetical but is based on realistic expectations and make sure that it is absolutely necessary to have a new station and that the current one cannot be expanded at reasonable costs. Our City has been pursuing a very capital intensive trajectory in the past five years and continuing this trend becomes more and more risky. So it is very important that we thoroughly analyze all future projects. As stewards of public resources it is the duty of each Council member to question projects from various angles so that we minimize potential losses and avert fiascoes such as the non functioning City Hall water feature. Sumi Kailasapathy

G. Orwell

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

@Sumi I agree with your position on the train station. By the way, the US should not be a Democracy. It was never meant to be a Democracy. US is A Constitutional Republic. We pledge our allegence to a Republic. Far better than a Democracy. I thought since you are running for office, you and others should know. Good luck with the election.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

I am looking forward to voting for you!


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

Norfolk & Southern will still own the tracks and will still set the "slow orders." Passenger rail bows to the commercial carriers, no matter how much a gallon of gas costs. If it were EXCLUSIVE passenger rail, it would be different. Light rail, heavy rail ... Amtrak can't ensure dependability. Sorry. Bad investment.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

I believe the state will soon own the tracks and N/S will become a customer.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

The best near-term solution is to vote out the "Hieftje bloc" on council in the upcoming primary. The will slow down that "runaway train" so to speak.

henry greenspan

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

It would be great if Ray LaHood could be blamed is things didn't work out. But LaHood is one of the most competent administrators we have. Ann Arbor should be so lucky (and I'm a Dem). Even John Dingell is tripping all over himself in hypotheticals. Politics may be the art of the compromise. It is not clear if it is also the art of fantasy-based policy, kinda like Romney's budget numbers. If the last few years has taught us anything, is it that today's "great deal" can be tomorrow's disaster. The Mayor celebrated Pfizer's coming to town as a "win-win-win." When Pfizer decamped, through no fault of the may; he bent over for them, the lesson was that there is a point when building too many buildings on sand is to build sand castles.

Albert Howard

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

Let the citizens decide. We the people should not have to decode the 'carte blanche relationship language' that the mayor has with John Dingell. John Hieftje, are we apart of your vision...because you didn't even mention Ann Arbor voters?

Middle America

Sun, Aug 5, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

Albert, you want to ban the Quran, right?

Pete Warburton

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

Getting something for one tenth its value is a bargain...BUT... If someone offered me a house valued at 3 million dollars for 3 hundred thousand dollars . I could sell my present home and clean out my retirement accounts and grab that bargain. However, it would not take long for the normal cost of maintaining and taxes on this bargain to bankrupt me. The City of Ann Arbor can not afford this bargain.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

Wow, we only have to pay 10% of the cost? It's like FREE MONEY! What could possibly go wrong?


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

The Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics (RSQE) from the University of Michigan revised its forecast for Michigan job growth in its May 24, 2012 release and projects that job growth during 2012 will be 57,400 which will be less than the 63,800 jobs reported for 2011. Next year job growth is projected to be only 49,800. This report highlights the problem with predicting job growth for Michigan, even for one or two years into the future. Similarly, predicting the number of passengers who may use a new light rail system for commuting in the future is difficult if not impossible. Therefore, it is unjustified to base a decision on investing in a new railway system and a railroad station on any projected economic growth speculations. Likewise it is foolish to proceed with plans to build a $30 million railroad station until the source of funding is well established. Ann Arbor's financial commitment to the project is expected to be between $3 million and $6 million but is entirely unknown at this time. Even a $3 million commitment may strain local finances considering how Ann Arbor had to temporarily reduce firemen and policemen because of budgetary difficulties. Very soon the city budget may have to absorb several million dollars of liability which the DDA's budget can not cover, mostly due to recently added bond servicing costs. Financing construction of a new railroad station during these uncertain times is unwise. Furthermore, the city budget will have to expend funds for maintenance and operating costs for the railroad station that is not expected to be covered by passenger usage revenues or federal and state grants.

Jacob Faust

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

Dear Veracity, I would first like to complement you on your very well thought out argument. I truly appreciate it. However, I am going to have to disagree on your argument and conclusion. Assuming that you are discussing the aaconnector study when referencing light rail, the study showed that sufficient ridership exists currently for an enhanced public transit service. In fact, the study already concluded that current bus service on the corridor between north and central UofM campus is saturated. We should seize on once-in-a-lifetime low interest rates to building said infrastructure in anticipation of increased public transit use due to guaranteed gas price increases. This trend to greater public transit use has been documented across the united states. As for growth projections, Ann Arbor is much different than most cities in the United States as it is a college town. The stability of University of Michigan employment allays drastic fluctuations seen in the economic downturn. Thus, I would not characterize employment figures in Ann Arbor to be as volatile as you propose. As for the train station, it will be a cornerstone of the SEMCOG commuter rail service. This service, which is all but payed for by Ann Arbor's membership, provides a unique opportunity for the city to provide alternative methods for workers to commute into the city to work. Currently, the only option available is by car. Don't get me wrong: I do not propose that we invest in these infrastructure improvements blindly or without the democratic process. I want Ann Arborites to not be myopic concerning investments for the future. I see public transit as fundamental to the alternative character of Ann Arbor (which brings many people to live in this town). Making investments like this will encourage like-minded people to choose Ann Arbor as a nice location to settle down in.

Ghost of Tom Joad

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

"We can decide to spend money building more parking structures or we can expand transit options. Using federal funds, rather than having them go to some town in California or New York, to expand rail capacity in Ann Arbor makes a lot of sense." Precisely, spending money on infrastructure is what the government is supposed to do.


Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 2:53 a.m.

Not a Navy fan (go Army!)...but i'm siding with Navy on this one. First, something like70% of firefighters in the U.S. are volunteers. Most of.that funding for equip, etc. is not from the city govs. 2nd..."spending money on infrastructure is what the gov is supposed to do"...what does that mean? That makes little sense. If so, why haven't we built some space stations in AA? The time is coming...we'll need that infrastructure soon. Where are the windmills and nuclear power plants? Why don't we have subways? Aren't all of those "infrastrucure"?

Ghost of Tom Joad

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

@go navy, they tried privatized fire protection as well as ambulance services. The only problem was that the public welfare (i.e. houses on fire, people needing rides to hospitals) suffered from cut-throat business battles. ambulances had tires slashed, multiple fire departments showed up to a fire, when none showed up to another fire. These things are necessary for our society, so they are the responsibility of the government to maintain. Infrastructure is no different.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

@ Foobar- No offense, but your comments don't make any sense. Perhaps you could elucidate?


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

@ Tom Joad- I - along with many others (no doubt yourself included) - could, if pushed, make an excellent argument regarding the privatization of fire departments. There's nothing particularly special about putting out fires that makes a government more or less able to do the job than private industry. Regarding police, that's simply an extension of sovereign powers on a local level. What differentiates police from fire work is that police are entrusted with the power of force - something that cannot be bestowed upon a private enterprise to exercise upon other citizens (by force, I mean the means by which a life can be taken legally). So, I hope that answers your questions.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

@GoNavy: Hope you enjoy paying tolls on that privately built interstate just south of town. Oh wait, that was government infrastructure paid for only in part by your gas taxes.

Ghost of Tom Joad

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

@GoNavy, the government didn't build the first firehouse or police station, either. Does that make it any less their responsibility?


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

Is that why the government built the first railroad system in the U.S.? /sarcasm

Ron Granger

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

If we have so many millions to spend, why can't we just keep the money as a future surplus? A lot of folks don't think this recession is anywhere near being "over". Parking garages and train stations don't make a city. I would actually like to see high speed rail to Chicago operating before we blow millions on this or anything like it. The train is often terribly late. Get the travel time way down, and only then should we consider investing in a station.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

It's the classic conundrum: If pols don't spend the money that's been allocated to them, they'll get less in next year's budget. Thus, the goal is to spend everything and (if possible) make it appear as if more is always welcome - that way, jobs are always secure, budgets are rising, and departments can be seen as "absolutely critical."

Ron Granger

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

The Mayor and Council have already failed at this project. They spent millions of local tax dollars expanding infrastructure for a supposed train station that was really only a parking garage. There was never enough parking capacity for a train station because most of it was reserved for University employees. There are a lot of expenses that likely are being hidden here. Stuff they've thought of, but don't want to mention yet.

Rita Mitchell

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

The city has already spent significant funds, including $1.2 million to move a sewer line in Fuller Park, nearly $500,000 for a roundabout study for the Maiden Lane/Glenn intersection that is already known for its high volume, complex traffic flow. Untold amounts of staff time have been spent on a project that started out as a parking structure, and has morphed in a different direction, with uncertain funding, and without a clear explanation of what would be provided. Additionally, it is precedent-setting to move forward with planning efforts to build such non-park-related structures on our public park land. What other park will be safe from similar re-purposing, if this goes forward?

Ron Granger

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

"parks for pork"?

Ron Granger

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

Why does this need to be in the city? Why must we convert our parks into a railway station or parking garage? Why not move this outside the city, where there is more room, and get the county to help pay for it? Why must Ann Arbor taxpayers shoulder the brunt of the local cost?

Jacob Faust

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

Okay Ron. The eye-poking is unnecessary - I have been unable to respond in the <6 hours you gave before posting your snarky reply. Why does this need to be in the city? The train station is closely linked to SEMCOG's plan ( to bring commuter rail into this city. Ann Arbor heavily relies on workers who commute into the city to work at the University. In order to give these commuters an alternative method to get to work (and reduce traffic jams that gridlock plymouth rd., state st., and geddes rd. during rush hour), the service must be convenient and quicker than driving by a car. Having the station on depot fails on both counts (it is nowhere near the university). Why must we convert our parks into a railway station or parking garage? Again this falls under the need to for the station to be convenient for commuting workers. As the most of the railway near the university lies on parkland, it is a matter of coincidence that parkland is necessary. This initiative is not a veiled attack on parkland. Why not move this outside the city, where there is more room, and get the county to help pay for it? It won't work if it is more burdensome to take the train than a car (for commuter rail). The relocation of the train station is meant to improve the ability of workers who don't work in Ann Arbor to make it into the city without having to drag their car along. Why must Ann Arbor taxpayers shoulder the brunt of the local cost? Of all the four questions, this is most difficult to answer. But in fact the article alludes that the city will not bear the brunt of the cost to build the new station. This local cost will help prevent the city from being mired in traffic 5 days a week during rush hour, something will have to be done. Either widen roads (something that I will assume most people will not want - me included), or an alternative service needs to be implemented to divert some commuters.

Ron Granger

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 6:19 p.m.

I asked four questions, and I thought they were pretty good ones, but received no rebuttal or reply. Just silent negativity, apparently from the crowd who wants to spend other people's money.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

For those of you interested in the mayor's "visions", there is a swell one sitting right outside City Hall. It's that monstrosity with the blinky blue lights. Dry, blinky blue lights.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

"Dry blinky blue lights" - best laugh I've had all day -thank you!!


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

I am still trying determine if the Wayne County board joined Ann Arbor!

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

Brad, I wonder how much said monstrosity(minus the blinky blue lights, of course)would be worth as scrap metal.....?


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

Ron, I'm not certain there is enough capacity to push all the manure that comes out of just the city council meetings. Ann Arbor may need another piece of "art" to handle the full load!

Ron Granger

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

I still think they should bolt the thing on a truck and use it as a snow plow. Or manure. It could push manure.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

I applaud this mayor for having the vision to move us forward with more public transportation. We received extra federal funds because the flat earther teapublicans in Florida turned down the funds....we will move forward WITH or WITHOUT you.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

Really sounded like a detroiter~


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

"we will move forward WITH or WITHOUT you." Please explain to me how choo-choo trains are a "move forward?" Choo-choo trains are so 19th century. Why aren't we also using public funds to construct horse stables while we are "moving forward?"


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

"it could come out of the city's fund reserves" Funny how there's always money available for "visions". For fixing our crummy streets and adequate fire protection? Not so much.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

In my independent study, funded by me, 88.3% of the train traffic in Ann Arbor are people taking the train to Chicago to spend discretionary income. The average rider gets on the train in Ann Arbor with $493.75 in their pocket. That rider on average returns to Ann Arbor 51.4 hours later with $37.63 in their pocket. They also on average put an additional $394.22 on credit cards. 78% of those returnees reduce their discretionary spending locally by an average of 69.3% over the course of 9.7 weeks at which time 55% of them buy another ticket to Chicago.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 5:56 p.m. are my HERO!


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:19 p.m.

Funny how this study sounds like the precursor to a proposal for an embarkation / disembarkation service fee.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

LEAVE our parks alone. do not use park land with out voters permission. once you start you will not stop. we have some great parks. Huron hills and Leslie park are for all the people of ann arbor. not just ones that ride trains.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

What's the connection between the train station (where ever it is) and train riders and the two public golf courses?

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

Mort, I could not agree with you more. we love our parks. LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!!!


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

A few questions Mr. Mayor, logical ones-so you're going to struggle with them... What is the benefit of a new station? Why do we NEED it? What limitations does the current station have? Can they be corrected? For less than 3-30mil? Can the old station handle double riders? How will a new station return 3-30m to the city OVER the old station? Oh, and real dollars mean more than pretend ones...


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

Are you aware that the Ann Arbor station is the most used by far station in the state of Michigan. It outpaces Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, and Kzoo. Chicago on the run is the only one that beats it (understandably). Have you used the station - it's a hole in the wall for the size of the traffic it does. The Gandy Dancer is probably too large, but the current one is WAY too small. I don't understand how Dearborn (79k) is in need of that huge thing - their traffic numbers are doubled by Ann Arbor (140k). (ref:

Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

Transportation funding is incredibly complex and the mayor's optimism seems to be misplaced if his expectation is that the Federal government is going to pick up the costs. I will be writing a blog post on this after the primary is over, but briefly a change in funding of Amtrak service Detroit-Chicago is occurring in 2014 due to implementation of Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. PRIIA calls for state assumption of costs for corridors less than 750 miles long, and the Wolverine line is one of those. While the Federal government has been paying Amtrak operating costs for this line, in 2014 it will shift to the State of Michigan. Here is a link This means that the cost of a new station would have to come out of state funds. There is more but it'll have to wait for a blog post.

Jacob Faust

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

Dear Ms. Armentrout, I really hope that you will change our mind concerning this station. I understand you reservation about moving the train station if is only to improve Amtrak service, but it is not. It is meant to improve planned commuter rail service into the city. Please refer to SEMCOG's initiative to implement commuter rail into Ann Arbor: This is a great opportunity to bring commuters into the city without needing a car. Moving the rail station to a location closer to where jobs are located will be critical in the commuter rail projects success: no one will want to take a train which takes twice as long to get to work. We must make public transit as competitive as cars (in terms of time and convenience) for it to be successful. If you have time, I would gladly meet up in person to discuss this issue in more detail.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

How about we wait and see if Amtrak actually does track and equipment (trains less than 30 years old would be nice....) before jumping on this mule? And when we do I propose that any city funding come firstly from the depletion of the idiot fund also known as public art. After that is depleted completely, I suggest we take from the parks fund (we must have too much there also since we are buying properties for top dollar to build fancy parks). And after that we take 100% from Hietje's salaries as mayor and at the U/M - you know- the job he got selling Ann Arbor voters short on a monthly basis to Mary Sue? Yeah, that one.

Dog Guy

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 3 p.m.

New equipment and high-speed track are only a few years in the future . . . and always will be.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

new trains a year or two away... you a rider?


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:32 a.m.

Track and equipment improvements. It's early.....


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:17 a.m.

Vision or wishful thinking?


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

Been a long time since I've seen the words "hypothetically," "might," "could," "possibly,"expect," etc. used by the same person in one article. Readers ARE seeing that just about every statement by the mayor has one or more of these words in it, right? 1) It's odd that the mayor so strategically (in light of the recent Wall Street parking lot development) says we could spend money EITHER on a train station OR parking structures. Odd because: A) U of M is paying for their parking structure, not Ann Arbor B) He just wholeheartedly rammed through the Big Dig (a massive parking structure that was 2 years over schedule) AND C) the train station project he so rabidly cheerleaded (and already spent millions on) was going to be a parking structure, and then only MIGHT have had a train station added on after that 2) He keeps saying all these hypotheticals and unknowns and variables will be all straightened out. So why is everything so vague and cloudy? WHY DID YOU ALREADY SPEND MORE THAN 2 MILLION PREPARING FOR THE PREVIOUS TRAIN STATION PROJECT and ALL these things are STILL UNKNOWNS? 3) "Asked...about the prospect of federal funding for a new train station...John Dingell responded: 'That appears to be under control, and the mayor seems to be content. I haven't talked to him about it for a while, but when last I did everything was in good order.'" What does this even mean? The funding appears to be under control? The mayor's content? What's in good order? The fact that it's completely unknown whether or not funding is available? More millages for no reason, folks; we keep not voting, they'll keep adding them. Please tell your friends, coworkers, and family, and tell them to pass it on. They have no proof a new train station is needed, the current station butts up against a massive unused lot where more parking can be added, the list of reasons NOT to do it is long and provable. Heifte's list is short and every i


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:21 a.m.

Sorry, said I wasn't over the character limit. Last part is: Heifte's list is short and every item includes "hypothetically," "might," etc.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

Give it a break. NOW is not the time to move ahead with this.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:10 a.m.

Another collosal waste of money. 6 million in locall contributed funds (local tax dollars out of our pockets). 24 million in federal funds (indirectly out of our pockets). We aren't even going to be allowed to vote on whether to proceed with this project.

Jacob Faust

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

Hey Harry, the issue is about bringing commuter rail to Ann Arbor: . Mayor Hieftje sees that Ann Arbor is severely congested during rushhour and moving this station will greatly improve the use of commuter rail (potential offsetting future growth of commuting-worker-induced traffic). It will give Ann Arbor the opportunity to move the city towards more public transit (and thus a more sustainable lifestyle).


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.

Mohawk Do you really use the train station. I tried to take it to Chicago at $80 per ticket. $320 for my family. I save over $200 by driving. Why would anyone use the train??


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

So then I guess the only way to offset the money wasted there is to waste some more here? Makes perfect sense.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:07 p.m.

A train station is a waste of money???? Blink -- we just wasted 6 million in Afghanistan


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 11:04 a.m.

Talk about dead beats beating a dead horse..someone should call the humane society and put this poor thing out of our misery....


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 10:56 a.m.

"This would all be nailed down before finally going forward. Everything would be spelled out. In fact, the FRA requires development of a financing plan in the current planning phase." Unlike the millions already spent on the NotParkingGarageMaybeTrainStation. "I can't stress enough that all the facts will be in front of council and the public, and all the financials will be analyzed before anything goes forward," Hieftje said. "All costs would be nailed down before the community made a decision. And of course, at this point the location of a new station is yet to be determined — it could be rebuilt in the same place." Really? Notice how he didn't say it would be subject to voters' approval.

Ron Granger

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

"Unlike the millions already spent on the NotParkingGarageMaybeTrainStation." Yes. What a poorly executed waste of money. And most of the parking capacity was committed to the University and would be unavailable for the public. It seemed they wanted to build a train station with insufficient public parking. How long until they would want to spend millions out of "need" to build more parking, possibly by converting more parkland?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 10:48 a.m.

The Fuller Road project ought to go to a vote of the citizens because no one can assert with a straight face that they will spend $30 million or $121 million (the original plan) building in it & that it will ever be parkland again! Personally I support the project in concept but NOT if the voters don't approve it first. If it's a project with merit, sell the citizens on that & if you can't convince the citizens, respect the democratic process and move on to other topics.

Jacob Faust

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.


Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Amen, my brother.

Ron Granger

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.



Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 10:46 a.m.

Well, it is early in the morning! "Gridlock" is the word!

Madeleine Borthwick

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

indymama, Too Right!!!!


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 10:45 a.m.

Oops! Sorry..last sentence should read: We will have groidlock in that area!


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

Try again.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 10:43 a.m.

Where will the Federal Funds come from??? Your pocket! ..because taxes will go up to provide funding from the FRA. Why couldn't the recently (or to be) vacated building by Barracuda (sp?) be converted to a new train station? The building is there, more parking would be available. It would be far less expensive than a totaly new bldg. We just don't need to increase traffic along the MaidenLane corridor with train station traffic now that the UM is building another parking structure on Maiden Lane!! We will Gridlock in that area!!

Jacob Faust

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

Indymama, the area is already gridlocked during rush hour. To prevent the worsening of gridlock in the area, the placement of a new train station near the largest employer in Ann Arbor - the hospital - seeks to enable the implementation of commuter rail: . The current train station is far away from any employment center currently (downtown or campus). It currently only works for the few people taking amtrak to chicago. Moving the station closer to campus, which is well served by frequent public transit, will enable many workers who commute to have an alternative method of getting to their workplace. Thus, the building vacated by Barracuda Networks will not work.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

Hmm.. definitely an interesting and creative idea about the building vacated by Barracuda. I believe that there are other businesses still occupying space there though. However, the location is perfect (right along the tracks, and only a few blocks from downtown) and after a few million to "retrofit" it into a transit station, it could be a great low-cost solution. Plus you just know that they will need some office space on the top floors of the new train station (see Blake Transit center) they are covered with the existing space on the top two floors. Primary parking would be onsite - - then level the existing Amtrak station and use that area along with the existing lot for auxiliary parking.