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Posted on Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 1:58 p.m.

SEMCOG delays commuter rail service between Ann Arbor and Detroit

By Cindy Heflin

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments has delayed indefinitely the target date for beginning daily commuter rail service between Ann Arbor and Detroit, Crain's Detroit Business reports.

Instead, the line will operate only for special events, such as University of Michigan football games and the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, when it launches, the article said.

No new target date has been selected, Crain's reported. The goal had been to have the service operating by October.

Carmine Palombo, transportation project director for SEMCOG, said funding is the problem, the article said.

Read the rest of the article.



Sat, Mar 20, 2010 : 4:14 a.m.

I've lived in this area for about 16 years and wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard or read a variation of this story. It's going to happen... it's not going to happen. It's obvious that this will never happen because there doesn't appear to be a real need for it. If rail service loses money in the east where populations are much more dense than around here, it certainly isn't going to be self-sustaining around here. It's time to move on.


Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 9:51 p.m.

this was a no brainer...maybe in 50 years when we have density to hopefully support this method of transportation as a feasible option.


Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 9:07 p.m.

@belboz: Do individual drivers pay even 1% of the cost of the road network? Despite the sorry state of Michigan's roads, all that construction, maintenance, and policing cannot come cheap. Taxpayers pay the bulk of that tab. The most interesting comparison, of course, would be something like the taxpayer subsidy per user mile of buses versus driving, but I don't have those numbers. Anyone else know what that might be?


Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 7:50 p.m.

Thank goodness. AATA riders pay only 10% of their true cost to ride. Taxpayers make up the rest. We don't need another system like that.


Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 6:46 p.m.

The only way a commuter rail system works is if it is 24/7. The only way a commuter rail system works is if it has two sets of rails. I would use this type of system to go to Detroit for concerts, sporting events and when I work in Detroit as a stagehand. The biggest problem I see is the single rail system that is now in place. The siding system to let freight trains and Amtrak have the right of way is just waiting for an accident. You look at any other mass transit system you need two sets of rails to make it work properly. You need it to work throughout the day, not just for rush hour. Oh wait, the biggest problem is to get the average Michigander out of their car and use mass transit. It's tough enough to get anyone to use the seats in people mover in downtown. Oh wait, this system wouldn't even connect to that system to the downtown loop. Believe me I want there to be mass transit in Michigan. But doing it half way is not an answer. People would only use it, if it is convenient and efficient. And I see this being yet another half hearted attempt at mass transit.

Rob T

Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 6:04 p.m.

SEMCOG, you're breaking my heart! I firmly believe that good transit and strong urban centers are the answers to Michigan's brain drain. Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids' relative success is living proof.

Phil Dokas

Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 5:24 p.m.

Oh good, I wasn't excited to give them money for every single trip to and from the airport or anything. Not at all. Cheap fare to the airport? There I go with my crazy talk again.

Adam Jaskiewicz

Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 3:53 p.m.

How is a cost-per-rider ratio figured? How do they know how many people will ride this thing? What is the number based on? I'm NOT a potential rider for a special-events train. I'm NOT a potential rider for the current Amtrak "service". If they base their numbers on current utilization of the Amtrak route, and potential for special-events traffic, they aren't counting me. I don't think I'm alone. I was looking forward to being able to live anywhere along the corridor and work anywhere else along the corridor, and commute without worrying about the traffic and delays on the highways. I'd love to commute by train. Sure, it doesn't save a whole lot of time, but it adds some regularity to your schedule and gives you time to just sit and relax, rather than getting worked up about the morons on the highway. It also lets you get some work done or do some reading. As a potential rider, this is something I want. Transit in southeast Michigan is pitiful.

Alan Benard

Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 2:54 p.m.

Rep. Carolyn "Cheeks" Kilpatrick threw SEMCOG under the high-speed train, siding with the Obama Administration's decision to fund that other mode of rail transportation instead. has nothing to gain from increased regional cooperation -- her remit is to keep Detroit isolated, paranoid and beholden to her.


Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 1:41 p.m.

Not surprised. I thought your earlier story that ran a couple of months ago on this line was hilariously optimistic and pretty shoddy in that it took for granted all of the faulty assumptions. What happened to journalistic skepticism? Why do I say this? Go read SEMCOG's own mass transit studies. The commuter rail option is one of the LEAST feasible and MOST expensive of the options studied. SEMCOG says it was only being tried because of political pressure from the region. That's why it didn't qualify for federal New Starts funding. The feds won't fund something that isn't a good return for the money. One problem it the commuter rail wouldn't go to the airport. You'd have to get off and take a bus. Imagine that. It's also laughable that this project would serve U-M and its hospitals. Many workers wouldn't use the train because their shifts don't coincide with the train's four trips in the morning and four in the afternoon/evening. They also don't live on the line. Planners know that. For much less cost, SEMCOG could run two lines of express busses every 20 minutes from downtown Ann Arbor. One route would go to the airport, and Detroit. The other would go to Dearborn and Detroit.