You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Southeast Michigan residents already making commuter rail between Ann Arbor and Detroit possible

By Ryan J. Stanton


Detroit resident Chinyere Neale greets a fellow commuter during a recent morning train ride from Detroit to Ann Arbor. She and others who commute to work by rail have gotten to know each other over the years.

Ryan J. Stanton |

As many wait for officials to deliver on the promise of a true commuter rail service between Ann Arbor and Detroit, a handful of people already are making it work.

Living proof that it's possible right now to commute by train between the two Southeast Michigan cities — albeit with a few limitations — is Detroit resident Chinyere Neale.

Neale has been boarding passenger trains at the Amtrak station in Detroit each morning for nearly a decade to get to her job at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

"There are several others who get on in Royal Oak, Detroit and Dearborn to work in Ann Arbor and the university," said Neale, who lives only a few minutes from the Detroit station. "We have endured the delays, suffered the cancellations, and mostly enjoyed great service."

Neale said she and others have grown tired of waiting for commuter trains, which have been promised year after year by officials working on the project.


Detroit resident Chinyere Neale, who has been taking the train to work in Ann Arbor for nearly a decade, enjoys a grapefruit on a recent morning commute.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Carmine Palombo, director of transportation programs at the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, said progress continues on many aspects of the proposed commuter service, but there still are a few hurdles to clear.

He said SEMCOG and the Michigan Department of Transportation are working daily — along with the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Amtrak and various contractors — and demonstration trains could be up and running later this year.

Neale said she's heard that before, though.

"I've heard so many different plans, and when people tell me about the latest plan, I always tell them I won't hold my breath," she said. "They said by 2009 they were going to have this train."

Neale, who works in U-M's School of Public Health, said she welcomes the prospect of a true Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail service — hopefully with more frequent trips, better hours, more stops, and cheaper fares — but for now she's grateful for Amtrak's regular passenger train service, which she said gets her to her job usually without any problems.

Riding the rails

Amtrak sends three passenger trains from Detroit to Ann Arbor each day — at 6:48 a.m., 11:23 a.m. and 6:18 p.m.

Neale can be found on the early train most days.

As for getting home after work, Neale has a couple of options. Amtrak sends trains from Ann Arbor to Detroit each day at 1:04 p.m., 5:45 p.m. and 11:32 p.m.

Neale usually takes the 5:45 p.m. train. But if she wants to stay later, which she did the other night when she went to a classical concert after work, she'll hop aboard at 11:32 p.m.

The trip is a little less than an hour each way, and Neale said she has no trouble passing the time. Instead of gripping the wheel of her car and worrying about traffic or road conditions, she'll kick back and enjoy a light snack, crack open a book or sometimes nap.

"Most days I read," she said. "It's just nice to be able to relax and not worry about somebody rear-ending me, or the weather. The train is reliable pretty much regardless of the weather."

On a recent morning trip from Detroit to Ann Arbor, found a number of other Southeast Michigan residents who regularly commute by train to work or school.


Kathleen Bergen, a research faculty member in U-M's School of Natural Resources, spent a recent morning commute reading a professional paper. She likes to get work done on the train.

Ryan J. Stanton |

That includes Detroit resident Cassandra Watts, who uses the train to get to her classes at Eastern Michigan University. Because there currently isn't a stop in Ypsilanti, she gets off in Ann Arbor and then takes the bus out to EMU.

"It does have pluses and minuses, but it has more pluses for me," she said. "I am not in a rush to be anywhere because my first class doesn't start until 45 minutes after I even get there."

Westland resident Dwight Scales, who works at U-M's Kellogg Eye Center, said he's been using the train to get to his job in Ann Arbor for about a year.

He doesn't own a car, nor does he want one with the way gas prices are going. So he finds his way to the Amtrak station in Dearborn each morning, often taking the bus to get there.

"It's the only way I can make a commute from the Detroit suburbs into Ann Arbor," he said. "There's no other way. I don't own a car."

Added Scales: "I like the idea of commuting by train anyway."

Even those who own a car said the choice to commute using Amtrak is easy: It's either an hour spent behind the wheel in traffic or an hour spent relaxing on a train. Some prefer to multi-task.

"Usually I'm working on the train, actually, which is another reason I will add to my list of why I prefer to take the train," said Warren resident Kathleen Bergen, a research faculty member in U-M's School of Natural Resources who regularly boards at the station in Royal Oak.

Bergen spent a recent morning commute reading a professional paper sent to her by a colleague who wants to collaborate on a grant proposal.

"Sometimes I'm grading papers," she said. "I'm actually on my way to teach. I teach on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and very often I'm reviewing my presentation to my class."

Bergen packed a morning snack and brought a mocha along for her trip. She said she's been commuting by train to Ann Arbor for eight or nine years.

Jason Ulsh, who lives on Detroit's east side, said he takes the train to get to his job at the University of Michigan just about every morning.

"It's about the same as driving, but it's a little less convenient because the times are fixed and there aren't many trains," he said. "And if there are a lot of people riding to Chicago, it's obnoxiously slow, especially coming back. It's not all good, it's not all bad."

Ulsh said he owns a car, but he prefers the train, and he doesn't think he's spending that much more money given the price of gas.

"I'm only spending like a couple bucks more a day to do this and it's way less stressful," he said. "Plus my wife needs the car during the week and it works out better that way."

A makeshift commute

As far as commuting goes, the current Amtrak schedules work out much better for those who want to go from Detroit to Ann Arbor — not the other way around.

For those who live in Ann Arbor and work in Detroit, the timing doesn't work so well, with the earliest train to Detroit departing at 1:04 p.m. and the last train coming back at 6:18 p.m.

"I know lots of people in Ann Arbor who either work in Detroit or would like to work in Detroit who kind of envy me," Neale said.

Until a true commuter rail service is established, it's the Detroit-to-Ann Arbor crowd that's able to take advantage of the current schedule and enjoy riding the rails to work.

Neale said she started taking the train to work in Ann Arbor back in 2002. Ironically, she said, it was right after she purchased a new vehicle.

"The initial plan was to take the train a couple days a week, take the weight off my car, but man, I got addicted quick," she said. "Just being in a situation where I didn't have to drive — I could relax. Like last night after the concert, I could nap for an hour on the train."

Neale said she had ridden the train from Detroit to Ann Arbor before, but it was discovering Amtrak's multi-ride pass that opened her mind to regularly commuting by rail.

"I read up online and I stumbled upon something about a multi-ride pass, and I got so excited I literally went to the station right then and bought one," she said.

Neale is referring to the 10-ride pass Amtrak sells for $114. That's enough to cover two trips each day — one to get to work, one to get home — for a full five-day work week.


After getting off at the Depot Street station in Ann Arbor, Neale takes an AATA bus to her final destination each morning.

Ryan J. Stanton |

When she first started buying the passes, they were $84, but they've gradually gone up to $114. That means Neale is spending $22.80 each day to get to and from work.

By comparison, with gas prices above $3.50 a gallon, someone with a car that gets 25 mpg might spend $14 or more driving between Detroit and Ann Arbor each day. And that's not counting wear and tear on the car.

"It's pretty pricey, but I think in the long-term it's worth it," Neale said of taking the train. "When I first was going to Ann Arbor, I was putting 100 miles a day on my car, plus gas. And now I'm putting two miles a day on my car and buying a lot less gas. But more importantly, I'm able to relax."

Neale and others who take the train don't seem to have a strong opinion on whether the station in Ann Arbor stays on Depot Street or moves to Fuller Road, which is what city officials have proposed. Some commuters said they like the current location for its convenience — it's just a short walk to downtown and the U-M campus, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority regularly sends buses past the station to drop off and pick up passengers.

After getting off at the Depot Street station in Ann Arbor, Neale takes an AATA bus to her final destination each morning.

"If the train gets in a few minutes early, which it has been, I can run upstairs and catch a bus just as it's pulling in," she said. "If the train comes in on schedule, which I think is 7:48 a.m., the No. 17, a shuttle between Depot and Blake, is at 7:53 a.m. and it's usually right on time."

Added Neale: "It takes five minutes. Can't get much faster than that."

Room for improvement

On Thursday morning, Neale rode on a train with five 68-seat coaches, for a total capacity of 340 seats, but there were only 130 passengers when the train reached Ann Arbor.

And only six got off in Ann Arbor.

That means there's plenty room for others to hop on board and try rail commuting for themselves, if they're willing to deal with the limited schedules and occasional delays.

Marc Magliari, a Chicago-based spokesman for Amtrak, said the early morning train Neale rides to get to work in Ann Arbor is on time 63 percent of the time.

That's measuring the route's on-time performance all the way from Pontiac to Chicago, and many riders said it's usually on schedule from Detroit to Ann Arbor.

The train starts in Pontiac and stops in Birmingham, Royal Oak, Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor before continuing west toward Chicago.


Westland resident Dwight Scales, who works at U-M's Kellogg Eye Center, said he's been using the train to get to his job in Ann Arbor for about a year.

Ryan J. Stanton |

It appears the train ride back to Detroit is where delays are most often seen. The 5:45 p.m. train out of Ann Arbor to Detroit is on time less than a quarter of the time.

Again, that's measuring the route's performance all the way from Chicago to Pontiac. Magliari said a train is considered on time if it arrives within 15 minutes of schedule.

Magliari said Amtrak welcomes the business of anyone who wants to use its passenger rail service to commute to work, but it's not necessarily set up for that.

In addition to the existing Amtrak stations in Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Detroit, two new stations in Ypsilanti and at Detroit Metro Airport are planned as part of the commuter service.

SEMCOG and MDOT have been working closely with the host communities on the design of those stations, Palombo said, noting preliminary designs are complete, funding has been identified, and work can begin once environmental clearance is obtained.

The Great Lakes Central Railroad has completed refurbishment of all nine passenger cars for the Ann Arbor-Detroit service, and they have successfully completed inspections for things like brake systems and door function. Grand Rapid-based American Seating produced seats for all nine cars and the seats have been delivered and installed.

The last step prior to being cleared for use in service, Palombo said, requires hooking the cars to an Amtrak locomotive and undergoing another set of mechanical and safety tests. He said that work is being scheduled and commissioning is expected soon.

Once commissioning is complete, demonstration trains are expected to run in service to special events sometime in 2012, Palombo said.

Another piece of the puzzle is construction of the West Detroit Connection Track, which Palombo said should happen this year and shave 10 minutes off the travel time for the Ann Arbor-Detroit commute. An environmental assessment is required to clear the project for construction, Palombo said, but the FTA has agreed to expedite the process.

The federal government has earmarked literally hundreds of millions of dollars for high-speed rail improvements from Detroit to Chicago. Many of the planned track upgrades for high-speed rail are expected to help make Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail possible.

Neale welcomes the possibilities.

"One of the things they talk about with the commuter rail — the real commuter rail — is having trains that go late at night, because there are a lot of kids at the university who would come to Detroit for ball games and other entertainment stuff," she said. "It would be convenient because the train station is one mile from the cultural center. It's two miles from downtown. It would be easy to use that to participate in more of the cultural life in Detroit."

And Ann Arborites could take the train to work in Detroit.

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.



Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 11:39 a.m.

The Japanese bullet train (???), from Tokyo to Osaka, the cost is $375. (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Tokaido Line, Nozomi train) The distance is roughly the same as Detroit - Chicago for comparison.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 10:38 a.m.

&quot;...a total capacity of 340 seats, but there were only 130 passengers when the train reached Ann Arbor. And only six got off in Ann Arbor.&quot; Please explain the millions upon millions upon millions that you are desperate to spend on new rail. Why don't you just make more frequent and better timed trips available, and see if ridership picks up? THEN, if it does, spend the millions and millions and millions. Why does it HAVE to be spending it first, then hoping that maybe it turns out to have been worth it? Someone should be able to explain this.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 4:37 a.m.

I am still so thankful for this train when I was in school. I went to school in Wisconsin. I was able to take the train to Chicago and a bus up to my school. It took all day, but I didn't have a car. Really relaxing. Food got better over time and you could bring your own. No full body checks. No leave your water bottle at the door. And some even had electric plugs so I could watch movies on my lap top. And lots and lots of leg room! And it was great just to watch the scenery go by.

Doug Coombe

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 2:19 a.m.

Great story Ryan!


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 11:40 p.m.

Have the Train stop in YPSILANTI as promised in Sept. 2010 . to take us to the thanksgiving parade..HA HA so Who has the Money that Rep.John Dingell iussed from washington.D.c.?

Tony Keene

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 10:59 p.m.

We need trains that transport PTUs (Personal Transport Units) AKA cars. Think about it. Why facilitate trains that function in the same old conceptual mode. Why cant we modularize our transportation needs, wherein cars and trains are integrated conceptually. This is Michigan... We should be building trains that can transport and even charge our PTUs, as we speed towards our commuter destination. We have spent 60 years building sprawl. We need PTUs (cars) to get to our homes. We need jobs, we need innovation. we don't need more of the same. Spend the money to design a new concept of what a train can do and the platform for a new automobile that can facilitate the needs of both individual and commuter sensibilities. Why not swing big? Instead of just feeding at the trough?


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 11:56 p.m.

bring In the Japan and the French they Know HOW!

Elaine F. Owsley

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 10:53 p.m.

Our return flight from Chicago was canceled one time and we took the train back to Ypsilanti and the railroad had a bus there to take us all to Willow Run where our original flight had begun. They really tried to make it as easy as they could, under the circumstances, even knowing that we'd all probably fly the next time instead of taking the train.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 10:18 p.m.

@Roger Kuhlman: actually the total federal debt including the net present value of the future cost of the entitlement programs is over $76 trillion already and this total liability increased over $3 trillion last year. According to an analysis by economists hired for USA Today: the federal government has accumulated &quot;$61.6 trillion in unfunded obligations.&quot;. Now add in the actual national debt of over $15 trillion and compare that to the wealth of the country. According to the Federal Reserve Bank's economic analysis unit the entire net worth of every man, woman and child, corporation, non-profit and unit of government other than our federal government is $55 trillion. Our national debt and the future cost of the entitlement programs is over $75 trillion, far exceeding the net worth of the country, exceeding even the total assets of the country! We could tax *every* dollar of wealth away and it wouldn't be enough to close the gap. We've done a leveraged buy-out of the United States and screwed our children. At any rate, as I pointed out above in my very first post at top, commuter rail can be a profitable activity. Just like airlines can be profitable and well run or unprofitable and poorly run, so can railroads. See: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 11:55 p.m.

lets do it the american way washington FILE for bankrupcy now. All the books are overloades with mistakes/earmarks/ etcetc. new law no lobbiest in washington for 5 years. No more earmarks ..etc etc.The miliartiy budget payed for by the Pentagon etc etc.All shipments back to china, we have eoungh juke here,By the way how much is the shipping charge for all the junke and how ordere that stuff? really need to know!

Roger Kuhlman

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

Yes the Amtrak rail must be very nice for the very few people who use it regularly but we have to remember that Amtrak has never made a yearly profit and in fact runs large annual operating losses. Adding more trains and fixing up the rail lines for faster passenger speeds will be very expensive and only increase operating losses even more in the future. That does not make sense. All of our government units from the federal to the state to the local level are experiencing severe financial problems--the US government has a federal debt approaching $16 trillion and is running yearly deficits of over $1 trillion--so we need to prioritize and spend tax dollars very carefully. If we have money available for transportation, it should be going to maintain our existing transportation infrastructure of highways and bridges and freight rail connections that desperately need it and show clear positive payoffs. We should not be dabbling with passenger rail that serves only the few and at very best can be said to offer highly speculative future positive returns.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

Is it the commuters that are making this possible or the beleaguered taxpayers that make it possible? How many social projects can we subsidize before we go bankrupt, like most other major industrial countries? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Bob Cowen

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

How many millions of dollars and years of committee studies, task forces, presentations and promises will it take to learn our lesson? SMART isn't smart. And if you thought that SMART was unresponsive, expensive and steeped in politics, wait until you see a Regional Transit Authority. A better solution is to allow entrepreneurs to offer unrestricted transportation services (shuttle, van, taxi, jitney). Social media will very quickly spread the word about who is good and who is not. Low income &amp; seniors can be given vouchers or a BRIDGE type of card. It's worked elsewhere and well worth a two year test. Put the brakes on a Regional Transit Authority before entwining three or four counties with their layers of politicians into an even bigger SMART type of mess. Tell Lansing and local government to unshackle the free market; you'll be surprised at how quickly two good things happen: much better service for customers and much lower cost for taxpayers! Bob Cowen Farmington Hills


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

YES with our soldiers comming home , they should be in charge .Our soldier Know How to build and run a country and now they can run our /there trains.etc etc..

Ann English

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 11:35 p.m.

I think you're referring to a group promoting &quot;sustainable transportation&quot; when you mention SMART. I was suspicious about them after reading on their website about &quot;sustainable transportation,&quot; for it sounded like they wouldn't admit they were trying to get us out of our private cars and into public transit vehicles only. I think of airline pilots, train engineers and public bus drivers being union members, going on strike. Of more people traveling together, facilitating a mass homicide by terrorists. Of course SMART doesn't want to think of these possible consequences of fewer people traveling in private vehicles.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

I don't know what figures the IRS uses for stating it costs 55.5 cents per mile to drive a car, I know it does not cost me anywhere near that. I imagine they determine that using a brand new car and then include the depreciation. Rail as it exists is a joke, look at the empty seats in the picture above. To upgrade current infrastructure and add infrastructure so that passenger trains could have their own tracks would cost billions of dollars. It makes no sense at all , especially with motor vehicles fuel economy hitting new highs year after year. The single biggest factor is you have to find a way ( taxi , friend , family, park your car and pay a parking fee) to get to the rail station and then once at the rail destination you have to find a way to get to wherever you are going, again using a taxi,renting a car etc. Don't make the 93% of us who will never use rail pay for the 7% that may ! Good Day


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

With gasoline at $ 5.00 a gallon and grandma and grandpa over 65 years of age iT is THE ONLY WAY to TRAVEL.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 10:25 p.m.

It's my understanding that they use average costs, @snoopdog. A lot of lower income and poorer people drive older used cars with poor gas mileage and high repair costs and the average age of the average car on the road is quite old. Maybe some of the posters drive a new gas sipping micro-car, but as for me, my 26 year old car just gave up its ghost so I finally got my 11 year old car's engine repaired so I can drive it again (I don't commute by bicycle when there is ice on the sidewalks). I'm a bit concerned about how much farther my wife's 258,000 mile car will go, too. Sound familiar?


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

The only reason the rail prices are so low now is government subsidies. Hey, if rail was such a good value then we wouldn't need subsidies to keep it alive! Next they'll want billions more to improve service and then we'll have to subsidize that even more. Why is this so hard to understand? WEhy should we spend a fortune to build and then subsidize something only a few extremists really want?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.

@Angry Moderate and MoveOn2011 are correct. We just spent $3 trillion subsidizing Big Oil by de-constructing Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. and much of what the Defense Department to the tune of $600 billion a year worries about, is how to protect that Mideast oil from Iran and Al-Qaeda. We could have had a first rate high speed rail system with trains at 200 miles per hour and trillions left over for better schools and universities, etc. Sigh.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 11:43 p.m.

OHH , if the oil companies are should a Good deal ..Why is the goverment subsidiesing the oil Co. By $ 40 Billion

Angry Moderate

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

Next thing you know, the government will be subsidizing roads!


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 5:23 p.m.

Wonder how many people could be put to work building this infrastructure? A modern take on the WPA.. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 10:09 p.m.

@rsa221: We already spent $3 trillion de-constructing Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc., so the money isn't there unfortunately. We could have had a first rate high speed rail system with trains at 200 miles per hour and trillions left over for better schools and universities, etc. Sigh.

Christine Moellering

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

My husband just got a job in Downtown Detroit and we live in Ypsilanti. This would make our lives so much better and cars cost a lot of $$. New tires were $600 and that's just the tires. Once we get a couple more years on his car we will have to buy another car. The train could really save us a lot of money.

Gabriel Villasurda

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

If you want to see a very thoughtful approach to true regional commuter rail for southeast Michigan, have a look at the following website. It's a little &quot;pie in the sky&quot;, but it does show the utilization of existing infrastructure. FRESHWATER RAILWAY: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Most of the rail lines mentioned had passenger service including train that catered to daily commuters at some time in the distant past. G. Villasurda Ann Arbor


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

One important key to successful commuting via Mass Transit of any type is frequency of service. I like the idea of Commuter Rail, however the trains would need to be frequent enough to offer several trips in the morning, midday, and late afternoon/early evening. Considering that the current article does not reflect a Commute Rail type concept, given the current offerings of AMTRAK that has been mentioned; I have serious doubts that we will see an actual convenient Commuter type of schedule; . People will not use the service if they need to spend 2 additional hours each way for a 45 minute ride, or have to adjust their work schedule outside of a traditional work day.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

A commuter van with 10 people aboard substantially changes the costs described in Mr. Ranzini's first post. $46.62 per day / 10 people = $4.62 $4.62/day is with existing infrastructure, vs $23.82/day for train with existing infrastructure. We can move people now with existing infrastructure, far cheaper than train. We lack the mass for economical mass transit. Also, our geographic service area is very large, with diverse destination points, even when considering population mass. In our circumstance, trains may be sexy, but they are not very smart. They cause far more problems than they solve. Bottom line: Share your commute with others to be most efficient, socially responsible, and environmentally green.

Wolf's Bane

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 6:04 p.m.

Please take a moment and review the NTSB PDF: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> You'll note that rail safety far superior to a van by the river!

Wolf's Bane

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

Having travelled extensively in Europe and in Asia by train, I can attest to the ingenuity and speed at which train commuters can get from one end of a country to another quickly and safely. Personally, I still think that the current rates rail commuters are paying right here in Southeastern Michigan too high given the services provided. Please remember that the strength of rail service is in the numbers of commuters! If the travel time between Ann Arbor and Chicago could seriously be reduced to less than 3.75 hours, the ridership would increase exponentially! This would also warrant the Fuller station renovation. C'mon Michigan, get on the ball. The time for high speed rail is NOW!


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

How many people are waiting for this &quot;promise&quot; to be delivered? From the page that the &quot;Promise&quot; links to: &quot;The project began as the Ann Arbor to Detroit Rapid Transit Study Alternatives Analysis. Upon completion of the Alternatives Analysis FTA officials indicated that given the study results, the region should consider suspending the formal federal process on a preferred alternative and initiate a locally funded project to demonstrate that costs and ridership would be in a range to better qualify the project in the federal New or Small Starts program. The federal process can be continued at a later date&quot; This looks to me like they saw that there was no real need or justification, so now we're going to go ahead and spend our own money, to DISprove the study that said it wasn't worth it. Am I reading this right? You know, not only do they waste our money, they're always looking for new and different ways to waste MORE of it in ever-increasing fantastic ways. Why don't we abandon the rail idea and do jets? Quicker. And they should be door-to-door for everyone's home and work.

The Picker

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Why all the empty seats ?


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

The highest ridership stops on the route are Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo--the train fills up fast once it hits A2 going westbound. Seats may be empty when the train hits Detroit, but you can't just leave out those seats, because they're needed at other points on the route. The train is usually sold out on Friday/Saturday/Sunday -- Amtrak has said that the only thing limiting their ridership is not having additional rolling stock to attach to the trains.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

This is a great idea. Now crackheads from the two major links can travel point to point without disruption.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

$ 400 a month to get to Ann Arbor? Why not buy a house in Ann Arbor and save all the time from commuting and put that money into a mortgage...


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

Most of the folks in the article say they have a spouse who works -- if that other job is in Royal Oak or Warren or Farmington Hills, moving to Ann Arbor might not make the household's total commute time any better.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Have you considered how much in taxes someone would have to pay to live here? I don't because of it. Ann Arbor is for the rich and those who can afford it. Don't knock it until you try living where taxes are low.

Dog Lover

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

I wish the powers that be would just get this done. We are so far behind major metropolitan areas in our transportation. It would provide so many more benefits to our area and the residents.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

Thanks for taking this trip and sharing the particulars with us. It brought back memories of my own long train commute between the San Diego area and Los Angeles area. As with this group of commuters, I bought a discounted book of 10 tickets. Even with the discount, the commute soaked up about 25% of my pretax salary. (Commuting is not tax-deductible, though apparently there has been a commuter tax credit in recent years and it has not been included in recent transportation bill discussions). These tickets cost about $6,000 per year, so their commute is probably affordable only to a professional job that carries a decent salary. Amtrak travel is supported by Federal dollars and thus the fare is reasonable. I have not seen any calculations of what the fare would be for a locally funded commuter rail service. Fares can never pay the full cost of operation, so we would have to find local dollars to make up the difference. As stated on SEMCOG's website, <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> the program does not qualify for the New Starts program and the initial phase at least would have to be supported by local dollars.

Jim Osborn

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Two Ann Arbor News Op Eds about this topic Other voices: SEMCOG appears to be indifferent to rail passengers' safety Thursday, July 10, 2008 <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> James Osborn: Solve safety issues before we jump aboard a commuter train April 28, 2009 <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Jim Osborn

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

This article talked about environmental permits and concerns and how Carmine Palombo, director of transportation programs at SEMCOG is working on it. What was absent was any mention about safety. At a meeting in Ypsilanti, I asked Mr. Palombo about his proposal to add stops for the commuter trains and he was unaware of the safety issues that this can bring. A Metrolink train in California and a Marc train in Maryland crashed, both with great loss many lives, after inserting a stop in-between the signals for the locomotive engineers that direct them to go onto a siding. There are many safety concerns at the many railroad crossings that will see an increase in usage, In the Los Angeles area, after Metrolink, a regional rail service started service in the mid 1990s, hundreds of accidents have occurred at crossings and scores of people have died. More modern crossing warning devices exist than the quaint 1940s era types that we have around presently. The easiest improvements are bright LED lights similar to traffic lights and police cars, quad gates with skirts (a fence that hangs down) creating a real barrier. Then a proper waiting time is need that is longer than a few seconds. The alternative is to use existing tracks and crossings and then speed up the trains. Have the trains go 79 MPH through Depot Town in Ypsilanti and soon we will be reading about another type of story. Trains are great, but they need to be done correctly, and safety cannot take a back seat.

the leprachaun

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

Well currently the track conditions from Detroit to Ann Arbor no trains should be going over 50 mph. Also on the MARC and Metrolink lines there is heavy freight traffic from BNSF and CSX. On this line there is about 2-3 freight trains a day which may of them are local switchers.

Elaine F. Owsley

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

I should have mentioned that that was in the '60's. I don't know if the current train even stops in Ypsi.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

I wish they would restore the Ypsi connection. I heard they are working on it. Whether or not they do is up to Amtrak. I remember taking a train to Chicago and boy was it full of riders. Some people I have talked to say they leave their cars at the parking area and take the train to Chicago and back. A commuter would ease a lot of gas rising problems. We all need to really take a look at the Asian community. What a way to get around.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

as long as you can get to where you have to be on time once u get off the train this seems like the way to go.i can't imagine driving from the Detroit area to Ann Arbor every day to go to work.has to b very nerve wracking.when u consider ALL costs it's certainly much cheaper.why not &quot;leave the driving to them&quot;?

Elaine F. Owsley

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

My husband frequently rode the train from Ypsilanti to Detroit for his job at the Detroit News. We had only one car at the time and it was convenient and easy for him to &quot;leave the driving&quot; to Amtrak and leave the car home for me. Once there was a problem with the train along about Wayne, and the railroad sent buses to take the commuters the rest of the way. He enjoyed the quick and comfortable way to work.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Regional mass transit is the key. The Detroit urban area has over 4,000,000 people. The area's center of mass is Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties. This area is the hub for all of the spokes. This is where the region's mass transit talks should begin. Although, it bruises our egos, Ann Arbor is a minute player in the area, and not the center of the universe. It would be great to see a true regional, intelligent effort, working to solve the region's transit needs, based on mass. Ann Arbor's Greyhound station is overlooked in our &quot;discussion (MIA).&quot;It may hold the key to solving Ann Arbor's mass transit issues. And, it may be adequate in its size, location, and function. Road infrastructure is already in place for regional mass transit bus plans that are in the works. Busses . . . not trains . . . Smart discussion needs to occur, replacing aggrandized agendas that do little to solve true problems. Maybe we really don't need new train stations . . . Maybe current infrastructure is adequate . . . We just need to use it better.

Wolf's Bane

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Please take a train from Ann Arbor to Chicago and then report back. I doubt you'll believe that current infrastructure is adequate. It is trash.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 1:20 p.m.

i agree especially the part about &quot;although it bruises our egos&quot; .after all Ann Arbor,Saline,Ypsilanti etc. are not hardly the center of all peoples universe for all things like a lot of the natives and the wanna-be's think it is or wish it was.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

Before you get your electronic pen out to say why Japan has such unique geographic and demographic advantages favoring trains that we don't have, consider that the true cost of running a railroad is concentrated in the initial construction cost, and that construction costs in Japan are excessively high. See: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Section 2.2(5) from this study &quot;Why shinkansen requires high construction cost&quot; follows: &quot;Compared with rapid-transit railways in Europe, the construction cost per kilometer for the shinkansen is very high. Why? In general, rapid-transit railways require a large investment in electrical-related construction, including signalling and safety systems, power systems and communication systems. However, the civil-engineering costs, such as banking, bridges and tunnels, still dominate taking approximately 70%. The shinkansen requires higher civil-engineering costs than European rapid-transit railways for the following reasons. a. Too many tunnels Because high mountains are common in Japan, the ratio of tunnel sections to the total length of the shinkansen tends to be high. The total tunnel length of the existing four shinkansen lines is 30.8% of the total length of the lines. b. Few sections can use economic banking Frequent earthquakes, heavy rain and deep weak ground on the plains do not suit the economic banking method and few sections can use it. Elevated track (including site acquisition cost) costs about four times that of banking. c. High environmental costs To meet the strict environmental standards, cost for sound barriers and ballast mats, etc., tend to be high. d. Short station-station distance The distance from station to station is too short (30 to 40 km) to achieve rational transportation compared with European rapid-transit railways. Station construction requires higher costs, raising the total construction cost.&quot;


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

Stephan, Couple of factors to consider. Generally high speed rail needs wider turning beds (more land). In addition, AMTRAK rides much of the rail route owned by freight rail and without additional lines (more land again), travel and growth is slowed (see examples along the east coast to include Virginia and Maryland commuter lines). Comparisons with Europe and Japan often leave many wondering why we don't it the same way. They forget one of the great start factors: carpet bombing and the Marshall plan.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

As noted in the article, with the $114 weekly passes, commuters are spending $22.80 each day to get to and from work between Ann Arbor and Detroit by the Amtrak train. Per the IRS, in 2012 it costs 55.5 cents per mile to drive a car, including wear and tear, so the 42 miles from Detroit to Ann Arbor cost $23.31 each way, or $46.62 a day to get to and from work between Ann Arbor and Detroit by car. These commuters are saving $23.82 a day commuting by train. For the IRS notice see: <a href=",,id=250882,00.html" rel='nofollow'>,,id=250882,00.html</a> When the &quot;higher speed&quot; 110 mile an hour track work, which is fully funded, is completed in the not too distant future, it will take about 25 minutes to get to Detroit from Ann Arbor by train and under 3.75 hours to Chicago. People the people who hate trains because they are uneconomic get their electronic pens out, please note that the best study that exists on the economic feasibility of the Chicago to Detroit &quot;higher speed&quot; train line notes that the line, once built will earn a profit in the 10th year of operation of $18 million a year, increasing over time to $32 million per year in the 20th year (see page 13). The study estimates 9 round-trips per day and a $90 round-trip price (see pages 10 &amp; 11). Please note that Delta and other airlines offer Chicago to Detroit services for more money and it takes about the same amount of time. They aren't providing these services as &quot;not for profit&quot; endeavors. To read the entire study see: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Of course, if we had true high speed trains going 200 miles an hour as they do in most advanced countries, the trip would only take 15 minutes to Detroit and an hour and a half to Chicago or Toronto. The Japanese bullet train business was sold by their government for $60 billion in 1987, and remains spectacularly profitable today.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 3:18 a.m.

@IIspier: Do you honestly think that there is no subsidy for the oil we put in our cars? Please think about the fact that we just spent $3 trillion subsidizing the Oil Industry by de-constructing Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. and much of what the Defense Department worries about to the tune of $600 billion a year, is how to protect that Mideast oil from Iran and Al-Qaeda. We could have had a first rate high speed rail system with trains at 200 miles per hour and trillions left over for better schools and universities, etc. Sigh. Oh, and let's not forget the Federal Highway Trust Fund was busted broke and needed a bailout too, which Obama &amp; Congress gave it in the ARRA stimulus bill, and now it needs another. That's a subsidy for cars and highways, too. If we taxed imported oil for the true cost of the military protection required to protect it, and secure it's long term supply back into the U.S., it would cost a lot more than $4 a gallon!


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 2:01 a.m.

Something no one is talking about is the fact that Amtrak is govt subsidized. That means I in East Podunk and old Uncle Charlie who retired to the western UP are paying a good portion of Ms Neale's commute. A study last fall showed that a $32 ticket from Detroit to Chicago lost $55-to be made up by the taxpayers. So, based on that percentage, Ms Neale should actually be paying $196.50 for her 10-ride pass instead of $114. Would she pay that to ride? I doubt it. Should I have to pay for part of her ticket? Absolutely not! Taxing people who will never have an opportunity to utilize the service smacks of a form of welfare that I'm not anxious to take on. You want your choo-choo, you should pay for it-not Uncle Charlie and I..


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

You're living in a fantasy world, I drive a Chevy truck from A2 to Detroit 5 days a week, it normally cost me between $55-$70 weekly for the commute. Even with wear and tear it's still less than the $114, plus I don't have to walk to a bus stop and pay bus fares along with waiting for buses that are not on time or just fail to show up. Along with the other failed transit systems LA, NY, they are in such debt employers are being asked to pay more business taxes just to help offset their budget downfalls.

average joe

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 2 p.m.

&quot;These commuters are saving $23.82 a day commuting by train.&quot; Gee, I wonder what these six commuters are going to spend all their savings on..... The IRS deduction figures are silly. They are saying that the cost to operate a $15,000 high MPG car is the same as a $65,000 gas guzzler.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 2 p.m.

&quot;People the people&quot; should read &quot;Before the people&quot;. Sigh. My apologies. @SonnyDog09 is correct I forgot to note the possible extra costs of taking mass transit at either train station getting to and from the train, if walking isn't an option. Profits from the annual operation of trains can be increased and their upfront capital construction investments can be decreased when real estate development opportunities at and near stations are pursued. Because they have high foot traffic these are prime real estate. Ann Arbor has opportunities in doing this also, as I noted here recently: <a href=""></a>


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

for UM employees, the buss is free with your M-card. The other cost savings is the $60/month for a blue parking pass &quot;license to hunt&quot; at the hospital. The commuter train is a totally appealing option. I LOVE taking the traing to Chicago!


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

u can find numbers to tell u anything you want them to.the better questions are Is railroad commuting efficient / and does it make sense? my answer to both would be YES.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

your calculation overlooks the cost of getting to and from the train station at both ends of the rail commute. The one commuter took the bus, so you need to add bus fare to the daily commute cost.