Environment Picture

MEC leads effort to reconnect Michigan By Rail from Coast to Coast

Grand Rapids entrepreneurs catch the morning train to a meeting in Lansing and update their business plan on the ride home. A couple boards in Ypsilanti for dinner and a show with friends in Detroit. Michigan State students hop a train for a Saturday at the beach in Holland.

These scenarios are just glimpses of how a Coast-to-Coast Rail Service could knit together Michigan’s largest population centers and reconnect our coasts. By meshing existing train tracks with local transit options and intercity coach services, the route would extend possibilities well beyond its station stops and allow comfortable travel across Michigan without a car.
The Coast-to-Coast would:
  • Ignite innovation by providing a conduit for new partnerships between the world-class medical centers and over a dozen colleges and universities along its tracks.
  • Provide workers access to jobs along the corridor and make their commutes more pleasant and productive.
  • Breathe new life into our centers of arts and entertainment by giving out-of-town visitors a reliable and relaxing way to reach new cultural experiences.
  •  Help Michigan attract and retain more of the talented workers the state needs to prosper in the future.
The economic impact of these new opportunities is huge. For instance, passenger rail service on the Wolverine Corridor brings more than $45 million in community benefits to towns along the route each year. Amtrak invested more than $31 million in Michigan companies in 2013 for goods and services to keep its trains running.

And demand for convenient rail travel has never been greater. Amtrak ridership in our state has increased by over 40% in the last 10 years. Michigan trains carried more than 750,000 passengers in 2014, generating more than $28.5 million in revenue in 2014.

Already there’s progress toward making the Coast-to-Coast a reality. MEC is leading an effort, in collaboration with the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, an MEC member group; the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority; the Michigan Department of Transportation; Metropolitan Planning Organizations along the corridor and a handful of other important stakeholders to complete a Rail Ridership and Cost Estimate Study funded by a federal grant and local match contributions from organizations along the corridor.

Ridership and cost estimates available soon
The study is nearly complete! Transportation Economics Management Systems, Inc. was hired to complete the study, which is expected to be finalized in early 2016. The Michigan By Rail team, a coalition of organizations working to advance passenger rail in Michigan led by MEC, managed the public engagement portion of the study and spent the summer and fall of 2015 hosting 16 public meetings in communities across the corridor.

Engaging with the public and stakeholder groups early and often is a crucial component of our plan to move this concept from a hypothetical mock-up to a real service that advances Michigan’s economy and connects people to where they want and need to go.

In 2016, MEC and its partners will map out the next steps for the Coast-to-Coast passenger rail project based on our study recommendations and continue to push the status quo on transportation options in our state.

For More Information
For a snapshot of potential Coast-to-Coast routes and timetables, visit the online marketing mock-up created by Freshwater Transit:
fwrail.org/rl_380.htm

Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers:
marp.org

Michigan By Rail:
mibyrail.org
-Liz Treutel Callin, MEC
RELATED TOPICS: transportation policy
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