Ten years ago, if you showed up at Michigan’s top transportation agency and asked for someone in the passenger rail department, you’d be greeted with a strange look, and probably hear something like, “We don’t do that here. Try Amtrak.” But things have changed. These days, not only does MDOT have staff working on passenger rail, they have a whole office dedicated to improving train service. In fact, freight and passenger trains are one of the state’s top priorities.
Hans Voss and Jim Bruckbauer recently traveled to Mt. Pleasant for a meeting with city staff and community leaders about the Ann Arbor to Traverse City passenger rail project. During our visit, one thing was made clear: Mt. Pleasant is ready for trains.
The Groundwork Center’s effort to establish passenger rail on a set of state-owned tracks between Ann Arbor and Traverse City is gaining steam. Since our big kick-off earlier this year, we’ve been meeting with civic leaders and transportation officials all along the line on how to build a successful public campaign, and with officials in Lansing to advance the necessary studies to run the trains.
The work to bring passenger rail to Traverse City is off to a good start thanks to a quick crowdfunding effort that raised almost $19,000 in ten days.
Modern passenger rail service connecting Traverse City to Ann Arbor… it’s quite a vision. It would strengthen our regional economy and stimulate development along the route. It would take cars off the highways, with the environmental benefits of cleaner air and less fuel consumption. It would use an existing asset to offer a new transportation option for those of us who live in the Traverse City area and an appealing new way for visitors to come to our area. But what’s most exciting? It can be a reality, and it’s the Michigan Land Use Institute’s goal that within 10 years, regular passenger train service connects Traverse City and Ann Arbor.
One of the benefits you’re offered on your first day as a Google employee in downtown Ann Arbor is a financial incentive to leave your car at home. Mary Sell told the audience at the Getting Transportation to Work Commuter Summit in Traverse City earlier this month that the company offers one of the best commuter incentive packages in the city.