The effort to reestablish passenger rail between southeast Michigan and the Traverse City and Petoskey areas reached another major milestone when the Groundwork Center and the Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) selected rail industry experts, Transportation Economics and Management Systems (TEMS), to explore costs and create a business plan for regular train service.
Andrew Vriesman, a 22-year-old senior at Central Michigan University, is excited about passenger rail that will one day connect Mt. Pleasant with Ann Arbor to the southeast and with Traverse City and Petoskey to the northwest. The route will travel through thriving downtowns that include growing businesses, tech sectors, and colleges that are collectively home to 90,000 students.
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.
Traffic problems take on new urgency during Traverse City’s busy season as too much congestion hampers business growth, wastes fuel, and hurts this area’s quality of life. But local leaders need to fix our existing transportation network first before pursuing an expensive, ill-conceived, short-term remedy like a new Hartman-Hammond bridge.
The outcome of the recent local election signaled hope for many Traverse City families that improvements are possible along a dangerous thoroughfare that cuts through town.
This month, two regional transportation agencies launched a partnership that makes it easier for riders to travel between Benzie County and Traverse City while leaving their cars at home. The Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) and the Benzie Transportation Authority (Benzie Bus) teamed up to offer a new connection service that allows Benzie Buses to transfer riders to BATA buses at Ric’s Food Center in Interlochen beginning Nov. 1.