Several Michigan train transportation plans under consideration

July 20, 2015

(Watch for this story Monday morning on WZZM TV 13) LANSING — Michigan’s transportation organizations are studying planes, trains and automobiles.

More options for public transit could play a huge role in the state’s competitiveness in attracting and retaining people, young and old, transportation experts say. They’ve recently launched four studies to assess the feasibility of new Michigan rail routes.

The studies will assess traffic flows, taking into consideration automobile, bus and air traffic, said Elizabeth Treutel, a Michigan Environmental Council policy associate.

“A big goal of the studies is understanding … the traffic flows now,” she said. “Where are people going? Where are people coming from? How are they getting there? And then, what is the likelihood they would switch to a train if they had that option?”

About one-third of Michigan’s population is too young or too old to drive, or they are limited physically or financially, Treutel said. And rail is the friendliest motorized transportation for the environment and helps attract and retain recent college graduates who care about protecting it, she said.

“Rail is often more efficient,” she said. “It’s not as good as biking or walking, but it’s certainly better than driving, flying or taking the bus.”

Rail also has economic impacts for the communities it connects.

“We know that passenger rail brings in $64 million in community benefits to the state every year,” Treutel said. “That’s the passenger rail lines that exist currently, which are the three Amtrak lines that go from Grand Rapids to Chicago, Detroit to Chicago, and then Port Huron to Chicago.”

Grand Valley State University recently quantified those benefits, such as the money Amtrak spends on equipment and labor and the money travelers save and can then spend at local businesses, she said.

The four major proposals in Michigan include a commuter line between Howell and Ann Arbor and another between Ann Arbor and Detroit, Treutel said. Longer routes are proposed between Ann Arbor and Traverse City and another between Detroit and Holland through Lansing and Grand Rapids.

“They’re all very different,” Treutel said. “They’re serving different areas of the state, and they’re at different points of development.”


Read the full story from reporter Colleen Otte of Capital News Service in the Grand Rapids Business Journal by clicking here.

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