Traverse City, Michigan nonprofit is the engine pulling for passenger rail service from Ann Arbor

May 10, 2015

It’s an idea with appeal: Riding the rails north from Ann Arbor to Traverse City, maybe for a summer weekend — and no highway congestion to contend with, there or back.

The Michigan Land Use Institute hopes to make that a reality.

The Traverse City-based nonprofit is spearheading a campaign to explore passenger rail service on an approximately 240-mile stretch of track between the two cities — an “A2TC” initiative that’s generated interest and discussion as well as about $18,700 raised in a Land Use Institute crowdfunding campaign in March.

“There’s a lot of work to be done and questions to be answered, and our goal is just to keep moving this forward to get the questions answered,” said Jim Bruckbauer, a policy specialist at the Land Use Institute.

It’s a 10-year vision to provide a new and more environmentally friendly option to travel the state and boost the downtown economies of communities along the route, while speaking to public sentiment for passenger rail connecting Traverse City and Southeast Michigan.

At statewide community forums in 2010 while the Michigan Department of Transportation was developing a state rail plan, a consistent and top theme that emerged was that Michigan’s passenger rail system should include a Traverse City-to-southern Michigan connection, said Liz Treutel, a policy associate at the Michigan Environmental Council — which, with the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, convened the meetings.

Feedback ran both ways, Treutel said. People in northern Michigan wanted easier access to downstate, and tourists were interested in rail service heading north.

Read Amy Lane’s full story in Crain’s Detroit Business by clicking here.

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