February 25, 2016

Study finds Detroit - Grand Rapids train service feasible

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A study into the introduction of a passenger train service between Detroit and Grand Rapids in the US state of Michigan has found that the economic benefits and number of passengers anticipated justifies taking the project forward.


"Business leaders, economic developers, local governments and college students have all told us they support the idea of knitting together our cities, cultural centres and other institutions by rail," says Ms Liz Treutel Callin, project manager of the Coast-to-Coast Passenger Rail Ridership and Cost Estimate Study. "Now we have an in-depth report showing that the Coast-to-Coast passenger rail project is one worth pursuing, with significant potential benefits for Michigan's economy and quality of life. This study puts us one important step closer to the exciting possibility of reconnecting our coasts by rail."

The study, which was conducted by Transportation Economics and Management Systems, examined three potential routes from Detroit via Lansing and Grand Rapids to Holland that could be established by upgrading existing railways. One route passes through Ann Arbor and Jackson, another through Ann Arbor and Howell, while a third route bypasses Ann Arbor, heading from Wayne to Howell.

The study considered several journey frequency scenarios: two daily round trips at 127km/h; four round trips a day at 127 or 177km/h, and eight daily round trips at 177km/h.
Key findings are that both of the proposed routes that pass through Ann Arbor are viable options that deserve further study, while the third route does not merit further study, since it bypasses the large ridership demand in Ann Arbor.

While the route through Jackson showed the greatest potential ridership and revenue, the route through Ann Arbor and Howell promised the greatest return on investment. By 2040, the latter could provide up to 1.59 million trips per year with eight daily round trips at 177km/h.

Establishing a 127km/h service on the 299km route through Ann Arbor and Howell would require an annual subsidy of about $US 3m and an upfront investment of $US 130m.
Although establishing a 177km/h service would require greater capital investment, it would yield higher ridership that could allow the service to generate an annual profit of $US 12m on the route through Ann Arbor and Howell.

The next step towards establishing the service is a full feasibility study including environmental impact analyses, an implementation plan and a review of public-private partnership options.

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