High Speed Rail to Ann Arbor

Submitted by Seth on May 6th, 2011 at 4:42 PM

via DetNews, but a long time coming:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will visit Detroit and New York on Monday to make major high-speed rail funding announcements.
Last month, Michigan applied for more than $560 million in funding - including joining three other states as part of a joint request. Michigan officials expect the state will receive significant funding for some grants sought.
The state sought track improvements in Detroit and a new transit terminal in Ann Arbor, and new trains are part of Michigan's pitch for more federal money for high-speed rail after Florida said it didn't want $2.4 billlion.
Supposedly we are getting $3.5 million for a station directly to the University of Michigan.
Would be nice, right?
A lot of cities put in bids. The Trans Sec coming here to make the announcement is usually govt's way of saying "you win."



May 6th, 2011 at 4:50 PM ^

Is this for a high-speed train for AA to Detroit???
<br>If so, why....? How about using some of that $$$ to fix the god-awful roads in the area.


May 6th, 2011 at 5:24 PM ^

Because high-speed rail would be much more efficient than all the cars on the road...and you get the added benefit of easing traffic further, which would help future repairs on the roads last longer. Pouring money into the highway would be a short term fix that would cost a lot of $$$ in the future, this is an attempt to look long term


May 6th, 2011 at 5:59 PM ^

Add to it all the salt we pour on our roads and it only makes matters worse.

To the post two above: While the goal is to look long term, consider why Florida didn't take the grant money. I lived near Orlando and can tell you: if there is any highway that needs congestion abatement, it's I-4. However, once the federal money ran out for initial start-up and construction cost, the whole system quickly becomes a giant money pit. It was not even close to being economically viable. The system then becomes a huge tax burden for the participating state.

That might not be the case for a rail in AA, but I would want to see feasibility studies before I got all excited.


May 6th, 2011 at 6:20 PM ^

but it would be interesting to see how many cars you could take off the highway in Florida and what the impact of less maintenance/expansion costs would be versus subsidizing the high-speed rail.

Also, it's crazy that even if the rails, the stations, and all the other infrastructure is paid for that it's still a money losing proposition just to operate and maintain the rail.  Wouldn't it become profitable at some ridership level?


May 6th, 2011 at 6:37 PM ^

But Florida determined they would never reach that level, you can't force people to buy tickets... But who knows for AA. It's really tough to gauge. Some argue that if it was profitable that private enterprise would have already installed a system. Of course, this is a simplified view. When you take into consideration that the funding will be a grant to build it, states can operate on lower profit margins, because they only have to fund salaries and maintenance.

Like I said above, I just want to see a third party study (like Rand Corp.) before I get excited.


May 6th, 2011 at 11:59 PM ^

Thanks for the link.

It doesn't make it sound too promising. But it did state that the numbers were inconclusive with out the environmental study. This was also for a major rail network covering most of the Midwest. I wonder how a smaller rail (that didn't try to service everyone, just the most profitable lines) would fair.


May 10th, 2011 at 2:13 PM ^

False, I'm trying to dig up the article sourcing it, but Florida had private investors covering costs an overruns for nearly the entire cost beyond the start-up construction.  Florida's rejection was primarily political, and spawned some litigation that was closely contest and won on falsified evidence that is leading to more prosecutions.  That said, I do wonder how viable the Florida system would be since a lot of their cities don't have incredibly well developed local rail to connect with the HSR line.  AA is walkable and has good public transit, so the station there makes sense.


May 6th, 2011 at 5:51 PM ^

Not necessarily true... for some destinations that is the case, but for most the cost is higher (not taking into the account pollution here, those costs can be included to change the decision if someone does have to make an analysis which i am not adept to do).  I love the high-speed rails, but most of the time theiy are very expensive to build and maintain and the US outside of the Eastern corridor has problems with lack of population density.


I'd love to go to Chi from A2, but the costs are probably a lot more than the value added (in a pure economic sense).

In my opinion, I would open up bidding to the private market, that we can push to build rails where they are needed and make sense... I fear that the path/stops/stations that this rail will take will be dirven by politics and not what makes sense.


May 6th, 2011 at 7:13 PM ^

There is already a train from Detroit to AA. It's called Amtrak, and no one rides it.

If you wanted it to be used by commuters (i.e. full trains more than twice a day) (not really the plan, since this is linking the major Midwest cities), you'd have to have too many stops between AA and Detroit to ever really run at "high speed".


May 6th, 2011 at 7:46 PM ^

The reason it works in Europe is because of the close proximity and the high gasoline costs, mostly due to taxes on gasoline.  That is the goal of this administration, high fossil fuel costs which make the alternative energy costs somewhat and I mean somewhat, competitive.

True Blue in CO

May 6th, 2011 at 5:06 PM ^

generated 17 posts on high speed rail in 20 minutes on a Friday afternoon.  Have a great weekend everyone as we all await for TomVH's next recruiting update on Sunday night/Monday morning.


May 6th, 2011 at 5:15 PM ^

Now hold on here.

I know there have been complaints that our current rail system can be slow and boring, but it consistently got the job done.  In fact, it posted a much better rating as opposed to the rest of the Great Lakes area--especially kicking the shit out of the LBTS (Little Brother Train Service) up in East Lansing.  This new high speed rail clearly lacks Michigan values.  Sure, it may be exciting, but it will never work in this area.  It's just not a good fit, trust me.  It will just scare the kids that have grown up watching our Cloud-of-Dust (CODs) trains away.

I understand the South has been enjoying much success with the High Speed Rail system.  However, you have to understand that these trains aren't successful at the next level.  Stick a High Speed Rail system in New York or D.C. and you'll find out that these trains lack the  toughness to compete.

Now, if we could just find some sort of balance between the CODs and this new system...


May 6th, 2011 at 5:35 PM ^

It doesn't appear any of the federal money is going to the Ann arbor to Detroit commuter line (SEMCOG) which is too bad. Having friends who travel from Ann Arbor to Detroit for work every day they really seem to want this much delayed project to come online. Oh well. As someone who commutes from Chicago to Ann Arbor a lot I am all for high speed rail. Too bad we can't get up to Japan/Europe speeds though.


May 6th, 2011 at 7:47 PM ^

Kinda funny considering the major industry of Michigan is one of the main reasons the US rail system is such crap.


May 6th, 2011 at 6:02 PM ^

Minneapolis has what it calls a high-speed "light rail" (i.e. train) that runs in a straight line from its downtown where many jobs are through some suburbs and through the two terminals of the major airport and ends at the mall of america.  Simply put, it's awesome.  You can park at almost any station/stop so taking the train into work or to the aiport is easy from most locations, and you save money by driving less. The city is now going to start building a connecting line through the university of mn and into st. paul.  Minneapolis is a very underrated city.  The skyway system is a whole other story. 

Anyway, Michigan would benefit having one from Ann Arbor through the airport and into Detroit.  An ambitious move would be to also add an additional line connected at Detroit and starting there going north through Oakland County (somerset mall is famous to shoppers according to my mom and an ex-girlfriend, and so it might make a good stop) and  ending in Auburn Hills. 


May 6th, 2011 at 7:17 PM ^

The Light Rail in Minneapolis was one of Crazy Jesses projects and it drives the right wingers in Minnesota crazy. They point at that and cry goverment waste.   I loved it every time I used it.  Well the only time I used it anyhow,  went  to watch Michigan win the Brown Jug in the silverdome west after taking a ride down on the light rail, listening to how bad we were that year.  I'm going to miss beating them in that inflatable stadium.....So I am all for High speed rail if when I get off in Ann Arbor, Michigan always wins.  I don't really need Crazy Jesse though.


May 6th, 2011 at 6:35 PM ^

......of the terminal would be near  the hospital, if I remember correctly.  Actually, there's a project at work to relocate quite a bit of the electric distribution near Fuller Park for the Intermodal Terminal......


May 6th, 2011 at 7:31 PM ^

I have mixed feelings on a light rail (commuter rail) line that runs Detroit-DTW-Ann Arbor.  Awesome for students headed home and going The Joe for games but such networks have also been linked heavily to the spread of crime (see Seattle in the late 1970s and 1980s as an example).  Basically the light rail enabled inner city gangs to expand drug dealing out into the suburbans since one guy with a backpack full of drugs is a lot harder to notice and track than car*.

Given AAPD's general level of competency (aka:  If it involves doing more than issuing a parking ticket, just call the State Police, because we're useless) I have some worries over the spread of some of Detroit's less savory industries.  If we're going to do this I'd also like to see funding assigned for transit police of some sort.  

*Basically three dudes ins ome beat up old 1980s stick out a lot more and quickly the attention of not just the PD but the local residents.  

As a source you can check out http://www.uctc.net/papers/614.pdf.  Basically light rail is awesome in that it grants the urban poor (who might not have cars) more social mobility but it gives other elements the same mobility.  


May 6th, 2011 at 7:39 PM ^

...we need to get rid of trains, planes, automobiles and all ships because all of them are used to transport criminals.


There is no point in using crime as an excuse to oppose a great transportation system.


on edit, we might as well get rid of horses and buggies also, for the same reason.


May 6th, 2011 at 8:24 PM ^

I'm all about more efficient travel, but the Chinese experience implies we should be cautious about our high speed rail. Apparently, their major public works projects don't operate at an acceptable capacity to keep the original plans up and running. Also, cost ended up being prohibitive for most Chinese, though I imagine Michigan students from NY generally don't fall under that category.

I remember this from a NYTimes article.

Indiana Blue

May 6th, 2011 at 8:51 PM ^

Does this mean that all tsio 5* recruits will get their own hi-speed train to drive back home ?  Oh yeah ... sweet !   I'm certain that the NCAA wouldn't find any issue with that either, because it really isn't that much different than an Escalade.

Geez ... also if it failed in China, they'll never lend us the money to do it here (and that's where we get 43% of the money the gov't. spends) ... oh well its only money !

Go Blue ! 

Greg McMurtry

May 6th, 2011 at 8:56 PM ^

Everyone in metro Detroit already has a car. No one who already has a car wants to walk to a train station to ride a train in metro Detroit. This isn't Chicago. This doesn't eliminate the need for a car. It's not like th El-train where you can basically go anywhere for cheap without the need for a car. It's just not going to work in MI. My opinion only, but it is not economically feasible to build this rail.


May 7th, 2011 at 12:18 AM ^

Selfishly, I encourage you all to fly whenever possible. I work for a major US airline maker (see if you can guess which one, considering there is only one, this shouldn't be too hard.) The first 787 should be delivered later this year. It, supposedly, is going to transform air travel. The plane is lighter so fuel costs are less, and the humidity and pressure in the cabin are better. It should be a much better flying experience.

That said, I was able to ride the high speed trains in Europe last year. The one in Germany was more like 130 MPH because the track couldn't take the higher speeds. The one in France was around 200 MPH. It just flies through the countryside, and you don't even realize it until you pass another train going the opposite direction, and then whoooosh. For medium length trips in heavily populated regions (Detroit to Chicago, LA to San Fran, NY to DC) it makes economic sense. Politically speaking (always dangerous to do around here) it's a tough sell because each state has an equal number of senators. All those sparse western states don't want to spend their tax dollars on Midwestern or coastal trains.