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Apr 08

The Trains Of Depot Town

Comments (0) 12:00 AM posted by admin |

There has been a lot of talk about the return of passenger rail to Ypsilanti’s Depot Town. For those new to the area, there was a project commissioned back in 1997 to study what it would take to bring service back to the area — specifically Lansing to Detroit. I remember all of the talk surrounding this, but it was quickly never heard from again. That is until now.

I’m not quite sure whatever became of the $7.5M that U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow secured to fund this operation, but the study was not kicked off until October of 2003. It is expected to take 18 months. In brief, the study will look at the feasibility of bringing passenger rail service from Ann Arbor to Detroit with stops of note in Ypsilanti, Metro Airport, and Dearborn. Back in the 1997, it was estimated that this project would cost around $85M. The City of Ypsilanti would no doubt be on the hook for a few million to pay its share of the infrastructure improvements as well as the purchase and renovation of the Depot itself — no easy task for a cash-strapped city like ours.

Personally, I love the idea. I think it would be fantastic to take the train to work every day. The number of Tigers’ games we saw each summer would soar. The weak link in this equation is Detroit. The way passenger rail service works everywhere else in the US is that people travel from the suburbs to the larger metropolitan area. Commuters travel to a station such as Ypsilanti and then take the train into the city. From there they hop on another form of public transportation (most often a subway) and continue to their respective places of work.

This idea is likely going to fail. The service will not be profitable if people are merely travelling from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor. A lot of the blame will unfairly be put on the autocentric public. The conspiracy theories about the Big 3 killing mass transit in the area for self-preservation will come back to life. The real fault lies in the slow revival of Detroit. We are the largest metropolitan in the United States without commuter rail. I think the saddest thing about this is that we are the largest metropolitan area without a real metropolis.

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