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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Taking Amtrak to Detroit

Basically this is the all-time shortest trip I have ever taken on Amtrak. It's about five hours between Chicago and Detroit. The train I was riding "The Wolverine" terminates in Pontiac, Michigan (the former home of the Detroit Lions location of the Silverdome). In my lifetime my shortest ride on Amtrak would be riding on "The City of New Orleans" where I would get off from that train in the we hours of the morning like maybe 5 or 6 AM in Memphis, Tennessee that train continues to New Orleans, LA. Recently the shortest ride would have been riding on the "Capitol Limited", but the all time longest would be riding  the "Southwest Chief" that was almost 40 or 42 hours going to Los Angeles, California.

BTW, that is too long to just ride away in a coach seat and when I do go back by train, I plan on getting a sleeper berth. That's more money, but nothing beats hopping on a train for that length of time with a bed ready to go and with complimentary bottled water, coffee, orange juice, and even complimentary meals in the dining car. Of course for the meals that's included in the price of a sleeper car ticket. Essentially this is considered first-class for train passengers.

Anyway Michigan is known as the center of the automotive industry, but they're also home to the breakfast cereal industry. We stopped in Battle Creek, Michigan which is home to Post and Kellogg's. In fact we would ride by a Post plant and Kellogg's was on the other side of the train and I couldn't get a good look at that site. By about Dearborn, Michigan, the next stop before Detroit we saw hints of Ford seeing the site of a research building and even the Ford Museum.

Well, I saw the Ford Museum leaving Detroit on the train. Not sure why I didn't notice when the train was pulling into Detroit. I saw buildings and trains that indicated this was from The Ford Museum, but it took me a while to recognize that I was looking at the museum from "The Wolverine".

Also my train would pass thru two college towns in both Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo. We see some magnificient small city skylines passing thru Michigan in Jackson, Albion or Kalamazoo. Detroit from a distance looks great as our station is quite away from downtown Detroit.

The clientele on the train was diverse. People of many different backgrounds coming back and forth thru Indiana and Michigan by train. If these riders chose not to drive the train was the only option especially if there were no airports nearby to take them where they needed to go. Or perhaps you don't need to hop on a plane if you were within hours of home.

Anyway, I know Amtrak isn't without it's problems. There are those who insists that it must be privatized and it must be free from government subsidies. People might focus on the accidents and perhaps the issues of service.

Still I like Amtrak. I may not necessarily have an answer to it's long term viability, but there is certainly need for passenger rail in the state, especially if the idea is to give Americans an alternative to using their cars especially when commuting to work or traveling short distances such as between Chicago and Detroit.

Well let's ask the question. Does Amtrak have a vital purpose as a transport mode in America?

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