Video: Amtrak speeds to largest-ever ridership in Michigan


Amtrak operates three routes in Michigan. Photo via

Amtrak ridership in Michigan reached an all-time high in 2012, with nearly 800,000 riders traveling on one of the service’s three routes.

The numbers represent a total ridership increase of 12,114 — up from 780,655 riders in 2011.

Michigan's routes include the three-times-a-day Wolverine (Pontiac/Detroit-Chicago), once-daily Blue Water (Port Huron-East Lansing-Chicago) and once-daily Pere Marquette (Grand Rapids-Chicago).

Revenues from the three routes during reached $27.8 million in 2012, with Wolverine revenue at $18.4 million, Blue Water at $6.1 million and Pere Marquette at $3.3 million.

Michigan Department of Transportation officials credit increased awareness of train service and a positive focus on the future of rail travel with the growth in ridership.

In addition, Amtrak operated extra trains in Michigan to supplement regularly scheduled Wolverine service, between Chicago and Kalamazoo/Ann Arbor, over the extended Thanksgiving holiday and added extra capacity and frequencies over Christmas and New Year's, enhancing the strong performance.

“MDOT works with Amtrak and local community-support groups to market, advertise and promote travel by train,” said Tim Hoeffner, director of MDOT Office of Rail. “News stories that talk about the service, ridership and improvements help.

“Plus, we are trying new things such as the Amtrak Gangnam-style parody video," he said. "And MDOT and Amtrak used social media to get the word out.”

The YouTube video has received more than 66,000 views to date, and the Chicago Tribune made it a Video Pick of the Day, according to Hoeffner.

Another more Michigan-focused effort Amtrak has used to draw ridership is its Spartan car wrap, which is a train car that is wrapped graphically in green and white. Originally reserved for the service running through East Lansing, it is now traveling various routes in Michigan and the Midwest, and passengers are taking notice.

Hoeffner said that efforts to market Amtrak will continue in 2013.

“Our annual goal is to have ridership growth over (the previous) year's totals,” he said. “We strive to exceed Amtrak's national growth rate, and sometimes, in certain months, we have exceeded these averages.”

The total ridership for each Michigan route in 2012 is below.

  • Wolverine: 495,277
  • Blue Water: 187,991
  • Pere Marquette: 109,501

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