Use of the Ann Arbor Amtrak station by commuters is often raised as a possible part of its scope of services. Commuter service, stops and management are different from those same transit elements used for long distance travel. Commuters require on-time, frequent stops that allow multiple locations for passengers to board and de-board along a route.
As of March 2016, there is no commuter rail service running on the east-west route of the Wolverine Line. The nearest Amtrak stations to Ann Arbor are located in Jackson and Dearborn. Adding commuter service to the Wolverine Line, would significantly increase the complexity of delivering the higher speed service that is proposed for the Chicago to Pontiac route.
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Analysis of a potential commuter pool of passengers: Discussion of commuter service in Ann Arbor has focused largely on the 39,000 employees of the University of Michigan. Based on 2010 data for zip code of residence, we looked at the number of UM employees who would be served by commuter rail — how many live near the rail line and, of those, how many would likely use the train. The east-west direction of the Wolverine Line on which the Ann Arbor Amtrak station is located, affects the available number of UM employee rail commuters (see graphic below).
- Approximately half of UM employees live within Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti zip codes, and would likely walk, bike, drive, or ride the newly upgraded bus service provided by the AAATA in order to reach their jobs.
- Roughly another 3,800, or 10% of UM employees, live outside of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, in areas east and west, along the Wolverine Line that allows categorizing them as potential rail commuters. Jackson and Dearborn are the nearest existing Amtrak stops.
- Employees who live north and south of Ann Arbor would be unlikely to commute on the Wolverine Line, because to do so would require them to travel significant distances to depots on the east-west Wolverine Line.
- For employees whose residences are located north of Ann Arbor, the proposed WALLY line starting in Livingston County has long been under discussion. The north-south passengers would travel along a different track, and would arrive at a yet-to-be-developed station in Ann Arbor, rather than the Ann Arbor Amtrak station. The WALLY line remains an unfunded proposal as of this date.
Our conclusion is that the rough estimates of potential UM employee rail commuters do not provide a strong enough justification to move the Ann Arbor Amtrak Station from its current location on Depot Street, where it can continue to provide easy access for passengers with destinations in downtown, Lowertown and Kerrytown as well as the UM hospitals and other campus areas.
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