Flashback

"Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound." I thought of that opening line to the Superman tv series from my youth, as I reading news about Amtrak raising speed limits for some of its trains as they roll through Michigan.

The news:

"Effective May 25, the maximum speed of Amtrak Midwest trains will increase to 110 mph between east of Kalamazoo and west of Albion on 45 miles of MDOT-owned track. That's from MDOT. MDOT says "the accelerated speeds come following key infrastructure improvements and successful testing of the positive train control safety system on 45 miles of MDOT-owned track." Along with that, there's going to be an additional Pontiac to Detroit to Chicago "Wolverine Service" round trip returning on July 19...and all this comes with better on-time performance.

Ok, here's my question:

And this is really only a question, because I really don't know how many people ride trains from, say, Pontiac or metro Detroit to Chicago and back. I know there's a romance about "riding the rails", but given how people have fundamentally changed, first with the advent of cars, and now, especially, the smartphone, are there enough people for this? There must a healthy market for this, because look at how much money is being thrown at these projects. And in other parts of the country, there are train lines that are very busy. The Acela, for example. That high speed service is between Washington, D.C. and Boston and 16 cities in between, including Providence, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City.

Again, this is my ignorance, but what are the links between Chicago and Detroit? U of M, and Northwestern? Ford has a major auto plant on the far south side of Chicago. And again, I'm using myself as a barometer, but I think I would get antsy. But after a year of working away from work, maybe people can work on a train, and get an Uber or cab ride to their destination. Is it cheaper than a plane? Again, I don't know. I don't recall trains being that much cheaper than planes. The advantage for me was they don't fall from the sky.

And here's one thing that I find troubling. Amtrak and MDOT are not trumpeting the speed increase as "we'll get you there an hour earlier than driving". All they're saying is the on-time performance will be better. Hmmm.

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Irving Gilmore Mansion, Kalamazoo, 516 W. South Street,

This is the Irving Gilmore Mansion in downtown Kalamazoo, a block from the Art Institute, Bronson Park and the Civic Center.