Amtrak: Travel Plummets, Construction Ramps Up On Michigan Lines

May 18, 2020

Signals along the Amtrak route where it passes through Comstock.
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Train travel has gone off a cliff in Michigan and the rest of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the shutdown does have an upside for Amtrak’s Michigan lines.

Marc Magliari is a spokesman for the railroad. He says Amtrak’s been updating its tracks in central and southwest Michigan.

“Because the volumes of trains are down, both our trains and freight trains, we’re getting a lot of work done,” Magliari told WMUK.

“Some of that work will enable us to increase speeds and decrease travel times across mid-Michigan,” he added.

Falling ridership

The pandemic has taken an enormous bite out of train travel in Michigan and the rest of the country. Magliari said ridership was down about 95 percent nationwide in April, compared to last year.

In Michigan, the Wolverine line from Pontiac to Chicago saw travel fall more than 96 percent.

“Ridership on the Wolverine route, as you could guess, is down pretty significantly because instead of running three round trips every day we’re only running one,” he said.

Amtrak is running one round trip on the Blue Water line between Chicago and Port Huron, as usual. That route did a little better, but still lost about 9 out of 10 customers.

Amtrak has suspended a third Michigan service, the Pere Marquette train between Chicago and Grand Rapids.