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Commuter Rail

Please also take a look at our Fuller Road page, because of the close tie between the proposed parking structure and the dream of commuter rail service. Another source for Fuller Road information is the newly formed group Stop Fuller Road Station.

SEMCOG has released the results of its Woodward Avenue (Detroit) rapid transit analysis.
"After extensive analysis and community input, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has emerged as the preferred modal option for rapid transit along Woodward. Learn more about BRT and how it was chosen. Join us and give your input on BRT routes, potential station locations and on local feeder bus routes."

Apparently, SEMCOG realizes that commuter rail is just too expensive to operate and has now decided to pursue Bust Rapid Transit, instead. Let's hope our City and AATA leaders are paying attention before they fully develop another failed regional transit plan.

Our local bus system needs significant improvement, yet the City wants to spend money on commuter rail service. Apparently, we will be asked to authorize a county-wide transit millage for the bus service. If that passes, our traditional city transit millage will be re-purposed to operate commuter trains. So far, the city administration is proposing two commuter lines.


The WALLY proposal would establish north-south commuter train service from various locations in Livingston County to the north side of Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor residents will pay to subsidize train service for Livingston County residents, but communities in Livingston County are unwilling to contribute to the cost of that service.

Sadly, the service from Livingston County cannot reach downtown or central campus because the rail right of way can only be used as far south as Plymouth Road near Barton Drive. Commuters will need to drive to train stations, ride the train part-way into town and then transfer to buses to complete their trip to campus, the University Hospital or downtown. A simple 20 minute automobile commute will compete with a lengthy combination of auto, train and bus trips.

8/14/2-11 - The blog Local in Ann Arbor has a great discussion on financing the WALLY plan: WALLY Hitting the Wall?

East-West Commuter Service

The East-West Commuter line would provide commuter service between Detroit and Ann Arbor. Federal rail officials have determined that the potential ridership from western Wayne County, Ypsilanti and other stops along this route would not generate enough revenue to make the service economically viable. The city administration continues to push this idea, nonetheless.


Commuter trains are proposed as environmentally sound means of reducing dependency on vehicle use. Unfortunately, commuter trains would add extra incentive for urban sprawl. Studies show that establishing commuter rail lines causes an increase in new development along the rail lines. Already, one of the supporters of the WALLY is promising a new housing development way out in Livingston County, near one of the planned train stations. Environmentally sound planning discourages urban sprawl. Commuter trains are best suited for areas that already have substantial density along the train route. Commuter trains can be a viable alternative to new highway projects or to expansion of existing highways. Where, as with the WALLY, the rail does not follow the same path as the overused highway, rail can be expected to cause sprawl in areas not adjacent to the existing highway.


Here are some financial highlights of Fuller Road and related train folly from the latest proposed city capital improvements plan:
  • Fuller Road station phase I - $43 million
  • Interim Detroit commuter parking - $540,000
  • Wally capital investment - $250,000
  • Wally downtown station construction - $5 million
  • Wally downtown station location study - $100,000
  • Wally plymouth rd rail station development - $250,000
  • Model for mobility signature transit service alternatives analysis - $3 million
  • Model for mobility signature transit service design - $33 million
  • Model for mobility transit connector construction - $300 million
  • Amtrack station relocation - $82 million
Most of the money for this is
supposed to come from federal and state grants, although AATA is supposed to kick in just over $15 million.  The AATA millage comes from City of Ann Arbor residents, but is being used to plan and implement regional transportation projects.