Amtrak adds trains for Thanksgiving, ridership rebounds after construction

Contact: Michael Frezell, MDOT Office of Communications, 517-335-7176, Marc Magliari, Amtrak Media Relations, 312-544-5390
Agency: Transportation

November 8, 2017 -- In anticipation of the busiest travel week of the year, Amtrak is prepared to accommodate the surge of holiday travelers with extra trains in Michigan. Amtrak also will operate every available passenger railcar. Tickets sell out quickly, so customers are encouraged to plan ahead and book tickets early.

Overall, Michigan's ridership on state-sponsored Amtrak trains has increased in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 to 738,837, an 8 percent improvement over the previous year. This increase in ridership can be attributed to reduced delays as well as a full schedule of trains operating on the Chicago-to-Detroit/Pontiac Wolverine service corridor. During summer 2016, track and signal construction between Kalamazoo and Dearborn resulted in reduced schedules and delays. This year, trains are operating faster and smoother, enabling Wolverine ridership to increase 12 percent over the previous year, with sales of $20.4 million.   

"We are excited to see construction activity wrap up on the corridor and customers are returning to the trains this year," said Tim Hoeffner, MDOT Office of Rail director. "Amtrak trains continue to provide a convenient and comfortable form of transportation for people to travel in and out of Michigan."

The Chicago-to-Holland/Grand Rapids Pere Marquette service saw the next significant improvement in ridership of 4 percent, with sales of $3.2 million.

For the Chicago-to-East Lansing/Port Huron Blue Water service, ridership increased by 2 percent, with sales of $6.5 million. The Blue Water also operates on a portion of the Wolverine corridor, which was slightly impacted by construction work in 2016. 

All three Michigan Amtrak routes are state-sponsored. Except for special Thanksgiving trains, the Wolverine offers three daily round trips, while the Blue Water and Pere Marquette offer one daily round trip. 

Passengers on the state-sponsored routes travel for many reasons, including leisure, business, family, college, and medical purposes. The summer months are typically the busiest, while there also are heavy travel periods during the holiday season and spring break.

To ensure a smooth trip, Amtrak recommends:

  • Purchasing tickets: Travelers can purchase tickets using the refreshed Amtrak website, at Quik-TrakSM ticket kiosks, ticket windows at staffed stations (where available), Amtrak mobile apps, or 800-USA-RAIL.

  • Avoid the rush, arrive early: The busiest travel days are the Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday of Thanksgiving week. Morning trains typically have more availability. Customers are encouraged to arrive 45 minutes before departure, especially if picking up tickets.

  • Enhanced experience: Trains feature free Wi-Fi, the freedom to always use electronic devices (no "airplane mode"), large spacious seats, ample leg room, and no middle seat.

  • 2+2 = Free: Amtrak has the friendliest baggage policy in the travel industry. Customers can bring two bags and two carry-ons, up to 150 pounds collectively, for free.

  • Travel with your furry friend: For only $25, cats and small dogs (20 pounds or less) are welcome for trips up to seven hours on most routes.

  • Check train schedules: Check holiday train schedules and status before arriving at the station on, Track Your Train on the Amtrak website, or  Amtrak mobile apps.

  • Carry photo ID: Passengers are required to show valid photo identification when purchasing tickets and carry valid photo ID at all times aboard trains.

  • Safety first: If you see something, say something. Report any suspicious activity or unattended items to an Amtrak employee or member of the Amtrak Police Department at 800-331-0008, by calling 911, or by sending a text to APD11 from a smartphone, or to 27311 from a standard cell phone.