• Michigan Central Station

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by Tadman
Agreed, and this is what's dangerous about pushing rail travel back to "the good old days".

Some travel patterns and cities have changed. Some cities never ever developed in the direction people thought they would. Unintended consequences of this include Buffalo Central, Michigan Central Station, Kansas City Airport, etc... If Detroit never really moved a heavy concentration of offices to Corktown, why push commuter trains there now? It wasn't the best idea in 1920.

That doesn't mean I'm against Ford redeveloping the station, but I think this might be one of the places a study is truly useful. Where is the best station location in Detroit? MCS? New Center (current)? Brush Street (GTW/Ren Cen)? The airport? Should there be connections to Pontiac, Windsor, Toronto, Toledo, will there be regional or commuter or international service?

There are a lot of questions here.
  by Arborwayfan
  by east point
Tadman: Thanks for the vision about growth directions. Hope you do not mind if I use your idea. Atlanta which I am familiar has this going as well.
The 2 main RR stations in Atlanta were next to each other and was near to five points that was the nexus of Atlanta up to about 1960. Then the big change came as tall buildings started up Peachtree and west Peachtree towards the fox theater and beyond and now past the Amtrak station which is on Peachtree.

There was vision when Marta was planned. North of the Arts station there was planned for a underpass of the track to allow the MARTA trains to be a subway under Peachtree. Unfortunately that has never gone even to planning stages. That line cold have given Marta a stop next to the Amtrak station. Growth around 5 points was expected. But gowth around 5 points has not had many changes and the anchor store Riches closed as well as Macys couple blocks away..

We can think of other cities that have the same unexpected growth directions.
  by Gilbert B Norman
We must not lose sight that Detroit is a very sprawling city. It was planned around a population of 1.8M, which it had during "the 50's", and its 143 sq mi within municipal limits was filled with vibrant and diverse communities.

Nevermind what some of those "communities" are today.

Now here we are with a population of 717K and the same municipal limits. Consider another re-emerging rust belt city, Pittsburgh, with its population of 302K, yet only 58sq mi within its municipal limits. Detroit has got to shrink in size, and make the painful call to abandon much if not most of its blighted areas. Those who choose to stay in the now unincorporated areas will have to fend for themselves so far as municipal services go.

These thoughts, incidentially, are those of a "native" I met (in a Bar; where else) while on my last visit there during October '16.
  by Tadman
Before the restructuring, Detroit was indeed attempting to return some areas back to nature. I'm foggy on the particulars and no idea if it was a success.

It does appear that Corktown is undergoing a renaissance of it's own and might be the next growth area after downtown. Growth seems to have stalled upriver of downtown and hit a natural limit at New Center (north) and the Joe Louis Arena (downriver). Corktown is the only other direction, a northwesterly direction.
  by mtuandrew
And Corktown & Mexicantown are about to get a billion-dollar boost that isn’t equaled by anything but the stadiums north of downtown. Michigan Central RR never had that kind of outsized influence in the Detroit economy, they were competing for influence with all the other companies.
  by gokeefe
Agreed that what Ford is doing at MCS goes way beyond the significance of what the Michigan Central did when they built the station.
  by Steve B
A review of some history may be useful here.

Amtrak and/or the state paid for some minor sprucing up in the 1970s, reopening the front park entrance and moving the agents back to the original ticket offices. Conrail inherited Penn Central's ownership of the depot and Northern Region HQ offices, continuing the lease of passenger areas to Amtrak. A Feb. 1982 Det Free Press article states that Conrail occupied from the 1st to 5th floors. A Dec. 1982 article gives a combined work force of 400, all but a handful of which were Conrail. The station had several thousand workers at its peak.

An April 1985 article notes that Conrail was studying locations to relocate its staff, then numbering about 200. Conrail sold the depot in Dec. 1985 to Kaybee Corp, which had a scheme to turn it into the "Great Lakes World Trade Center." Kaybee did some minimal refurbishment. Probably at that time, the concrete block partitions were removed in the waiting room. Passengers continued only to wait in the concourse, though, as they had since the mid-'60s.

Conrail leased office space from Kaybee until moving in Oct. 1987 to its new offices in Dearborn. The steam heat was not turned on that fall, and Amtrak's agents relied on space heaters until closure on 1/5/88.

Amtrak, rightly or wrongly, was incapable of operating the station by itself. It depended on Conrail to shoulder most of the bills. Kaybee hoped for a UDAG grant, but ultimately didn't get it because it wasn't making enough progress on its own.

The station then gradually went to hell, though a Nov. 1990 article notes that Mark Longton, who bought the depot from Kaybee in 1989, patrolled with his .45 and German shepherd, keeping the chandeliers protected for a bit.

SEMTA trains quit in Oct. 1983. Amtrak never operated them. Amtrak moved to the Pontiac route in May 1994.

It's also worth remembering that the MC Depot's location was dictated ONLY by the 1910-built tunnel approach and the need to eliminate backup moves. It was at best an afterthought, a wishful hope, by the MC that development would move in that direction from downtown.
  by gokeefe
So it would appear to be reasonable at this point to surmise that Ford's occupancy at MCS may in fact be the highest level of utilization the office tower has ever seen.

Absolutely AMAZING ...
  by mtuandrew
David Benton wrote: Fri Mar 27, 2020 9:32 pm This popped up on the BBC front page today, but may be older , apologies if posted before.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/KnxBMV ... al_detroit
Published 11 July 2019, but still a good article. Thanks, Mr. Benton.
  by Pensyfan19
Any word on Michigan Central Station's progress with its rebuild? Isn't Amtrak considering using it for extending service from Detroit to Toronto, and any word on that?
  by Jeff Smith
from the above article:
When the final train left and the station closed its doors in 1988 the local newspaper - the Detroit Free Press - tried to put this sombre moment into a wider context. “The shutdown of Michigan Central,” it declared, “should be the occasion of serious reflection about what we once were; what we have lost; and what, given sufficient will, we could regain.”

So, might the trains ever come back to Michigan Central one day? Bill Ford does not rule this out completely.

“Right now, the tracks stop about a mile short of the station. But yes, I would love the trains to come back.

“Obviously,” he adds, “that's not within Ford's control but we're already starting to talk to some of the regional transportation people about just that. It's very early days, but I think it would be wonderful.”
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