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NARP's News from the Front Lines: Update on the Amtrak – VIA Connection at Detroit-Windsor

April 19, 2017

by Larry Krieg

The Situation

The busiest crossing point between the United States and Canada is between Detroit Michigan, and Windsor Ontario. But there is no direct connection for passenger rail travelers at this busy crossing, and since the 2003 discontinuation of The International (a joint VIA-Amtrak train between Chicago and Toronto) no passengers have crossed the Michigan-Ontario border by train. Short of taking a very expensive international taxi ride, the only option for crossing the seven-mile gaps between the Windsor VIA station and the Detroit Amtrak station requires walking two blocks from the VIA station and riding three local transit buses. This is an adventure not recommended for the faint of heart – especially in winter.

Progress

With this in mind, a group of Michigan and Ontario advocates have been working with Amtrak and VIA to “mind the gap”.

We have found both companies very cooperative. As of date, we have had two teleconferences with corporate officers in Philadelphia and Montréal. Amtrak has brokered the arrangements with VIA, which is in active discussions with more than one bus operator to provide a “bus bridge” between stations. Both have agreed to pursue through ticketing for passengers on this corridor.

Border crossing by bus does not require and special arrangements, and is relatively uncomplicated.

Current indications are that this service will become available to travelers by the end of 2017. Train schedules are not ideal, but we expect that if a significant traffic is built up, minor modifications may be possible on either or both services to provide more convenient timings.

Future Objectives

Naturally, many of us involved in the project would like to see through train service resumed between Chicago and Toronto. The International was discontinued due to heightened border security measures post-9-11, but optimistic discussions between Canadian and American officials at the highest levels in 2016 gave us reason to believe resumption of service would be practical. The current U.S. administration’s increased caution about entry into the country may slow the process somewhat, but we believe there is reason to expect progress because of the business opportunities that would be boosted by convenient train service along this corridor.

Those involved

Hugh Gurney - MARP

Larry Krieg - NARP

Charles Merckel - NARP

Jeanie Merckel - NARP

Yuri Popov - MARP

Doug Wilson - Transport Action Ontario/Canada

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