New Buffalo Opening New Privately Funded Amtrak Station at Transit-Friendly Development

by crandell | 10/18/2009

Lake Michigan from New Buffalo Harbor. Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley via Flickr.

Though a bit behind schedule, it looks like New Buffalo's new Amtrak station is finally slated to open on Oct. 26. This makes another great Michigan beach town even more accessible to carfree Chicagoans.

This project first caught my attention late last year when I read that developer Jim Gierczyk put private funding into the new station. This kind of private train financing is pretty unheard of these days, though becoming more common particularly with streetcar projects. The current New Buffalo Amtrak station is on the edge of downtown in a not-so-pedestrian-friendly location that serves one train line. Gierczyk wanted to move the station to downtown where two Amtrak lines currently pass through but don't stop, and where he was developing the Light Harbor Preserve condos. He of course saw that a transit-oriented location and increased train service would add value to his real estate.

Earlier this year a Crain's story put the idea of a New Buffalo day trip back on my radar -- Will we commute to New Buffalo?. This quote from former New Buffalo Mayor Gary Ramberg is so perfect I almost wondered if he'd been reading Carfree Chicago's About page:

"We expect it's going to bring more people from Chicago who just want to visit, too. You've got a million people there who don't have cars who can now get on the train at Union Station and be steps away from the beautiful beaches of New Buffalo."

And for me, that's exactly what this is about. Right now, a trip to New Buffalo would require an overnight stay because of the limited Amtrak schedule. Since I've never been there before, I'm just not ready to commit to a hotel room to visit. But the new schedule looks like it'll let me check out the beach and downtown for four hours in the evening (arrive 5:20 PM and leave 9:45 PM), which could make for a great little day trip. That may not be ideal still, but it's a huge improvement, and the groundwork has now been laid for future service enhancements.

Route Info.: Amtrak Michigan Services

Thanks for sharing the info

Thanks for sharing the info on Amtrak Michigan Services! I ride Amtrak to MI quite frequently.

Does anyone know about any organization or groups that are advocating for bikes on the Michigan Amtrak services? Thankfully, all the Illinois services trains permit bikes without even needing to box them. In contrast, NONE of the Michigan trains allow bikes--you can't even bring them in a box. A related question: how did the Illinois Services come to permit bikes? What organization was pushing this?

Many more folks from Chicago could make an inexpensive weekend or vacation to numerous Michigan spots if bikes were permitted on these trains, as so many attractions are within reach of a bicycle (campgrounds, dunes, fruit fests, wineries, etc).

Thanks for any help/info you can give!

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Private funds in this kind

Private funds in this kind of projects? That does look a bit new since it's so different from traditional financing forms. I am not sure that I got the real economic mechanism that should make this work, would you share a more detailed resource on that?