Amtrak running additional trains

Published 6:47 pm Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dowagiac and Niles families looking to skip the congested freeways while traveling to relatives next week may be able to hitch a ride on one of Amtrak’s high-speed trains.

Just in time for the holidays, the transit company is increasing the number of trains it will be running through its “Wolverine” service line. The line stops in both Dowagiac and Niles. Two additional trains, units 356 and 359, will be added over the next two weeks, one heading westbound toward Chicago and the other heading eastbound toward Ann Arbor, with stops at Kalamazoo and Battle Creek.

Amtrak runs three trains on the “Wolverine” line throughout the year, making daily round trips from Chicago to Ann Arbor. However, the service found that demand spiked during the holidays, prompting them to add the additional trains for Southwest Michigan travelers.

“We did the same thing last December as well,” said Marc Magliari, a spokesperson with the company. “We looked at our bookings and saw that they were either sold out or were very close to selling out.”

Prior to announcing the additional trains, all the bookings for next Monday were sold out, Magliari said.

“Clearly, there’s a lot of people who want to travel in Southwest Michigan, and want to do so in a way that is more safe than braving the lake effect snows,” he said.

Amtrak offers two other service lines in Michigan, the “Pere Marquette,” which runs from Chicago through Grand Rapids, and the “Blue Water,” which runs from Battle Creek through Lake Huron.

The extra trains were added with the encouragement of the Michigan Department of Transportation and permission of Norfolk Southern Railway.

Amtrak, which was formerly known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp., is the nation’s publicly funded passenger train service, with routes running through 47 states. According to the company, 31.6 million people have taken advantage of the service this year.

Traveling on an Amtrak vehicle has a number of advantages over the more popular option of stuffing the spouse and kids inside a car and hitting the snow-covered roads, Magliari said. Not only are the trips generally faster, but it’s also safer for travelers hitting the road during snowstorms and other adverse weather conditions. Customers will also typically spend less money paying for round-trip fares than they would on gas, highway tolls and parking.

“All of these factors make it a better way to travel,” Magliari said.

Traveling on Amtrak trains has never been easier for customers, the spokesperson added. Besides traditional ticketing systems, customers can now print their passes at home or even have them scanned directly from their smartphones, just like many modern airlines.

“First-time customers will be surprised by the amount of leg room, and the amount and size of the carry-ons they can take with them,” Magliari said.

The trains traveling on the “Wolverine” line also provide café and quiet cars for customers.

While the extra trains should ease the some the pressure of buying a ticket, Magliari said customers should place their bookings quickly while most seating is still available.

“The sooner you purchase your tickets, the less you will have to pay,” Magliari said.

The additional trains will run on the following dates:

Dec. 22

Dec. 26

Dec. 27

Dec. 29

Dec. 31

Jan. 1

Jan. 3