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  #321  
Old Posted Aug 11, 2018, 1:06 AM
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Originally Posted by LMich View Post
I don't know how I didn't realize Kalamazoo Promise was going to be one of the anchor tenants of Catalyst.

Midtown Fresh looks great. Is this an independent or local company? It's really great to see these places open up in the city. Lansing's then-rep and current mayor sponsored a bill last year that passed that requires requires the Michigan Strategic fund to set aside 5% of its subsidies through its Community Revitalization Program for the attraction of urban/downtown grocery stores. So I hope we see more of these. It's little things like this that can really make the most difference.
It will be an exciting move for the Kalamazoo Promise. They will have actual collaborative work space and computer stations for students throughout the district to utilize.

Midtown Fresh is affiliated with a group of independently-operated groceries owned by Detroit-based Shina Group, which also owns the very-successful Park Street Market on Kalamazoo's North Side neighborhood, as well as 14 other urban stores in SE Michigan. They basically all operate independently of each other, with their own unique names and styles, but the stores work together for buying power to keep prices more competitive with the likes of Meijer and Walmart. Definitely a win-win for the community here.
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  #322  
Old Posted Aug 14, 2018, 8:44 PM
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Originally Posted by deja vu View Post
^ I think it is one of the biggest unsolved issues with regards to the downtown infrastructure design (or lack thereof). My one comment to the City on the recently-approved masterplan earlier this year was disappointment that they did not address the topic, even after it was raised in multiple community forums. I understand it is a complex issue, with multiple stakeholders involved (City Officials, MDOT, the Grand Elk RR, local businesses). But the current system is not sustainable. I was surprised to learn that there is actually a local ordinance on the books, limiting the amount of time that a train can block a road. I have never seen this enforced.

When Grand Elk took over operations of these tracks in 2009, they started bringing in more cargo traffic from the east (Jackson). Train traffic has been steadily growing, which is a good sign of the local economy. I for one don't think the city would be better off without its trains (there are some that do). The problem is that there is no way for trains coming into the city from the east to head directly north, toward Grand Rapids. To go north, trains must first go south to a switch in the Edison neighborhood, stop, transfer tracks, then head north. The opposite is also true (south-bound trains that want to head east). This all happens along tracks that intersect the two major east-west roadways through downtown.

The overpass / underpass solution is not my favorite, and I understand why a vote for it failed in the 80's. If it had been built, it would have really put a chokehold on any of the new development that has since happened on the east side / River's Edge district. If it was proposed again today, I'd guess that it would fail again. Some have suggested that an easier solution would be to construct a new switch that allows trains from the east to go directly north. I think the area of this hypothetical new switch would roughly be bounded by Porter St, Ransom St, and Walbridge St. There's not a lot there currently. It's a compelling idea to me; I don't know if it's ever been officially discussed with Grand Elk. Funding would need to be worked out, and land acquisition, zoning, etc.

I don't think the idea to run all / most of the trains at off-peak hours is very practical either. Because cargo traffic has grown, there are multiple major train crossings during day (maybe 5-6 on average). They also already run trains at night. I live right near the tracks, and hear them multiple times nearly every night. I don't think the existing Grand Elk rail yard has the resources, physical space, or the will to try and run a lot more of their trains at night / off-peak hours. At best, this is a Band-Aid.

As an aside, I work in a building just a few blocks west of the Michigan Ave. at-grade RR crossing. Fortunately I can usually come up with a commute that circumvents the delays. But on occasion I have been caught in the gridlock, and when that happens, I just park on the street, walk to work, and move my car later, after the train has cleared. Most locals know ways to get around the stopped trains, the problem is for visitors / those just passing through, and for the times when you get caught unawares and are stuck in a middle lane of stopped traffic with no escape. Because of the way Michigan Ave. bends at Portage St. it is sometimes hard to know that there is a train block ahead until it is too late, because sight lines are blocked.

I've watched the several hours-long delays from my work window and it is no joke. A city of this caliber that is trying to grow needs a better solution. Local businesses do take advantage of it though by coming outside and selling food / refreshments from car to car when the delays hit. So in a weird way, the train delays have actually created their own micro-economy of sorts.
Regarding the time-limit law: It's not enforceable. The City of Plymouth had a similar law on the books; when they tried to enforce it, CSX Transportation took them to court and won. As a result, it's generally seen as a waste of time to try to ticket the train crew.

There is no easy fix to this issue. An overpass design was floated back in the 70s but that's totally impractical now, thanks to the economic development near the tracks. It doesn't help that the wye track connecting the Michigan Line to the Grand Elk main is one of the tightest I've ever seen, requiring slow speeds in order to not derail. Additionally, the way the track is laid out is not conducive to an efficient operation. Back in the 20th century, there were multiple railroads operating in Kalamazoo, including giants Pennsylvania and New York Central (prior to that, Michigan Central was the operator as an NYC subsidiary). They both had routes going north/south. Now, both those routes remain, but the NYC one ends just north of the city limit near Mosel Ave. The PRR route continues all the way to GR. The Kalamazoo-GR manifest train has to back all the way out of the yard to CP Gibson (near Gibson Street), flip the switch, and then head north, blocking off downtown twice. During the time of Conrail and NS, they operated trains directly from the major yard in Elkhart to GR without having to stop in Kalamazoo. Any time a train took the wye in Kalamazoo, they were likely headed to or from the metro Detroit area. Until Grand Elk took over in 2009, there was never any need for a second wye. It wasn't a huge problem back during the early days, since the economic downturn dropped traffic levels dramatically. Grand Elk brought a lot of those customers back and then some, and now NS is back in the game, routing Jackson- and Battle Creek-bound cars via Grand Elk to be picked up by two different NS locals, one from Jackson and one from Battle Creek. Business is booming for the Elk, but the logistics of it need a major overhaul.
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  #323  
Old Posted Aug 15, 2018, 4:57 PM
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Originally Posted by NSC1109 View Post
Regarding the time-limit law: It's not enforceable. The City of Plymouth had a similar law on the books; when they tried to enforce it, CSX Transportation took them to court and won. As a result, it's generally seen as a waste of time to try to ticket the train crew.

There is no easy fix to this issue. An overpass design was floated back in the 70s but that's totally impractical now, thanks to the economic development near the tracks. It doesn't help that the wye track connecting the Michigan Line to the Grand Elk main is one of the tightest I've ever seen, requiring slow speeds in order to not derail. Additionally, the way the track is laid out is not conducive to an efficient operation. Back in the 20th century, there were multiple railroads operating in Kalamazoo, including giants Pennsylvania and New York Central (prior to that, Michigan Central was the operator as an NYC subsidiary). They both had routes going north/south. Now, both those routes remain, but the NYC one ends just north of the city limit near Mosel Ave. The PRR route continues all the way to GR. The Kalamazoo-GR manifest train has to back all the way out of the yard to CP Gibson (near Gibson Street), flip the switch, and then head north, blocking off downtown twice. During the time of Conrail and NS, they operated trains directly from the major yard in Elkhart to GR without having to stop in Kalamazoo. Any time a train took the wye in Kalamazoo, they were likely headed to or from the metro Detroit area. Until Grand Elk took over in 2009, there was never any need for a second wye. It wasn't a huge problem back during the early days, since the economic downturn dropped traffic levels dramatically. Grand Elk brought a lot of those customers back and then some, and now NS is back in the game, routing Jackson- and Battle Creek-bound cars via Grand Elk to be picked up by two different NS locals, one from Jackson and one from Battle Creek. Business is booming for the Elk, but the logistics of it need a major overhaul.
Thanks for the additional background / explanation of the history. I think you explained it better than I could.
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