All Aboard for Detroit-Ann Arbor Commuter Trains . . . Eventually

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Call it priming the market or previewing the future. Or, less charitably, call it a tease. 

The Michigan Department of Transportation and SEMCOG, a seven-county planning agency, on Friday evening let environmental fairgoers climb aboard a double-decker rail car that will carry commuters, students and tourists between Detroit and Ann Arbor in an undetermined year.

A renovated train leased by the state from Metra, a metro Chicago passenger rail line, was open to visitors near Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor as part of a Mayor's Green Fair, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments says at its blog and AnnArbor.com reports. Guests saw both seating levels and the engineer's cab, but got no hint about when service starts.

"if it's embraced by the RTA, this can become a reality in a few years," says Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, referring to the new Regional Transportation Authority approved by state lawmakers last December. He's quoted by Ryan J. Stanton of the local news site.

Paul Tait, executive director of SEMCOG, told Stanton the commuter rail runs are "real close" to becoming a reality -- which he defines loosely. "Full service, we're probably yet a couple years off," Tait adds. 

Here's how Carmine Palombo, the regional agency's transportation policy director, sees the fuzzy future in his blog post:

These cars can serve the rail lines between Ann Arbor to Detroit or Ann Arbor to Howell. . . .

We still have lots of hurdles to go over before we will be riding the train for commuter service, but let’s celebrate the day . . . and get ready for the challenges that lay ahead as we continue moving forward.

Hear that lonesome whistle blow? All we do is sit and wait, to paraphrase Hank Williams.

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