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Traveling to and from Michigan Ross - Present and Past

Michigan Central Station - Ann Arbor Michigan - vintage photo

The Winter 2024 semester starts Jan. 10. Thousands of students found their way home for the holidays, and now they’re making their way back to the Michigan Ross campus.

Today, getting home by plane represents one of the most common modes of travel for out-of-state students at U-M. And with the development of services like Uber and Lyft, it’s easier than ever to get from campus to the airport. While flying home seems commonplace now, it was far from the norm for students in Ann Arbor before the 1970s.

Until its closing in 1969, the Michigan Central Railroad Depot served as the gateway to and from Ann Arbor. Situated on Depot Street, where the Gandy Dancer is today, prominent lecturers, performers, and politicians arrived via the train station on campus. For students, the rail line served as their way home. Many people did not have the means to fly, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that interstate highways allowed for long-distance automobile travel. Traveling by car was common for students who lived in-state, but trains also connected Ann Arbor to Detroit and surrounding areas.

Students wait at the station for the special west-bound train to take them home for Christmas, December 1946
Students wait at the station for the special west-bound train to take them home for Christmas, December 1946 (Ann Arbor News, Ann Arbor District Library) https://aadl.org/N036_0963_001

Even after the automobile came into general use, people took the train for most long trips… The beginnings and endings of university semesters found the train station crowded with students, the more adventurous of whom had slid down State Street on their trunks.

Ann Arbor Observer, May 1991

While less popular today, traveling by train is still common among Michigan students. The Amtrak line, located a few hundred feet west of Gandy Dancer, is a convenient way to travel to and from Chicago. It also connects many of the Detroit suburbs to Ann Arbor. In-state students from Metro Detroit who do not own a car often use the Amtrak for a weekend trip home or to leave campus for breaks. 

Students still rely on the same modes of transportation that Michigan students used over 50 years ago. Even as air travel continues to revolutionize long-distance transportation, traveling by train and car is still common.

100 Years of Michigan Ross

image: Michigan Central Station; BL004910". https://quod.lib.umich.edu/b/bhl/x-bl004910/bl004910. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.

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