Railroad and Commuting and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

Indiana Amtrak riders suggest more frequent trains

May 6, 2013

Some riders say Amtrak's passenger service between Chicago and Indianapolis would be more popular if there were more frequent options for catching a train.

Federal funding cuts are prompting Amtrak to end in October the four-day-a-week Hoosier State route, which makes stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer. Amtrak's three-day-a-week Cardinal line running from Chicago through Indianapolis to the East Coast will continue.

Cory Reynard of Lafayette, who traveled the Hoosier State train to Chicago last week, told the Journal & Courier of Lafayette that it's less expensive to use Amtrak than driving, but he was surprised that only one train headed to Chicago in the morning and one back at night.

State officials are studying the estimated $4 million to $5 million a year it might cost to continue the Hoosier State service. Starting Oct. 1, the federal government no longer plans to provide funding for Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles.

The Hoosier State route runs less than 200 miles and carries on average about 120 passengers per trip, but it can handle up to 270. The train takes about five hours to travel from Indianapolis to Chicago, compared to three hours by car.

Before the Indiana Legislature adjourned last month, state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Lafayette, added provisions to the state budget bill allowing Indiana's highway department to fund the rail service.

The key is to increase ridership and help the route pay for itself, Hershman said. An engineering consultant is evaluating what steps the state could take.

Kristin Cleven of West Lafayette said she rides the Hoosier State when she's not traveling with her family. Cleven, who grew up in Norway, said she values mass transit and uses it when she can.

"I wish there were more frequent trains and faster trains where Amtrak had priority," Cleven said. "The train is usually on time but sometimes it's delayed one hour waiting for a freight train. That's not good if you have an appointment or a flight to make."

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