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Indiana Amtrak riders suggest more frequent trains

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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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  • Megabus Is A Parasite
    Megabus is parasite operation because it uses public highways, without which it could not operate. More egregiously, it also has a bad habit of stopping at facilities used by Amtrak and commuter agencies without paying the cost of using them. Megabus passengers have used restroom and other facilities at Chicago's Union Station and asked Amtrak agents questions, keeping the latter form serving their own customers. Megabus has its place, but its not a panacea and it's important that everyone understand their business model. They could not be profitable if they did not mooch off others' assets.
  • It Is Easy When You Do It Correctly
    Tom, First, your calculations are wrong since you are assuming that everyone makes a round trip on the Hoosier State. And that is far from correct. Many people don't make a round trip on the Hoosier State. Many people may leave on the Hoosier, but they return on the Cardinal which runs on the other 3 days per week. Or vice-versa, they leave on the Card and return on the Hoosier. Second, what you should be worried about is what do the subsidies do your wallet. According to the Taxpayer's Receipt for 2009, a married couple with 2 kids and $80K in income watched $110.06 of their Federal income tax dollars go into the highways. That same couple watched $3.83 of their Federal income tax dollars go to Amtrak. We're talking about the price of a gallon of gas vs. a weeks worth of groceries for some families. A retired couple with $100K in income watched $3.11 of their Federal income tax dollars go to Amtrak. They watched $89.38 go to the highways, even if they can no longer drive a car, much less own one. And that's just subsidies to the Interstate Highways! Most local streets are paved largely with property taxes; not fuel taxes. If we drivers had to actually pay 100% of the costs of our roads, Amtrak wouldn't need any subsidies. They could raise the price of the tickets and still be cheaper than driving. As of 2010, we drivers only managed to cover 42% of the costs of our highways. Amtrak managed to cover 68% of its costs in 2012 without help from the Fed.
  • subsidy per passenger
    This is easy – take the annual subsidy, 5 million, and divide it by ridership which is 120 people per round trip, 4 days a week, 52 weeks a year. That is $200 per round trip which is totally absurd.
    • Subsidies are subsidies
      What does it matter if the subsidy is direct or indirect? Roads cost money, fuel taxes no longer cover all of the costs to construct and maintain them, and we all pay for roads that we don't use.
    • @IndyMoon
      "Amtrak trains have a restroom. And continued investment in the train system makes sense as the highways become increasingly more congested. Has anyone driven Chicago during the rush hour recently?" Alas, I have been stuck in Chicago traffic, rush hour or no, many times. And there were many occasions when it would have been a tremendous relief to be able to get up and go to the bathroom as is possible in a train (or Megabus) rather than remaining trapped in my vehicle, hoping against hope that I won't need reconstructive surgery on my bladder.
    • Amtrak
      Amtrak trains have a restroom. And continued investment in the train system makes sense as the highways become increasingly more congested. Has anyone driven Chicago during the rush hour recently?
      • Really?
        "The Megabus also has a restroom." And Amtrak trains don't?
      • Megabus or Amtrack
        You will notice I used the adjective "directly" before the word "subsidized". The point I am trying to make is that the Megabus appears be a much more economical way to get to Chicago on public transportation than Amtrack and you don't have to shell out additional funds directly to Amtrack to subsidize it.
        • MegaBus absolutely is subsidized
          Those roads it drives on? They didn't build them. Those pick-up and drop-off points that they don't pay anything for? That's another subsidy.
          • Amtrak Stations
            Bring back the old Fairview and Ben Davis stations like they had during the TH,I&E/Vandalia Railroad eara!
          • Amtrak Great, But. .
            My husband and I have done the Hoosier State round trip to Chicago several times as we traveled to Seattle. The limited times coming and going are quite a challenge, especially since there is no long term parking near the station. If there were more choices and slightly improved times, I think it would make a world of difference. We do love Amtrak to Chicago!
          • Megabus has restroom too
            The Megabus also has a restroom.
            • Megabus or Amtrak
              The Megabus picks you up on the South side of the City County Building, has multiple departure times to Chicago during the day, has nice wide seats, free wifi, get you there faster than the train and drops you off a 1/2 block from Union Station, and I presume is cheaper. Did I mention it is not directly subsidized by the government?
              • Wishing for a high speed line to Chi-town
                I would absolutely love to take a train to Chicago for weekend trips. Various factors though have kept from actually trying it: too slow, very few departures (usually at inconvenient times), expensive for what you get. What I really want to see is a nice high speed rail put in that left more often. Maybe it's a pipe dream, but I'd love to see it sometime in my lifetime.
              • Always blown away
                When the anti-public-transit crowd howls that "nobody uses the train service that's there!" without mentioning that it leaves at the most ridiculous time of day, and returns at the most ridiculous time of day. It isn't enough to "preserve" the Hoosier State run--if its to actually be a useful public accomodation we need to improve it by having runs at times of day when people might actually ride the train.
              • I have ridden the train several times and love it. To be able to go to Chicago without having to worry about parking, traffic and gas is a huge benefit. My biggest issue is the lack of frequent trains. It is a case of chicken and egg. I believe more frequent trains that leave several times a day will draw more ridership. Adding high speed trains would make it much more user friendly as it would make for a quicker trip than by car. As much as the State spends millions to subsidize highways, spending a few million to continue the rail would be a good investment.

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