Ticket sales have increased by 14 percent since the Hoosier State passenger train from Indianapolis to Chicago changed ownership and management a year ago, but fewer passengers are using the train.
Wednesday is the first anniversary of the line's three-year partnership among Amtrak, Iowa Pacific Holdings, the Indiana Department of Transportation and cities along the route.
With the agreement, Iowa Pacific provides and maintains the train cars, Amtrak operates them, and the cities and the transportation department chip in on annual funding.
Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis said the increase in ticket sales revenue comes despite a 12 percent decline in the number of passengers. He blamed the decrease in passengers on earlier uncertainty about the service's viability.
Ticket revenue is up because travelers are buying pricier business-class tickets. The revenue figures don't factor in food and drinks, which could raise the amount significantly, Ellis said.
According to figures cited by The Star, 27,937 tickets were sold for the Hoosier State in the past year, compared with 31,903 the previous year. Ticket revenue of $858,300 compared with $748,410 the previous year.
The train makes a daily five-hour trip from Indianapolis to Chicago four days a week. One-way tickets are priced from $24 to $48 each.
Under the contract reached last year, INDOT pays Iowa Pacific about $255,000 a month to run the train. Tippecanoe County and the cities of Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and West Lafayette pay about $21,000 per month.
"People really like what they are getting," Ellis said. "We had to recover from a service before that was not known as very customer-friendly. It will take some time for people to discover what is available now, to tell their friends, so word of mouth spreads."
Officials of the state's transportation department said Indiana is now among the Hoosier State passenger train is now among the highest-rated trains on the Amtrak system, with about 90 percent of riders saying they're satisfied.
The department said on-time performance has averaged 82 percent this year compared to Amtrak's data of 54 percent in 2014 and 67 percent in 2015. Better dispatched communication with train engineers at the Chicago rail yard and track improvements there helped reduce backups, Ellis said.