Indiana Citizens Vital to Route's Survival
Save the Hoosier State
Indiana railroad passengers are in danger of losing daily service between Indianapolis, Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer, Dyer and Chicago if The Hoosier State (#850) makes its last run southbound Monday September 30. Last northbound train (#851) would be previous Sunday morning, September 29.
What has led to this dire situation for thousands of Hoosiers? (There were over 73,000 passenger boardings and alightings in 2012.)
In the summer of 2012 Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corporation) notified the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) that unless the State of Indiana starts supporting the Hoosier State financially, just as eighteen other states have done already or indicated an intent to do so, the train would stop operating as of October 1, 2013. This decision was necessitated by Congressional passage of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA-2008). Congress required that individual states pick up expenses of short-distance trains like the Hoosier State. Amtrak had no choice but to pass this on to the states.
Would cessation of the Hoosier State end passenger rail service between Indianapolis and Chicago?
Not quite. A national system train (#50-51 Cardinal) running from New York City down the Northeast Corridor to Washington D.C. would still come Monday, Thursday, and Saturday through Indiana on the way to Chicago. That would mean three trains each way each week, but not daily service! For example, if one wished to take the Saturday Cardinal to Chicago and stay over, the next day one could possibly take a train back would be the following Tuesday! No more weekend visits to Chicago making use of rail service both ways. Also, the Cardinal has a poorer on-time performance than the Hoosier State because it has a much longer route.
What would weekly train service look like with elimination of the Hoosier State?
(A total of 6 trains as opposed to 14 trains!)
|Monday||One train northbound||#51||Cardinal|
|Tuesday||One train southbound||#50||Cardinal|
|Thursday||One train northbound; one train southbound||#51, #50||Cardinal both ways|
|Saturday||One train northbound; one train southbound||#51, #50||Cardinal both ways|
Has anything been done yet to alert legislators and community leaders that action was needed to save the Hoosier State?
State Representative Randy Truitt (R-District 26) and State Senator Brandt Hershman (R-Senate District 7) have been in contact with local passenger train advocates and have been proactive. Thanks to their efforts, the state budget contains, not a mandate, but authorization for the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to provide the approximately $3 million needed annually. INDOT decided to do a study to be conducted by consultants. Meetings that were by invitation only were held in May in Lafayette as well as Indianapolis. Persons speaking included mayors from Lafayette, Crawfordsville, and Rensselaer as well as representatives from the Indiana High Speed Rail Association, the Hoosier Environmental Council, National Association of Railroad Passengers, Midwest High Speed Rail Association, local economic development officials, and private citizens. As of this writing (9/7/2013) no word has come from the consultants to INDOT about any recommendation or decision regarding the Hoosier State.
Greater Lafayette Commerce developed a strategy to inform and motivate local business and community leaders. Under the direction of Arvid Olson who serves on Greater Lafayette Commerce's Quality of Life Council, an "Eggs 'N Issues" breakfast was held July 11 at the Hilton Garden Inn in West Lafayette to hear a presentation by the mayor of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Mayor Chris Koos showed how improved passen-ger rail service has led to greater public and private investment in the revitalized downtown area. Passenger service and ridership has greatly risen in a community about as far from Chicago as is Lafayette (239,000 passengers on five trains each way each day compared to Lafayette at 27,363 with one train each way each day- Amtrak state facts for 2012).
Greater Lafayette Commerce sponsored and organized an Amtrak Summit held at Faith Community Center on Wednesday August 21. Over 250 local and state leaders and interested citizens attended. Senator Brandt Hershman and Representative Randy Truitt encouraged community leaders to present as strong a case as possible for continuation of the Hoosier State. Amtrak's Senior Director of State Government Relations, Ray Lang, explained how Amtrak-state partnerships were working with other Midwestern states. Next, Troy Woodruff, INDOT Chief of Staff reacted negatively about what he referred to as an "unfunded mandate" and "a bad business model." He did state, however, that INDOT would consider partnering with local communities if they made some financial commitments as well. Woodruff answered two or three questions and left the summit shortly thereafter. A powerful panel consisting of five mayors (Beech Grove, Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer, and West Lafayette), a Tippecanoe county commissioner, a Purdue student who is President of the Purdue University Student Senate, an executive from Nanshan America Advanced Aluminum Technologies, and a spokesperson from the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association made a strong case for local and state investment in maintaining daily passenger rail service. Arvid Olson, the person most responsible for organizing the summit, concluded with a stunning PowerPoint presentation emphasizing that the Millenial generation is looking for reliable public transportation and avoiding personal ownership of automobiles. All attendees received an informative package containing the recent Brookings study, a recent summary of the 460 companies in Indiana and the Midwest involved in the rail supply chain, and a list of addresses of key state officials. All were urged to contact the governor and their legislators.
Other ways of reaching key decision makers include:
Hoosier Environmental Council web-site (An excellent site which emphasizes environmental, safety, and economic reasoning for using passenger trains.)
Article written by Joe Krause, Volunteer Amtrak Passenger Assistant at Riehle Depot in Lafayette