Thursday, Aug. 25


Double-digit increases show passenger rail travel alive and well in the Midwest

State-sponsored trains set ridership records          Send a link to a friend

[AUG. 25, 2005]  SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Department of Transportation and Amtrak announced Wednesday that all the trains Amtrak runs under contract with the Illinois Department of Transportation moved a record number of passengers in the state's 2005 fiscal year. Three trains -- the Chicago-St. Louis State House, the Chicago-Carbondale Illini and the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service -- posted double-digit increases, while the fourth state-assisted train, the Chicago-Quincy Illinois Zephyr, reported a ridership increase of almost 8 percent.

"This goes to show that passenger rail is an integral part of our transportation system, providing an affordable alternative to flying and driving," said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Timothy W. Martin. "Even as the federal government debates the elimination of funding for Amtrak, more and more people are turning to passenger rail as their preferred method of travel. This is clear evidence that passenger rail is a portion of our transportation system we can't do without."

All state-sponsored trains posted record levels of ridership. In figures calculated by the Department of Transportation for the period of July 2004 through June 2005, the Chicago-St. Louis train posted an increase of 10.86 percent, to 120,852; Chicago-Carbondale was up 10.9 percent, to 121,311; and Chicago-Quincy rose 7.6 percent, to 113,086. Figures for those routes include only the trains supported by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The Chicago-Milwaukee service had an increase to 494,075 passengers, up by 10.98 percent from last year's 439,865. The Hiawathas, run by Amtrak, are sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

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"Working together as partners to market and maintain passenger rail in Illinois is paying off," said Bruce Hillblom, Amtrak senior principal, contract administration -- Midwest states. "We are seeing across-the-board increases in passengers. We believe these ridership gains demonstrate we are providing a convenient, comfortable and economically viable transportation alternative that is attractive to the traveling public."

The Illinois Department of Transportation and Amtrak jointly sponsor regular meetings with community coalitions that work to market and otherwise support the downstate services.

The state of Illinois and Amtrak partner on the three downstate routes to ensure that regular passenger rail service continues to be offered throughout Illinois. During the state's 2005 fiscal year, the Department of Transportation's contribution to maintaining regular service on the four routes was approximately $12 million. The General Assembly recently approved spending the same amount in fiscal 2006.

For more information about the Illini, State House, Hiawatha Service, Illinois Zephyr or other Amtrak services, call (800) USA-RAIL [1 (800) 872-7245] or visit the website.

[Illinois Department of Transportation news release]

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