Illinois Amtrak Ridership Fell 4% in FY 2015

Ridership on Amtrak trains and routes serving Illinois and funded by the state fell by 4 percent in the past federal fiscal year, which Amtrak said was due to more driving and service interruptions.

Amtrak carried nearly 1.3 million passengers in Illinois for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2015.

Most of the service disruptions occurred on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor where Amtrak, Union Pacific and the Illinois Department of Transportation have been working on a $1.8 billion high-speed rail project.

At various times, Amtrak’s Lincoln Service trains were canceled in favor of buses. The Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle detoured on those days on another UP route.

Amtrak has also cited weather-related delays and service suspensions for resulting in revenues and ridership being relatively flat during FY 2015.

“We had plenty of construction improvements,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in reference to the Illinois high-speed rail work of which the federal government is contributing $1.6 billion toward the goal of operating trains at 110 mph between Chicago and St. Louis.

Magliari said the buses have lower capacity and do not travel as fast as the trains.

Amtrak operates eight Lincoln Service trains plus the Texas Eagle in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.

Ridership between Chicago and St. Louis was 682,296, a decline of 5 percent from the previous year.

Patronage fell 4 percent on the Chicago-Carbondale route to 358,578 while the Chicago-Quincy route carried 244,444 passengers for a decline of 2 percent.

Illinois funds four trains in the Carbondale and Quincy corridors. The Carbondale corridor is also served by the City of New Orleans which operates between Chicago and New Orleans.

Although the administration of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed cutting the amount of state support for Amtrak operations, the state still plans to carry out the final phase of the high-speed rail work in 2016.

IDOT’s Brian Williamsen said work in 2016 will include crossing improvements, station and siding construction, and added bridge and structure upgrades. Positive train control systems will also be installed.

Amtrak trains began operating at speeds of up to 110 mph between Pontiac and Dwight in 2012, but Williamsen said the focus now is on completion of track and network upgrades in 2017.

“We don’t have 110-mph projections to pass along at this time,” he said.

Magliari said Amtrak expects to take possession of new locomotives next year that will allow for 110-mph speeds, but it has not yet been determined how many could be assigned to Illinois routes.

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