Posts Tagged ‘Chicago-Indianapolis corridor’

Hoosier State OT Performance Improving

October 23, 2017

The on-time performance of two Amtrak trains in Indiana has shown some improvement of late.

From a 37.1 percent rating in August the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State improved to 56 percent in September.

The Chicago-New York Cardinal, which uses the same route, had an on-time performance of 58 percent during the month

Brittany White, stakeholder and marketing manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the on-time performance for the Hoosier State for the month of October thus far has been close to 80 percent.

Amtrak has said most of the delays to the trains have occurred on CSX tracks between Indianapolis and Dyer, Indiana.

These run the gamut between malfunctioning signals to freight train interference.

CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said the delays have resulted from issues stemming from implementation of a new operating model known as precision scheduled railroading.

He said changes in how freight cars are sorted at the railroad’s Avon Yard west of Indianapolis resulted in unanticipated congestion that contributed to service issues for Amtrak.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier has seen a slow but steady increase in on-time performance.

INDOT has hired a consultant to identify areas for improvement in Amtrak, CSX and INDOT operations. That report is expected to be completed in early 2018.

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MHSRA Seeks Phased Network Approach

September 12, 2017

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is calling for a “phased network approach” to implementing high-speed rail service in the United States, including the Midwest.

In a 50-page white paper, the group said a combination of high-speed trunk lines and upgraded feeder rail routes coupled with dedicated bus services can increase mobility.

Rather than focusing on a point-to-point fast train systems between major cities, the MHSRA plan would provide a blueprint for systems that serve multiple markets and as many constituencies as possible.

The report cited such existing networks in France, Germany and Japan that provide multiple connections from their main stems.

One example would be Chicago-Cincinnati corridor. The report said a combination of upgraded Metra Electric tracks from O’Hare International Airport through Chicago, a high-speed trunk connecting the Windy City with Indianapolis, and conventional feeders to other communities could reduce Chicago-Indianapolis rail travel times from five hours, ten minutes to 90 minutes.

Upgrading existing track to Cincinnati once used by New York Central’s James Whitcomb Riley could result in a three-hour Chicago-Cincinnati overall travel times.

The running time of the current Amtrak Cardinal is eight hours, thirty minutes.

“The core point is that rather than only trying to keep projects affordable, we should be figuring out how to put more people on trains,” said MHSRA Executive Director Rick Harnish. “We need a new ridership and revenue model that combines commuter, feeder, and intercity trips in a way suited to the geography and demographics to the Midwest.”

CSX Denies Deliberately Delaying Amtrak

August 25, 2017

CSX is denying that it has been short-changing Amtrak trains in favor of its own freight trains.

In a statement, a CSX spokesman said that the railroad “recognizes the important benefits that passenger rail service can provide to the public.”

Spokesman Rob Doolittle said that CSX has a long history of supporting passenger service across its network and that it provides Amtrak preference in accordance with federal law.

But the Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier reported that those comments are at odds with a directive given by a CSX supervisor to dispatchers.

“Give high priority to [freight trains] Q031/Q032,” the supervisor  wrote in an email obtained by the newspaper. “If we are meeting with Amtrak make the delay on Amtrak first. If Amtrak is running down one of these trains go ahead and get to the point Amtrak is seeing the (end of the freight train) before we get them around.”

The Journal & Courier said that Amtrak’s own on-time performance statistics show that delays have become frequent while on CSX.

“We are one of the customers who have been disappointed by CSX’s performance on this and other routes around the country,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said, making a specific reference to the Chicago-Indianapolis corridor used by Amtrak’s Hoosier State and Cardinal.

“CSX has made a series of operational decisions and dispatching decisions that have not given these trains the priority to which we’re entitled and the reliability that we  expect.”

Magliari said Amtrak has begun tracking how much money it has lost across its network due to CSX’s problems. That includes compensation for displaced passengers, the cost of getting passengers to other train stations to make connections, and additional crew costs.

“There has not been improvement in August thus far [in on-time performance], and there’s only a few days left,” Magliari said.

Amtrak crews will communicate to passengers why delays are occurring. “The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and we are very transparent about how sweet or sour this pudding is,” Magliari said.

STB Express Concerns Over Amtrak Delays on CSX

August 21, 2017

Somewhat overlooked in all of the back and forth about deteriorating CSX freight service is a directive from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board that it will no longer tolerate delays that have slowed some of Amtrak’s trains on CSX routes.

The STB sent a letter to CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison “expressing concerns about deteriorated service,” and criticizing CSX for its “unreliable” and “inefficient” operations, as well as “poor communications and coordination.”

A CSX spokesman acknowledged that the operations of Amtrak trains have been disrupted, particularly on the Chicago-Indianapolis route.

“CSX understands that these changes have resulted in some disruptions to Amtrak on its passenger rail service on the Hoosier State line between Indianapolis and Chicago, and we have been in contact with Amtrak and the Indiana Department of Transportation about those issues,” said CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said. “CSX is committed to continuing a dialogue about these concerns as operational changes occur.”

Amtrak’s Chicago-Indianapolis corridor is primarily comprised of CSX track.

During June, the southbound Hoosier State arrived on-time one in three times.

“It remains a concern — and will be as we continue to report out the performance of that train and their handling of it,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Doolittle insisted that the disruptions to Amtrak will be short-lived as the railroad better implements its new operating plan.

Hoosier State Struggled to Run on Time in June

August 3, 2017

Amtrak trains are struggling to operate on time in the Chicago to Indianapolis corridor and the passenger carrier says its contract railroads are to blame.

Just one in three trains bound for Indianapolis arrived on time in June. On the other hand, the on-time performance of trains running from Indy to Chicago was nearly 90 percent during the month.

Combined, that represents an on-time rate of 62 percent, which is down from the 80 percent rates that the route had been posting.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said almost all the delays have been caused by freight-train interference and dispatchers giving priority to freight trains over Amtrak trains.

“We made it clear to them that we’d like June to be an outlier performance,” Magliari said.

Since taking over the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State from Iowa Pacific Holdings earlier this year, Amtrak has launched business class, food and beverage services, free Wi-Fi and the ability to make reservations for carry-on items in an effort to match the level of service that IP provided.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is working with an engineering firm to study the ways to shorten the travel time, including the possibility of using a different route.

The Hoosier State operates on days that the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.  Both trains serve intermediate stations in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer.

Hoosier State Ridership Up 11.6% in April

May 11, 2017

The Indiana Department of Transportation reported this week that ridership of the state-funded Hoosier State increased by 11.6 percent in April to 2,034 passengers when compared with the same month last year.

Revenue rose 11.6 percent to $62,099 and the on-time performance since October was 85 percent, including more than 90 percent in March.

The Chicago-Indianapolis route was taken over by Amtrak in March from Iowa Pacific Holdings.

The Hoosier State operates quad-weekly on days that Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal does not run between Indianapolis and Chicago.

Cardinal, Hoosier State to be Rescheduled

April 28, 2017

Amtrak plans to reschedule the Cardinal and Hoosier State between Chicago and Indianapolis on May 1.

Trains 50 and 850 will operate 11 minutes earlier at all stations from Dyer to Indianapolis, departing Dyer at 6:44 p.m., Rensselaer at 7:35 p.m., Lafayette at 9:46 p.m. and Crawfordsville at 10:20 p.m. The arrival at Indianapolis will be 11:39 pm. All times shown are local.

Nos. 51 and 851 will be scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 10 a.m., five minutes earlier than the current schedule.

The Chicago to New York No. 50 originates in Chicago on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Train 850 originates in Chicago on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Train 51 runs between Indianapolis and Chicago on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Train 851 will originate in Indianapolis on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Amtrak, INDOT Says Relations Have Improved

March 7, 2017

The train name hasn’t changed, but the faces behind the Hoosier State have and that has made for better relations with Amtrak.

Amtrak took over complete responsibility for the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train on March 1.

Back in 2015, the Indiana Department of Transportation awarded Iowa Pacific Holdings a contract to operate the Hoosier State although Amtrak wasn’t entirely out of the picture.

IP provided locomotives, rolling stock and on-board service and marketing support. Amtrak provided operating crews and handled relations with the host railroads.

But IP didn’t think it was receiving enough money from INDOT and said it would cease operating the train after the state turned down a request for more money.

Amtrak wanted to continue operating the Hoosier State, but state officials say the price was too high.

That sent INDOT seeking another operator. An agreement with a private contractor fell apart, which sent INDOT to IP.

Now INDOT and Amtrak seem to be getting along just fine. What changed?

“Some of the faces have changed in the last several years,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says. “A different governor, a different transportation commissioner, different people at Amtrak, too, sat down with a fresh sheet of paper and said, ‘What can we do?’”

INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said the relationship improved when former Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman retired and was replaced by Charles “Wick” Moorman, the former CEO of Norfolk Southern.

“They’ve been an eager partner to work with us,” Wingfield says. “We have good things to say about the new Amtrak CEO and his team.”

Before IP came along, the Hoosier State was a bare-bones train. IP brought food service, free Wi-Fi and business class service.

Amtrak has agreed to continue providing those services even if its food service car won’t be serving the same freshly-prepared meals that IP served.

Wingfield declined to say how much INDOT and its funding partners along the route are paying to continue those services.

He did say, though, that INDOT is using all of the $3 million earmarked for the Hoosier State.

Amtrak also agreed to give INDOT a discount because the Hoosier State is used to shuttle equipment between Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops in suburban Indianapolis and Chicago.

Amtrak’s Magliari said the passenger carrier is looking at growing the business.

“The way you build ridership is to have frequencies that are attractive on a schedule that people can support and see is better than driving, and fares people can afford,” Magliari said. “Those are the three elements of the elixir to grow ridership – frequency, fare and schedule.”

The current contract between INDOT and Amtrak will expire on June 30.

That means the Indiana legislature has to agree to extend the funding. Wingfield said INDOT is asking lawmakers to approve Hoosier State funding for next two years.

Some lawmakers have indicated, though, that they have misgivings about a new deal because of the collapse of the public-private partnership between IP and INDOT.

One Morning in Crawfordsville, Indiana

March 6, 2017
Amtrak train No. 851 approaches the Crawfordsville station in August 2011.

Amtrak train No. 851 approaches the Crawfordsville station in August 2011.

When I lived in Indiana between 1983 and 1991, Amtrak’s Hoosier State was a part of my life for periodic day trips from Indianapolis to Chicago.

I actually preferred to ride the Cardinal because it had a full-service dining car and slumber coaches, which offered a reasonable fare for a return trip to Indy.

But the Cardinal only ran three days a week so more often than not I wound up going to Chicago on the Hoosier State.

After leaving Indiana for Pennsylvania and, later, Ohio, I rarely saw the Hoosier State again.

I followed its story from afar, including how it was discontinued in 1995 only to be brought back because operating a hospital train to and from Beech Grove shops in suburban Indianapolis didn’t work out so well.

In August 2011 I was on my way to Illinois. I stayed overnight in Indianapolis and got up early the next morning to get to Crawfordsville before No. 851 did.

The sun wasn’t yet above the tree line when the Hoosier State arrived, but there was enough light to document the coming and going of the train.

Since making these images, the Hoosier State has had a rough ride at times with the latest development being the takeover of the train by Iowa Pacific Holdings in July 2015.

IP won high marks for its on-board service, but the Indiana Department of Transportation declined IP’s request for more money.

So IP pulled out and Amtrak has resumed operation of the Hoosier State. Actually, Amtrak was never completely out of the picture with Nos. 850 and 851 because it provided the operating crews and handled relationships with the host railroads.

So now what was the usual state of affairs in Crawfordsville is back again. Here is a look back at a morning not too long ago when the Hoosier State came calling.

A typical Amshack that is so typical in smaller cities served by Amtrak.

A typical Amshack that is so typical in smaller cities served by Amtrak.

The old Monon station is no longer used by Amtrak.

The old Monon station is no longer used by Amtrak.

All aboard for Chicago and all intermediate stops.

All aboard for Chicago and all intermediate stops.

And away it goes to its next stop in Lafayette.

And away it goes to its next stop in Lafayette.

A ;l;ast look at the train, which has two cars being ferried from Beech Grove to Chicago.

A ;l;ast look at the train, which has two cars being ferried from Beech Grove to Chicago.

Amtrak Takes Over Hoosier State Today

March 1, 2017

Amtrak has announced that it will provide Wi-Fi, business class and a Café Car on the Hoosier State when it takes over the train today (March 1)

It will also assign its great dome car Ocean View to the train for the month of March.

Amtrak logoThe equipment lineup for Nos. 850 and 851 will include 68-seat Horizon fleet coaches and a café car with an attendant that will provide table seating at one end and 14 business class seats at the other.

All cars will have power outlets, reading lights and tray tables  at each seat and free cellular-based AmtrakConnect® Wi-Fi that combines mobile data from multiple carriers along the route.

Business class will provide 2-1 seating with leather seating surfaces, foot-rests and leg-rests.

Passengers booking business class aboard the Hoosier State will receive a 25-percent points bonus for Amtrak Guest Rewards members, complimentary coffee or tea, and use of the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago, which offers priority boarding.

Ocean View will provide upper level seats for coach passengers on a first come, first served basis at no extra cost. The car was built in 1955 by the Budd Company for the Great Northern Railway.

One-way adult ticket prices for coach service to and from Chicago range from $25 to $48 from Indianapolis, $25 to $47 from Crawfordsville, $23 to $45 from Lafayette, $17 to $30 from Rensselaer and $12 to $22 from Dyer.

Children ages 2-12 are half-fare and discounts are also available for students, seniors, military and others.
The additional charge each way for business class is $21 from Indianapolis and Crawfordsville, $20 from Lafayette and $14 from Rensselaer and Dyer.

Amtrak and Indiana Department of Transportation, which provides some funding for the service, are offering a “buy-one, get-one” fare during March, so two adult passengers can travel for the price of one.

See the Deals tab on Amtrak.com for applicable requirements for fare code V216.

The Hoosier State operates from Indianapolis to Chicago on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and  Friday mornings. It operates from Chicago to Indianapolis on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

The Chicago-New Cardinal operates on days and time slots that the Hoosier State does not operate.

Since July 2015 Iowa Pacific Holdings had provided equipment, on-board service and marketing for the Hoosier State with Amtrak providing operating personnel and maintaining relationships with the host railroads.

IP pulled out of the Hoosier State after INDOT refused its request for additional money to provide the service.