Posts Tagged ‘Hoosier State funding’

Amtrak Spokesman: We May have Underestimated Difficulty of Keeping State Funding of Hoosier State

July 6, 2019

An Amtrak spokesman acknowledged in an interview with Indiana Public Media that the passenger carrier may have underestimated how difficult it would be to convince Indiana lawmakers to continue funding the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State.

“People don’t understand how this works, because culturally the Cardinal comes through there [Indianapolis] late at night or early in the morning, [and] people don’t see it. People don’t have a picture of how this works,” said Amtrak’s Marc Magliari.

In the interview, Magliari said Indiana gave up on the Hoosier State before it had a chance to be successful.

The Hoosier State ran for the final time on June 30 after the state legislature declined to continue its $3 million annual funding of the train, which operated four days a week on days that the Chicago-New York Cardinal did not operate.

Magliari drew a comparison between the Hoosier State and the Chicago-Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pere Marquette, which is funded by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

He said the Hoosier State and Pere Marquette routes are the approximate same distance of 181 miles.

“We have the same seat size on the Pere Marquette that you saw on the Hoosier Line, the same food service that you saw on the Hoosier Line, is on the Pere Marquette, and the same Wi-Fi,” Magliari said.

He said Michigan as a state is reaping the benefits of a long term investment in rail.

“No matter how wide you make the highway, it will probably get filled up,” Magliari said. “It’s cheaper to put money into rails than it is highway, rail improvements can last 10 or 20 years, you can see how long it takes for pavement to wear out.”

MDOT spent spent $4 million on the Pere Marquette in fiscal year 2019.
Michigan officials told Indiana Public Media that the state funding of the Pere Marquette equals about $41 per passenger per year, but they make some of that money back through ticket sales and concessions.

Indiana Public Media operates TV station WTIU and FM station WFIU, both based in Bloomington.

Hoosier State to Make Final Trips on Sunday

June 29, 2019

Amtrak’s Hoosier State boards passengers at Indianapolis Union Station on June 25 during its last week of operation.

The Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State will make it last trips on Sunday.

Amtrak is “suspending” the train effective July 1 because the State of Indiana declined to renew its funding.

Nos. 850 and 851 operate on the days that the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

From Indianapolis to Chicago, No. 50 runs on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. In the other direction No. 51 operates on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The Cardinal will continue to operate after the Hoosier State is discontinued.

The Hoosier State appeared to be doomed once Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb sent a budget request to the state legislature last February that omitted funding for the train, which was also funded in part by various online cities and counties.

Holcomb cited falling ridership for ending the funding.

The Hoosier State began in October 1980 as a demonstration route. It was discontinued in September 1995 as part of a major Amtrak service restructuring and retrenchment but reinstated in July 1998 in part to give Amtrak a more reliable means of ferrying equipment between Chicago and the Beech Grove shops in suburban Indianapolis.

The Hoosier State has skated on thin ice since 2013 when Indiana became the last state to agree to a funding plan mandated by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 that required state and local governments to pay for Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles.

Initially, the Indiana Department of Transportation chose Corridor Capitol, a Chicago-based rail passenger services development company, to manage and operate the Hoosier State.

However, INDOT severed ties with Corridor Capitol in November 2014 and Amtrak continued to operate Nos. 850 and 851 on a short-term contract.

INDOT said the following spring that the Hoosier State would end on April 1, 2015, due to regulations of the Federal Railroad Administration that would have required the state to act as a rail carrier, despite the state owning no tracks or trains.

INDOT appealed to the FRA and the Hoosier State continued to operate under a short-term agreement.

In August 2015, INDOT reached a four-year agreement with Iowa Pacific and Amtrak to operate the train.

IP was to provide providing and maintain the rolling stock as well as provide food service and marketing.

Amtrak would provide ticketing services and train operating crews.

Iowa Pacific said in January 2017 it was withdrawing from the contract after INDOT refused to increase its financial compensation.

Starting March 1, 2017, the Hoosier State became an all Amtrak operation.

Efforts to emend the budget in the legislature to put back funding for the Hoosier State failed and Amtrak said in April that the train would be “suspended” on July 1.

At one point Amtrak said it has reached an agreement with CSX to reduce the running time and that the Hoosier State would be rescheduled in late April to provide better times at Indianapolis.

But those changes were never made and it is unclear if they will eventually be applied to the Cardinal.

The Hoosier State is thus poised to become the Amtrak train to be discontinued in several years and the first to end due to PRIAA requirements.

INDOT Makes Official What Hoosier State Cities Knew

May 2, 2019

The Indiana Department of Transportation held a conference call this week to inform communities along the route of the Hoosier State what they already knew.

The train will be discontinued on July 1 and INDOT could not promise that the state would do anything to keep the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train going.

The conference call was made a day after Gov. Eric Holcomb approved a two-year $34 billion state budget that did not include any funds to continue supporting the Hoosier State.

The conference call was made to officials in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, West Lafayette, Rensselaer and Tippecanoe County. Those communities collectively contributed $500,000 annually along with INDOT’s $3 million to pay for the Hoosier State.

Holcomb had recommended earlier this year cutting the state’s funding of the train, citing low ridership.

The House and Senate concurred with amendments to reinstate the funding either voted down or not considered.

“I’m not aware of any new information on the status of the train,” INDOT spokesman Scott Manning said. “Our INDOT team briefed local officials this morning to reiterate that service will continue through June 30, but not beyond that date.”

Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton also said there was nothing new to report.

“There’s no new contract proposal to send to you and we appreciate everyone’s hard work over the past five or six years and that was about it,” Barton said, characterizing INDOT’s remarks.

However, Barton said he disagreed with an INDOT claim that it lacks discretionary funds that could be used to fund the Hoosier State.

He said he wants to meet with other leaders along the route to discuss what to do next to try to save the service.

All communities served by the Hoosier State will continue to have Amtrak service from the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal.

No Hoosier State Funding in Final Budget

April 26, 2019

Efforts this week to save funding of Amtrak’s Hoosier State fell short when the Indiana General Assembly approved a two-year budget that does not include continued funding of the train.

The legislature approved a $34 billion budget on Wednesday night that did not include funding for the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train.

The state’s $3 million annual funding of the Hoosier State will end on June 30.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Sen. Ron Alting, of Lafayette Republican who said he had worked in the closing weeks with three other legislators whose districts are served by the train to find continued funding for it.

“I thought it was a small amount of money in a $34 billion budget, quite honestly,” Alting told the Lafayette Journal & Courier. “But the Hoosier State wasn’t in (Gov. Eric Holcomb’s) budget, and it wasn’t in the House version of the budget. So that was hard to overcome, at the end of the day. We gave it a 100 percent effort.”

One local official involved in the efforts to save the Hoosier State offered a glimmer of hope that an alternative funding source might be available.

“Oddly, there’s more funding for bringing a train back than for preserving one, which is totally backward,” said Arvid Olson, head of Greater Lafayette Commerce’s transportation committee. “Smart heads are working toward that right now.”

“If this, according to Gov. Holcomb, isn’t working, which is a valid thing to say, what will it take to make passenger rail work here?” Olson said.

Olson said that might mean such things as having the train make additional stops or the even the possibility of having a private operator take it over.

He cited the case of Richard Branson – owner of Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Hotels, and Virgin Galactic – buying the Brightline intercity rail line in Florida.

In addition to state funding, the Hoosier State also received $500,000 annually from local governments served by the train.

The Hoosier State is slated to make its last trips on Sunday, June 30. Amtrak has also ready given notice that it will be “suspended” the next day.

“We’re open to any continued discussions with the state and the communities,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said about preserving the Hoosier State.

However, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Manning said the state legislature having decided not to continue funding the train there is no state budget mechanism to continue funding beyond June 30.

“If the service were to continue beyond that date, it would need to be without state funding,” Manning said.

State officials have been saying since early this year that the Hoosier State’s ridership has been disappointing. INDOT said ridership fell in each of the past four years.

In fiscal year 2014 the Hoosier State carried 33,930. That had fallen to 27,876 by FY 2018.

Olson said Lafayette area leaders have been careful to avoid being too critical of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to end funding for the Hoosier State, “because he was making a good point.”

Although the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance sought to drum up support for continued Hoosier State funding, the group’s president said he knew that was a long shot.

“Most likely, it’s going away, but for how long it will be gone is an interesting question,” said Steve Coxhead. “I think the battle is far from over, though. We know there are other ways, and we’ll be looking at them. If nothing else, the state opens a new budget cycle in two years. We have to be prepared to go the distance, if it goes that far.”

House speaker Brian Bosma said he would have “loved” for the Hoosier State to have worked, “but it’s just a subsidy that doesn’t appear to be taking hold.”

Magliari said the underlying problem that the Hoosier State faced was a slow schedule that was not competitive with the Chicago-Indianapolis drive time.

Coxhead described that as a “kind of a catch-22” in that slow service and low ridership led to funding cuts for a service that was initially under-funded.

“The governor says ridership has been disappointing, and we make the case that you have to have at least two trains in each direction each day, possibly three, in order to have a realistic chance of generating enough ridership to cover an operating cost,” Coxhead said.

Last Ditch Rally Seeks Hoosier State Funding

April 25, 2019

Backers of the beleaguered Hoosier State met at Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops in suburban Indianapolis on Wednesday in what they termed a last-ditch attempt to secure state funding for the train.

They met with elected officials hoping to somehow secure funding of the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb recommended earlier this year ending the state’s $3 million funding for the service and neither chamber of the Indiana General Assembly has added funding to its version of the state’s biennium budget that will take effect July 1.

The budget is now being worked out by a House-Senate conference committee and is expected to be approved by April 29.

In the meantime, Amtrak has posted noticed that the Hoosier State will be suspended after that date.

Holcomb cited declining ridership, saying it fell 18 percent between 2014 and 2018.

But Steve Coxhead, president of the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, said the train faces a dilemma because the state has done little to improve the service.

Coxhead said the route needs to have at least two roundtrips a day and possibly three in order to generate enough ridership to cover its operating costs.

Also attending the meeting were officials with Amtrak Midwest, Indianapolis and the Beech Grove shops.

Coxhead called the $3 million cost for the Hoosier State a relatively small part of a $34 billion budget.

“The governor is planning to spend something like $80 million on hiking and bike trails in the state and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that and they’re probably needed, it seems disproportionate when you talk about what’s potentially the most important passenger rail corridor in the state,” he said.

Supporters of the train have argued that it generates about $10 million annually for local communities.

Greater Lafayette Commerce Transportation Chair Arvid Olson said nearly one-third of the Hoosier State ridership is to Purdue University in West Lafayette.

“For many of them, this is a lifeline to communication, especially for international students, this is their lifeline back to O’Hare to go international, back to the Pacific countries they come from,” said Olson.

Senator Ron Alting of Lafayette unsuccessfully sought to offer an amendment to restore Hoosier State funding.

Although he has continued to support efforts to save the Hoosier State, he said Wednesday’s rally might be a little too late.

“We are going to do a full court press and try to get out of here tomorrow night, so that means the budget will probably be printed and out no later than possibly noon tomorrow,” he said. “That’s going have to be put in that budget by noon tomorrow [Wednesday] or it’s probably not going to be put in.”

It was the second rally for the Hoosier State following one held at the Statehouse on April 17 that was sponsored by the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance.

All of the stations served by the Hoosier State will continue to have Amtrak service by the tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Would Any Message Have Been Successful?

April 24, 2019

The pending discontinue of Amtrak’s Hoosier State has been greeted by the type of hand wringing and indignity that is typical of the rail passenger advocacy community whenever a passenger train is in jeopardy of ending.

It also has triggered the typical overwrought comments of self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives.

Advocates have been sharply critical of the decision by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to end funding for the quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train and the refusal of the Indiana General Assembly to reinstate it.

Both the Indiana House and Senate have declined to fund the Hoosier State beyond June 30 and Amtrak has announced that the train will be “suspended” on July 1.

The passenger carrier used “suspended” rather than “discontinued” because at the time the notice was issued there was a slim chance the legislature might funding the Hoosier State after all.

Last Friday the Rail Passengers Association weighed in. RPA described the legislature as “throwing the baby out with the bathwater by cutting their state train’s operating funds.”

After recounting the perils of Pauline struggle the Hoosier State has faced since 2013, RPA commented, “the Indiana state legislature is responding with apathy, doing the shortsighted, pound-foolish thing.”

And what does RPA mean by that? It argues that the Hoosier State saves the state $3,154,432 in road maintenance and congestion costs.

The number was arrived at by figuring that the loss of the train will add 1.6 million vehicle miles traveled to Indiana highways.

If you wish to read further about how this figure was computed, read the RPA post at https://www.railpassengers.org/happening-now/news/hotline/hotline-1-113/

It is an argument that goes over well with rail passenger advocates and their allies, but does nothing to persuade governors and state legislators to appropriate public funds to underwrite the cost of a four times a week passenger train.

Likewise, the argument that the Chicago-Indianapolis market is ripe for development as a rail corridor “if given a chance” won’t change their minds either.

As they see it, ridership of the Hoosier State has declined by double digits in recent years and the travel time is slower than driving.

The statistic about saving road maintenance and congestion will be dismissed as irrelevant assuming they reached lawmakers at all.

You have to wonder if there are any arguments that rail passenger advocates could have made that would persuaded Holcomb and the legislature to continue Hoosier State funding.

This reality is not unique to Indiana. It is the same dilemma passenger advocates face throughout the United States.

Intercity rail passenger service is not a growth industry. It faces entrenched opposition that does well at hiding its motives even if those can gleaned somewhat by careful study of how transportation policy in this country is and is not made.

Amtrak has been giving signals that its vision for the future is a series of corridors linking urban areas, particularly in the South and West.

Federal law requires that routes of less than 750 miles must be funded by state and/or local governments.

Assuming that Amtrak is serious about developing these corridors – and I’m not sure that it is – it will have to win hearts and minds of legislatures in places that have never funded intercity rail passenger service.

This 750 mile rule is what got the Hoosier State into trouble in the first place. It was discontinued in 1995 but restored in 1998 because Amtrak needed a way of ferrying equipment to and from its Beech Grove shops in suburban Indianapolis that did not delay the tri-weekly Cardinal during its Indianapolis station stop.

RPA probably is correct in saying the Chicago-Indianapolis corridor “may now take a generation to be revealed.”

There is also much truth to RPA’s assertion that the Hoosier State “has been treated like an ugly stepchild  . . . acts like it.”

I don’t want to be too critical of RPA because beyond rhetoric and calls for its members to contact their legislatures it doesn’t have many weapons to overcome the entrenched opposition to its vision for intercity passenger rail.

I’m reminded of a comment made by the president of a Jesuit university where I once taught.

He wanted to get the city to close a street that ran through the campus, but the mayor was opposed.

The president said every time he met with the mayor he would mention closing that street because “the more you hear something the less it seems like a foreign idea.”

Alas, the president died before he could persuade the mayor to close the street and to this day it remains open through the campus.

It may be that it takes repeated exposure for a message to sink in and be taken seriously. But they also say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Maybe if rail advocates keep repeating their vision for intercity rail service it will begin to gain traction. But a generation can be a long time and time is running out for the current generations who have dutifully repeated the “we need passenger trains” message for decades now.

Indiana Senate Also Snubs Hoosier State Funding

April 21, 2019

The Indiana Senate approved a budget last week that did not contain funding to continue operation of Amtrak’s Hoosier State between Chicago and Indianapolis.

Furthermore, the Senate refused to take up an amendment offered by a Lafayette senator to keep the state funding in place.

Senator Ron Alting said he wasn’t giving up on finding funding for the Hoosier State, including as part of the conference committee that will reconcile differences in the two-year budget between the House and Senate.

The legislature plans to wrap its session by April 29.

Indiana currently pays $3 million a year to operate the quad-weekly train, which operates on days that the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

The state’s funding expires on June 30 and Amtrak earlier ceased to take reservations or sell tickets for travel on the Hoosier State starting July 1.

Alting said the Senate sponsors of the authors of budget bill “expressed their reluctance to have me present my amendment.”

The House had defeated an amendment made by state Rep. Chris Campbell of West Lafayette to include Hoosier State funding in the house version of the budget.

“While it saddens me we could not resolve this problem, I have spoken with the authors of the Senate’s budget proposal, and they are keeping an open mind in terms of possibly adding the funding during a conference committee,” Alting said in a statement.

“We’ve faced some obstacles, but I’m not giving up,” Alting said. “This is about persistence, and I will continue to work to obtain funding for the Hoosier State rail line.”

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told the Lafayette Journal & Courier that Amtrak hasn’t given up on the Hoosier State, but also said the carrier would not continue to operate the train without the $3 million in the state budget each of the next two years.

Other Hoosier State funding includes $500,000 from Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Crawfordsville and Rensselaer.

“We’re continuing to work with legislators and other interest groups regarding the continuation of daily service on this route, which is funded four days a week by our contract with (INDOT),” Magliari said.

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said he supports his city’s continued financial support of the Hoosier State provided that Amtrak and the state commit to improvements in speed and on-time performance.

“I’d like to see it saved, if we can,” Roswarski said. “I would say that’s a very difficult hill to climb. That’s a long shot, right now.”

Indiana began funding the Hoosier State in 2015 because by federal law state and/or local governments must pay for Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb had earlier this year submitted a budget request that omitted Hoosier State funding.

The Indiana Department of Transportation has said that 2018 ridership was down 17.8 percent from the 2014 level.

The day after the Senate passed its version of the budget without any Amtrak funding, a group of Indiana state senators and representatives urged Holcomb to continue funding for the Hoosier State.

Indiana Senate Committee Omits Hoosier State Funding

April 13, 2019

An Indiana Senate committee has concurred with a decision by the House and Gov. Eric Holcomb to end funding for Amtrak’s Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State.

The committee on Thursday approved its version of the state budget for the next two years and left out funding for Amtrak’s quad-weekly train.

The budget approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee will be voted on next week by the full Senate and is expected to be go to a conference committee to reconcile differences between the House and Senate.

The legislature hopes to adjourn by April 29.

Holcomb had recommended earlier this year paring the state’s annual $3 million for the Hoosier State and the Senate committee declined to reinstate that funding.

The Hoosier State also receives $500,000 annually from various communities served by the train.

State funding will end on June 30 and Amtrak has announced it will suspend operations of the Hoosier State starting July 1.

Passengers already ticketed to ride after that date will be rebooked on Amtrak’s tri-weekly Cardinal or be forced to find alternative transportation.

The Senate committee largely agreed with Holcomb’s list of transportation priorities including completion of Interstate 69 from Martinsville to Evansville, finish rebuilding U.S. 31 into an interstate-quality highway to South Bend, creating trails throughout the state, and paying for new airline service from Indianapolis International Airport.

Amtrak Said it Hasn’t Given Up on Hoosier State

April 11, 2019

Amtrak isn’t giving up on the Hoosier State and said its announcement that it will suspend the Chicago-Indianapolis train on July 1 should be viewed at this point as a 90-day notice.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told the Lafyette (Indiana) Journal & Courier that the carrier continues to work to try to keep the quad-weekly train operating.

“It means we’re not certain there will be service after July 1,” Magliari said. “What would you do if you were us? Would you merrily take reservations? Or would you be transparent to customers? We’re being transparent to customers.”

He was referring to Amtrak’s announcement that it will no long accept reservations or sell tickets for travel on the Hoosier State after July 1.

The 500 passengers who’ve already made reservations or purchased tickets for travel after July 1 will be accommodated on Amtrak’s tri-weekly Cardinal, which uses the same route as the Hoosier State between Chicago and Indianapolis.

However, Amtrak is also warning that some of those passengers may need to find alternative transportation arrangements.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb removed funding for the Hoosier State from his budget request sent to the Indiana General Assembly early this year.

Thus far the House has gone along with that although the Senate has not yet acted on the budget.

News reports have indicated the prospects for the Senate restoring the funding appear to be bleak.

In the current fiscal year, Indiana is paying $3 million to Amtrak to operate the Hoosier State with another $500,000 coming from communities served by the train.

Magliari said Amtrak is still reworking the schedule for the Hoosier State to cut 15 minutes from the five- running time.

It has said a new schedule is expected to be implemented in late April.

Hoosier State Down to its Last Strike

March 6, 2019

To use a baseball analogy, Amtrak’s Hoosier State is down to its last strike.

The quad-weekly Chicago-Indianapolis train has swung and missed twice now, first when Indiana Gov. Eric Holmcomb declined to seek continued funding for the train in his budget proposal and, second, when the lower house of the Indiana General Assembly also rejected continued funding.

The House actually voted against Hoosier State funding twice. A House committee declined to reinstate the funding to Holcomb’s proposed budget and then the full House voted against an amendment to add the funding back.

Now the hopes to continue the train go to the Senate which, in theory, could restore the funding. But it would then have to get through a conference committee.

Much of the political support for continued Hoosier State funding has come from Lafayette and West Lafayette.

Those two cities along with Tippecanoe County and the cities of Crawfordsville and Rensselaer collectively contribute $500,000 a year. The state’s share for the Hoosier State is $3 million annually.

The train’s supporters in Lafayette knew that keeping state funding going was a long shot once the governor deleted it from his budget.

“We’ve been working and we knew were going to have to keep working,” Arvid Olson head of Greater Lafayette Commerce’s transportation committee, told the Lafayette Journal & Courier shortly after a House committee declined to reinstate funding for the train.

Olson acknowledged that the train’s ridership isn’t where its supporters would like it to be and, so-so ridership was one reason that Holcomb gave for ending the funding.

“We’re not flailing,” Olson said. “We’re just making the case that the Hoosier State is an important economic development piece for our community. And if it goes away, it’s going to be very expensive, if not impossible, to get back.”

Indeed it will be. But it won’t be impossible.

The Hoosier State has a long, colorful and at times troubling history.

It began on Oct. 1, 1980, as demonstration project mandated by Congress at the behest of former  Indiana Senator Birch Bayh.

Bayh had slipped an amendment into the 1979 Amtrak Reorganization Act directing Amtrak to launch a Chicago-Indianapolis route.

No small part of the rational for the amendment was to give Amtrak a dedicated train to ferry equipment to and from the Beech Grove shops.

The same law that gave birth to the Hoosier State had also made possible the discontinuance of Amtrak’s last train to serve Indianapolis, the New York-Kansas City National Limited.

From Day One the Hoosier State has been hindered by a slow and circuitous route.

None of the traditional passenger routes between Chicago and Indianapolis were intact when the Hoosier State was launched. Things have not improved since then.

The Hoosier State might have folded in the 1980s because, then-Amtrak President W. Graham Claytor, told Congress in March 1984, it failed to meet the Congressionally-mandated loss per mile and passenger-mile-to-train mile criteria.

But operating the Hoosier State was cheaper for Amtrak than paying Conrail to ferry equipment to and from Beech Grove.

The Hoosier State became a quad-weekly train on April 27, 1986, when the Chicago-New York Cardinal was rerouted between Chicago and Cincinnati via Indianapolis.

Then as now, the Hoosier State, which had been renamed Cardinal at the time that it became quad weekly, ran on the days the tri-weekly Cardinal did not run between Chicago and Indianapolis.

Restoration of the Hoosier State name and daily operation began on Oct. 25, 1987.

An Amtrak budget crunch in 1995 led to the Hoosier State reverting on June 11, 1995, to tri-weekly operation.

That resulted in no rail service from Indianapolis to Chicago on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and no rail service from Chicago to Indy on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Amtrak said it only kept the Hoosier State in order to ferry equipment to and from Beech Grove.

After Amtrak decided not to discontinue the Cardinal between Chicago and Cincinnati as part of its September 1995 route restructuring, it discontinued the Hoosier State instead.

The state of Indiana declined to provide funding to keep the Hoosier State going, a decision made by then-Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh, the son of the man whose efforts had been key in creating the Hoosier State.

Amtrak created a Chicago-Beech Grove “hospital train” to ferry equipment, but it often received unfavorable dispatching from the host railroads and crews often outlawed.

Using the Cardinal to ferry equipment between Chicago and Indianapolis also proved to be unsatisfactory because of delays incurred in switching cars at Indianapolis Union Station.

Amtrak reinstated the Hoosier State as a tri-weekly train on July 19, 1998, operating on days that the Cardinal did not run between Chicago and Indianapolis.

On Dec. 17, 1999, the Hoosier State was extended to Jeffersonville, Indiana, across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, in a bid to build mail and express business. It was renamed Kentucky Cardinal.

The move was part of Amtrak’s ill-fated Network Growth Strategy that sought to make the passenger railroad financially self-sufficient through head-end business.

That didn’t pan out as hoped and in January 2003 Amtrak said it would end the Kentucky Cardinal in July because of low ridership, high financial costs and the failure of head-end traffic to develop.

However, Amtrak returned the Hoosier State name and operated the train between Chicago and Indianapolis on the Cardinal’s off days.

And that was where things stood until 2015 when a proviso of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement took effect that required states to fund Amtrak trains operating less than 750 miles.

It was not a sure thing that Indiana would approve funding to keep the Hoosier State but a deal was worked out with the Indiana Department of Transportation and online communities chipping in funding.

The train was turned over to a private company, Iowa Pacific Holdings, although Amtrak operating personnel actually operated the trains under contract.

Under IP stewardship, the Hoosier State had full-service dining in a full-wide dome car. IP actively sought to market the service.

In late January 2017 Iowa Pacific said it would cease operating the Hoosier State after the state rebuffed its request for more money. Amtrak took over the Hoosier State on March 1.

Funding of the Hoosier State is assured through June 30, 2019, and INDOT has said that it will discuss with Amtrak when the train is to be discontinued.

It’s possible that some last-ditch plan to save the train might materialize.
Amtrak will have to ferry equipment from Beech Grove on the Cardinal or in hospital trains. As the carrier discovered several years ago, those can be less than ideal from an operations standpoint.

Then again Amtrak President Richard Anderson recently hinted that Beech Grove may not remain an Amtrak repair shop forever.

In announcing that he was cutting Hoosier State funding, Gov. Holcomb said the train “hasn’t performed as originally billed.”

Primarily he meant that ridership has been disappointing. Patronage in fiscal year 2018 fell 5.5 percent, from 29,504 in 2017 to 27,876 in 2018.

In fiscal year 2014 the Hoosier State carried 33,930 passengers, which means that ridership has fallen 21.7 percent over five fiscal years.

Rail passenger advocates have pointed out – correctly – that ridership would improve if the Hoosier State has a faster travel time. Amtrak has said the same thing.

But getting there won’t be inexpensive and it’s unlikely that Indiana will agree to contribute capital funding toward that end.

Legislators may not understand the ins and outs of why the Hoosier State is so slow. Nor do they care about such things. They only see the falling patronage and wonder why spend limited public funds on a service that is losing ridership.

Olson of the Lafayette chamber of commerce understands that. State lawmakers are under pressure to increase funding for such priorities as the Department of Child Services and education.

“People, we’re finding, are sympathetic,” Olson said. “At the same time, everyone’s approaching this realistically.

“This falls below those things, even though it has value. The governor set the bar high on this. “We haven’t cleared the bar, yet. Can we clear the bar? I think we can. This [is] maybe one of those things we appreciate only after it’s gone.”