Posts Tagged ‘Indiana’

Bill Would Create Indiana Passenger Rail Commission

January 15, 2021

Two Indiana lawmakers have introduced legislation to create a state rail commission to develop rail passenger service through the state.

Senate Bill 9 was introduced by Senators Dennis Kruse of Auburn and Jeff Raatz of Richmond and has been assigned to the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee.

The bill would create the Indiana Passenger Rail Commission, whose goals would be to promote and coordinate passenger rail service in the state, including facilitating development and implementation of improvements to intercity rail service, long-range plans for passenger service, and coordinating public and private agencies and organizations to develop service.

The senators were assisted in drafting the bill by the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association, which has been actively pushing for restoration of intercity rail passenger service between Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, via Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Groups Pushing For Indiana Passenger Rail Commission

February 3, 2020

Two Indiana-based passenger rail advocacy groups are pushing for the state to established a passenger rail commission.

The Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance and the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association said the proposed Indiana Passenger Rail Commission would focus on and coordinate the efforts of state advocacy and regional planning organizations to develop modern passenger-rail systems within Indiana.

The commission would include officials from the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

The Indiana General Assembly would have to include the proposal to create the commission in its summer study sessions, which would allow the IPRA and NIPRA to have draft legislation ready to be introduced during a future General Assembly session.

Fort Wayne Group Pressing Ahead for Rail Service

May 14, 2019

The pending discontinuance of the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State is not discouraging Fort Wayne, Indiana, interests seeking to revive intercity rail service.

The Northern Indiana Rail Passenger Alliance is working to establish a route between Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, that would pass through Fort Wayne.

Both Fort Wayne and Columbus previously had Amtrak service but lost it. Columbus fell off the Amtrak route map in October 1979 with the discontinuance of the National Limited while Fort Wayne lost the Broadway Limited and Capitol Limited in late 1990 when both trains were rerouted.

The Indiana General Assembly recently adopted a two-year budget that did not include continued funding for the quad-weekly Hoosier State.

But NIPRA officials say the state’s ending of Hoosier State funding won’t affect their work although it could affect it somewhat.

“It makes our job that much more difficult in getting the story out that the investment in passenger rail in our corridor will have an economic development payoff and attract young professionals to Fort Wayne and attract visitors to Fort Wayne,” said Rich Juram, NIPRA’s board president.

Nonetheless, he said “there’s not a direct relationship between that situation and the project here in northern Indiana, the line from Chicago to Fort Wayne and then continuing on from Fort Wayne to Columbus.”

Juram said his organization is sad to see the Hoosier State end, but said that service “was woefully inadequate for the market.”

Geoff Paddock, a Fort Wayne City Council member who favors the Chicago-Columbus service said losing the Hoosier State will hurt in the sense that the bigger the footprint is for passenger rail the better it is for having rail as a transportation option.

“Eliminating that funding and that investment in that line could be a detriment to our efforts to bring passenger rail back to Fort Wayne,” he said.

Paddock said one takeaway about the demise of the Hoosier State is that passenger advocates need to work with state legislators to make their case.

The Chicago-Columbus service would not be cheap to develop as it has been proposed.

It would require capital costs of $898 million to rebuilt track, signals and other infrastructure to support two daily roundtrips with a top speed of 79 mph.

The cost of four roundtrips traveling 110 mph would be $1.23 billion.

Advocates for the service say that money would largely need to come from state and federal funds.

Paddock said the Chicago-Columbus route may be in a more favorable position than was the Hoosier State because it has better tracks.

In the meantime, supporters of the route are working on an environmental impact study.

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.

In Memory of Francis Parker

April 4, 2019

I never really knew Francis Parker, a retired professor of transportation planning, who died on March 27 at age 80 in Muncie, Indiana.

I spoke with him by phone a couple of times and met in person just once.

Yet his work as an Indiana railroad historian was instrumental in helping me launch my first railroad history book about passenger service in Indiana.

Parker was the co-author with the late Richard Simons of Railroads of Indiana. It was that book that provided me with the blueprint that became my book Limiteds, Locals and Expresses in Indiana, 1838-1971.

In part, Railroads of Indiana was organized by railroad and it was that structure that I adopted for Limiteds, Locals and Expresses.

I called Parker when I was contemplating creating a book about the history of passenger service in Indiana and he was encouraging.

I likewise traveled to Marion, Indiana, to meet with Simons, who was also encouraging and allowed me to use some photographs from his collection.

Parker was one of four founding professors of Ball State University’s Department of Urban Planning in the College of Architecture and Planning. He retired from Ball State in 2013.

He also was an author of Indiana Railroad Depots: A Threatened Heritage.
Parker also served as a volunteer on the Whitewater Valley Railroad in Connersville, Indiana, where he was an engineer and conductor, and led training classes for new members./

He also was the group’s historian and editor of its newsletter.

A published obituary noted that Parker was a fan of steam engines and model railroading.

South Shore Looking to Buy New Cars

December 5, 2018

The South Shore Line is looking for new equipment that it hopes to use on a proposed 9-mile expansion of service in Indiana between Hammond and Dyer.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District has authorized contact with potential builders of 26 rail cars.

The new cars would replace 32 cars the South Shore has identified as likely to be used on the 9-mile extension south of Hammond.

The cars would be capable of operating on the electrified lines used by the South Shore between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana.

NICTD has set aside $8 million per year for bonds to pay for the equipment purchase.

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.

IP Marks 1st Anniversary of Operating Hoosier State

August 3, 2016

Iowa Pacific Holdings operation of the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State celebrated its first anniversary this week.

Iowa PacificIP took over the train from Amtrak on Aug. 2, 2015, although Amtrak continues to provide operating employees and handle certain other tasks on IP’s behalf.

During May and June ticket revenue rose 62 percent and 90 percent of the route’s riders indicated in a survey that they were very satisfied with the service.

Since October 2015, on-time performance has averaged 82 percent.

The Hoosier State operates four times a week on days that the Chicago-New York Cardinal does not operate.

The service is funded by the Indiana Department of Transportation and on-line communities.

All Indiana Amtrak Stations ADA Non-Compliant

June 27, 2015

Many Amtrak stations fail to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including all 11 stations in Indiana, a Department of Justice probe has found.

Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services, the state’s disability advocacy agency, is one of several organizations around the country that filed complaints against Amtrak with the Department of Justice.

The agency’s executive director, Dawn Adams, says the report it sent to the DOJ was based on extensive inspections of Amtrak stations after the state received numerous complaints.

Adams said the violations included inaccessible parking and inadequate counter height, and even refusal to sell tickets to customers with disabilities.

“If the station at the other end that the person wanted to go to was inaccessible, then rather than making that station accessible, they just refused to sell tickets to people with disabilities,” Adams said.

The Department of Justice says it will work with Amtrak to ensure the stations become compliant. Amtrak has indicated that it will cooperate with the effort.