LAFAYETTE — Some riders believe Amtrak’s passenger service between Chicago and Indianapolis would be more popular if there were more trains to catch.
Federal funding cuts have prompted Amtrak’s plans to end the four-day-a-week Hoosier State route in October, so state officials are considering whether to spend money to keep the line going.
Cory Reynard of Lafayette, who took the train to Chicago for a Cubs game last week, said the Amtrak ticket was less expensive than the cost of driving, parking and paying tolls. But, Reynard told the Journal & Courier he was surprised that only one train headed to Chicago in the morning and one back at night.
“That’s the only reason I’m spending the night in Chicago,” Reynard said. “I can’t risk missing the train back. I guess they could add a second train on busy days or weekends.”
Amtrak’s three-day-a-week Cardinal line that runs from Chicago through Indianapolis to the East Coast will continue.
The Hoosier State line has stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer. Lafayette riders board the train for Chicago at 7:30 a.m. four days a week. Riders from Chicago arrive in Lafayette at 10 p.m. four nights a week.
The schedule is one of several issues the Indiana Department of Transportation is considering as it weighs the estimated $4 million annual cost of taking over the route funding from the federal government. Congress eliminated funding for the Hoosier State route and others shorter than 750 miles in 19 states effective Oct. 1.
Before the Indiana Legislature adjourned last month, state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Lafayette, added provisions to the state budget bill allowing Indiana’s highway department to fund the rail service.
The key is to increase ridership and help the route pay for itself, Hershman said. An engineering consultant is evaluating what steps the state could take.
Kristin Cleven of West Lafayette said she rides the Hoosier State when she’s not traveling with her family. Cleven, who grew up in Norway, said she values mass transit and uses it when she can.
“I wish there were more frequent trains and faster trains where Amtrak had priority,” Cleven said. “The train is usually on time but sometimes it’s delayed one hour waiting for a freight train. That’s not good if you have an appointment or a flight to make.”