Well, this is not entirely unexpected. Indiana has never been very supportive of CHI-IND service. And the train, as has been discussed on this board previously, is frankly a dog. A couple of coaches provide accomodation service on a hospital train. The ridership is pretty anemic ridership and the route, to be polite, is less than ideal. It doesn’t help that the HS is yoked to the pitiful Cardinal. That means three days a week the train is likely to be very late at Lafayette and Indianapolis. And the times aren’t that hospitable for the CHI-IND market.Lafayette may lose daily passenger railroad service next year.
Amtrak confirms plans to end the Hoosier State route, effective Oct. 1, 2013.
“It is very likely there could no longer be daily service in Lafayette,” said Marc Magliari with the Amtrak media relations office in Chicago.
Funding for the Hoosier State is the heart of the dispute between Amtrak, state administrators and the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Amtrak maintains that states are responsible for fully funding routes shorter than 750 miles and that the funding methodology was established by Congress in 2008.
Indiana leaders disagree.
“Our understanding is that the methodology was a discussion and was not a commitment to subsidize the Hoosier State,” said Will Wingfield, INDOT spokesman.
“There was no money provided along with the federal mandate. It is still not entirely known what Amtrak is requesting of Indiana.”
So, what’s going to happen? Unclear to me. Maybe this is just posturing. Amtrak will still need to ferry cars to Beech Grove, but that could probably be done on the Cardinal. Or maybe Amtrak will move the shops to Illinios or Michigan. Maybe a new governor (Daniels is retiring) will have a more pro-rail viewpoint (but I wouldn’t count on that). Or maybe Amtrak will replace the HS with a daily Cardinal. Don’t hold your breath on that one. And I don’t see why a daily Cardinal would be any more on time than a tri-weekly one. And maybe there will be a couple of more coaches available for service elsewhere beginning next October.
I think it was Tadman who suggested a while back that Amtrak try to turn CHI-IND into a real corridor, running at least 2x/day. That would require cutting the link with the Cardinal, and running at times geared to local travel. I think that’s well worth a shot, but if Indiana doesn’t want to play, the game won’t ever start.