CHICAGO – Huge ridership gains are tied to increased Amtrak train frequencies in Illinois, with the three routes between Chicago and downstate communities showing large increases and helping Amtrak to set a new national record for passengers.
In all, nearly 3.6 million passengers used Amtrak stations in Illinois, including all trains at Amtrak Chicago Union Station.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has more than doubled the size of its contract with Amtrak, providing three of the five round-trips on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor and two round-trips each on the Carbondale and Quincy routes, starting late last October.
On the Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service corridor, ridership on state trains more than doubled, rising by 108 percent, while total ridership on the corridor rose by 42 percent to 477,888. Ridership between Chicago and Carbondale, the route the Illini and Saluki trains share with the City of New Orleans, is up by 67.4 percent for the state-supported trains and 46 percent for the corridor, totaling 263,809. For the Chicago-Galesburg-Quincy route of the Illinois Zephyr, Carl Sandburg and other trains, ridership has gained 41.4 percent for the state-sponsored trains and 33 percent for the route, with 194,535 passengers.
Also from the Amtrak hub in Chicago is the Hiawatha Service, with passenger counts on trains between Chicago and Milwaukee increased by 2.6 percent and approaching 600,000 annual riders.
Amtrak operates seven daily round-trips on the route Mondays through Fridays, with six round-trips on Sundays. The ridership gain on the Hiawathas is slightly more than the national Amtrak ridership increase of 2.4 percent. Amtrak operates the Hiawatha Service trains under contracts with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and IDOT.
“Amtrak provides an invaluable service to Illinois families, seniors, students and members of our armed services. In some communities, Amtrak provides the only form of public transportation,” said IDOT Secretary Milton R. Sees. “Governor Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois General Assembly have made a strong commitment to the state’s partnership with Amtrak. These ridership gains indicate that when you make passenger train service more available and convenient, the public will flock to it.”
“Highway and airway congestion, volatile fuel prices, increasing environmental awareness, and a need for transportation links between growing communities, are some of the factors that make intercity passenger rail extremely relevant in today’s world,” said Alex Kummant, President and CEO of Amtrak.
“Our record setting ridership and ticket revenue in FY07 indicate the stage is set for Amtrak to take on a role as not only a contributor to the nation’s transportation network, but as a leader among modes,” he added.
Nationally, Amtrak ridership in Fiscal Year 2007 increased to 25,847,531, marking the fifth straight year of gains and setting a record for the most passengers using Amtrak trains since the National Railroad Passenger Corporation stated operations in 1971.
This total, for the period October 1, 2006 – September 30, 2007, topped the 24,306,965 for the previous 12 months and is greater than the passenger count of 25.03 million reached in 2004.
Total ticket revenue for the fiscal year, $1.5 billion, was an 11 percent increase over the $1.37 billion in FY06.