CHICAGO – Amtrak trains operated under a contract with the Illinois Department of Transportation drew more than 1.8 million passengers to state-supported routes in Fiscal Year 2009. Overall ridership is up slightly from 2008 and rose by 20 percent from 2007.
Ridership on the Chicago-Bloomington/Normal-Springfield-St. Louis Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle increased six percent from FY 2009 and 21 percent from FY 2007.
“In a difficult year for the economy – particularly in the travel industry – Amtrak Illinois ridership has remained strong,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joseph H. Boardman.
The Illinois DOT plans to take the 284-mile Chicago-St. Louis corridor to even higher ridership totals and frequencies by applying for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding. Included in the applications is double-tracking the corridor from Chicago to St. Louis, largely in the 220 miles between the Joliet and Alton stations, and other improvements to reduce the travel times between the end-points by 90-minutes to less than four hours from the current schedule of more than five-hours, 15-minutes.
“By reducing future travel times by 90 minutes or more, increasing frequencies and capacity, and improving service reliability with double tracking from Chicago to St. Louis, the ridership numbers can be expected to improve even more dramatically,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. “The intent is to provide an affordable and safe alternative to driving for business people, shoppers, tourists and others in Illinois.”
Amtrak and the Illinois DOT have worked closely with Union Pacific Railroad to improve reliability on the route and develop plans to increase the number of daily Chicago-St. Louis round-trips from five to nine. Union Pacific owns most of the 284-mile corridor and has projected the need for double-tracking the route for on-time performance with increased train volumes.
The Illinois DOT also supports Amtrak Hiawatha Service trains between Chicago and Milwaukee, one of the top six Amtrak corridors nationally. During FY 2009, ridership fell by 1.5 percent from FY 2008, but increased by 24 percent from FY 2007. This service is a partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Amtrak.
Along the Chicago-Galesburg-Macomb-Quincy route of the Illinois Zephyr, Carl Sandburg and other trains, passenger counts were up slightly from FY 2008 and up by 19 percent from FY 2007. The Chicago-Champaign-Mattoon-Carbondale route of the Illini, Saluki and City of New Orleans mirrored the national average with a decline of five percent from FY 2008 to FY 2009 and rising by 10 percent when compared with FY 2007.