SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that ridership surged by 69 percent on state supported Amtrak routes during the first three months of new expanded service between Chicago and St. Louis, Carbondale and Quincy.
The most dramatic increase came on the Chicago-St. Louis line, the Lincoln Service, which saw a 95 percent jump in passengers in November, December and January, compared with the same three months in 2005 and 2006. The Carbondale line (which carries the Saluki and the Illini) recorded a 68 percent increase and the Quincy line (the Carl Sandburg and the Illinois Zephyr) was up 38 percent. (See chart below)
“These numbers demonstrate the demand for Amtrak in Illinois and tell us that we did the right thing when we doubled state support for passenger rail,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Amtrak provides a convenient and affordable travel option for seniors, students and members of our Armed Forces. And for many communities, it is the only form of public transportation. This increase in ridership tells me that the Federal government is headed in the wrong direction when it tries to slash funding for Amtrak.”
Gov. Blagojevich and the General Assembly doubled funding that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) provides to Amtrak in state fiscal year 2007 to $24.2 million in order to pay for additional service.
This stepped up support for Amtrak in Illinois comes at time when the Bush Administration has repeatedly proposed sharp cuts in funding for Amtrak. The proposed budget for the coming federal fiscal year would cut Amtrak funding nationally by $400 million – from $1.3 billion in FY07 to $900 million for FY08.
Under the new service that started in Illinois Oct. 30, there are new morning departures from Chicago, St. Louis and Carbondale, a new afternoon departure from Quincy and new evening departures from Chicago and St. Louis.
“There is clearly a great demand for additional train service in Illinois,” said Acting IDOT Secretary Milt Sees. “By helping Amtrak increase service, we are making Amtrak more convenient and more attractive to thousands of people across the state.
The sharp increase in ridership during the first three months of the new service follows an 11 percent gain in riders on the state supported trains in state fiscal year 2006, which ended last June 30. In total, 955,529 passengers rode state-sponsored trains in that fiscal year.
For more information about Amtrak service in Illinois and nationwide, call 800-USA-RAIL or visit the www.amtrak.com