Sunday, October 29, 2006

Chicago-Springfield Amtrak schedule now convenient

In exciting news for our state's economic development, Amtrak expansion is starting tomorrow.

The Illinois General Assembly and Governor Blagojevich get the credit for coming up with the money for the expanded service, and Senator Durbin has done a ton of work to make sure a last-minute monkey wrench thrown by one of the freight railroad companies that owns part of tracks didn't derail the expansion.

Here is the expanded schedule.

To make it easier for the lobbyists, staffers and electeds who might want to take a train from Chicago to Springfield, here's the deal:

There are now 5 daily trains leaving Chicago to Springfield.

There's a 7 a.m. express train that stops in Joliet and Bloomington-Normal before arriving in Springfield at 10:15 am. How cool is that? That's the only express train in the schedule.

Then a 9:15 am that arrives in Springfield at 12:20 pm.

A 2:00 pm train that arrives in Springfield at 5:30 pm (that's the train that goes all the way to Texas).

A 5:15 pm train that arrives in Springfield at 8:39 pm (very convenient for working days in Chicago).

And finally a 7:00 pm train that arrives in Springfield at 10:24 pm, so you can grab dinner before you come back to Springfield. That's a great return train for day trips for fun up to Chicago.

All of these southbound trains will continue to run pretty much on time.

The northbound trains have been a problem with on-time performance, because one of them can run very late. Now with 4 reliable northbound trains, there isn't a problem with northbound Amtrak travel. Here's the new schedule (just Springfield to Chicago -- full schedule available here).

The early morning train leaves Springfield at 6:33 am and arrives in Chicago at 9:55 am. Very good for working meetings -- and memo to all state department heads: please schedule morning meetings for 10:30 am and not before so your Springfield staffers can take the train and get there on time.

The next northbound leaves at two hours later at 8:33 am and arrives in Chicago at 11:55 am.

These first two trains should be very reliable, as they both start in St. Louis.

The next one leaves Springfield at 10:29 am and arrives in Chicago at 2:14 pm. However, the 10:29 am train is the Texas Eagle and that can run very late. A good trick is to check the train status of the Texas Eagle (it's train number 22) by checking or calling 1-800-USA-RAIL as if you want to get a northbound train at noon or 2 pm, sometimes the Texas Eagle is running three or four hours late so it works out perfectly.

The next northbound train leaves Springfield at 5:07 pm and arrives in Chicago at 8:30 pm. This should be a reliable train as well, because even though it starts in Kansas City, Missouri, they build in some time in St. Louis to make up for expected delays. (The track in Missouri is a mess).

Finally, there's an after-dinner train leaving Springfield at 7:28 pm and arriving in Chicago at 10:50 pm. This is perfect for day trips to Springfield. This one starts in St. Louis, so it should be very reliable as well.

To book these tickets, visit

Keep in mind if you are a state employee, you are eligible for a one-way state rate of $17 (unless they raised it a bit), so be sure to call 1-800-USA-RAIL and book your state rate (or ask the ticket agent at the station).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Milwaukee meeting for high speed rail on October 28

The Wisconsin Association of Railroad Passengers is hosting our fall meeting
this year. The meeting will be held Milwaukee from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on
October 28. (If coming from Chicago please use train 331 northbound and
train 338 southbound.)

It will be held at the Holiday Inn Downtown, 611 West Wisconsin Av.,
Milwaukee, WI. The hotel is located between Michigan St and Wisconsin Av,
along 6th St. It is 2 blocks north and 1 block west of the Amtrak station.

If you are interested in getting involved in high speed rail advocacy, or just looking for a good opportunity to spend some time in Milwaukee (a very cool town), come on by!

We're hoping to replicate the Illinois Amtrak expansion in Wisconsin over the next two years, which would mean increasing the 7 Milwaukee-Chicago daily trains to 10 daily trains, and adding at least one more daily train between Minneapolis and Milwaukee (with connections to the Hiawatha, or perhaps going through to Chicago's Union Station).

We can only do that with the active involvement of people in Wisconsin, so if you live in Wisconsin, join us! See you in Milwaukee....

Illinois Amtrak service expansion for Chicago to Carbondale, St. Louis and Quincy

Midwest High Speed Rail Association
P.O. Box 805877 Chicago, IL 60680

For Immediate Release October 14, 2006

Contact: Rick Harnish Office: 773-334-6758
Executive Director Cell: 312-339-0116
Midwest High Speed Rail Association www.midwesthsr. org


Earlier today, Governor Rod Blagojevich announced that tickets have gone
on sale for the new Amtrak Illinois "Lincoln Service" trains on the Chicago –
Springfield – St. Louis corridor. Similar announcements have been made for
new service on the Carbondale and Quincy lines.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association would like to applaud the Governor
and the General Assembly for making these new trains possible.

Five trains a day to Springfield, St. Louis

The state's busiest intercity rail corridor, the 284-mile Chicago-St. Louis
Lincoln/Heritage corridor, will get two new state-supported round trips.
Because the state already supports one round trip in that corridor and Amtrak
supports two, the Chicago-St. Louis corridor will be able to offer travelers a
choice of five daily round trips.

"For the first time there will be an early-morning train from Chicago that will
get travelers to Springfield at 10:15 a.m.," Harnish said. "State employees will
now find trains a highly efficient way to shuttle between Chicago and
Springfield. They can work and have breakfast en route. So can private
business people who need to meet with state officials at the Capitol.

"That train also will be popular with tourists," Harnish said. "It should be a
boon to the new Abraham Lincoln Library, which is only a short walk from the
Springfield station."

New a.m. departures make trips to Downstate more convenient

Also getting an additional frequency each will be the Chicago-Quincy and
Chicago-Carbondale corridors. The 258-mile Quincy line already has one
daily train leaving Chicago at dinner time. A second frequency leaving in the
morning will enable Chicagoans to make day trips to Western Illinois by train.

The 310-mile Chicago-Carbondale line already has two frequencies, one a
state-supported local train that terminates at Carbondale, the other an Amtrak
long-distance train that goes on to Memphis and New Orleans. Both leave
late in the day. The state's new frequency will leave in the early morning,
enabling Chicagoans to make day trips to Champaign, Mattoon, Effingham
and Centralia as well as Carbondale.

"The new morning departure to Quincy is particularly exciting because
between Chicago and Galesburg it shares a route with two of Amtrak's long-
distance trains that leave Chicago in the afternoon," Harnish said. "When
added to the two Quincy frequencies, those two trains mean Galesburg will
have four daily trains to Chicago—a real resource for business travelers in a
market that is not well served by air and otherwise requires a tiring 160-mile
highway trip."

Coalition of advocates made new trains a reality

While the number of train frequencies in Illinois will more than double
overnight, the decision to move the state to a more ambitious passenger-train
program took a good deal longer and required the cooperation of a broad
range of advocacy groups, Harnish said.

"The universities, local chambers of commerce and economic-developmen t
authorities, several hundred mayors and elected officials statewide, and
individual business leaders stepped forward to urge the General Assembly
and the administration to take this step," Harnish said.

He singled out the United Transportation Union and the Environmental Law &
Policy Center as the Association' s "partners" in a two-year advocacy

"Classic citizen activism at work"

"We also would like to thank all of those people who wrote letters, sent e-
mails and made phone calls asking their legislators to fund these trains,"
Harnish said. "Their effort was classic citizen activism at work. And special
thanks go to our members, whose membership dues and generous extra
donations made it possible for me to make numerous trips Downstate to tell
leaders about the importance of passenger trains to the state's economic

____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _
The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is a member-supported non-profit
educational organization promoting the development of fast, frequent and
dependable train service connecting the entire Midwest. Our members
include business leaders, mayors and individuals that want the option of
traveling by train.