Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quincy trains on a roll

Sandburg ridership soars
New Amtrak train from Chicago to Quincy credited with increase

Wednesday, December 27, 2006
The Register-Mail
GALESBURG - Amtrak officials are happy with ridership totals for the first month of The Carl Sandburg, the new Amtrak morning service from Chicago to Galesburg, Quincy and points in between.
Service began Oct. 30 on the state-subsidized route. The state also helps pay for Illinois Zephyr Service, which leaves Quincy in the morning and goes to Chicago. Illinois increased its Amtrak funding from $12.1 million to $24 million in the fiscal year 2007 budget in order to pay for the direct costs, including fuel and salaries. Those costs are about 75 percent of the full cost of the service, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in October.
New service between Chicago and Springfield and Chicago and Carbondale also was added.
Magliari said November ridership this year compared to November 2005 was 14,103, an increase of 3,634 from 10,469. That was for both the Illinois Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg. Including all service between Chicago and Galesburg, including the Southwest Chief, the California Zephyr and the state-subsidized trains, ridership was up this year from 12,885 to 16,597, an increase of 3,712.
"We're off to a great start," Magliari said, "and the response, especially in the Galesburg to Quincy corridor, has been very strong."
He cautioned, however, this is based upon the results of one month. December ridership figures will be available in about 2 1/2 weeks.
The new train is the first to give Chicago morning service to west-central Illinois. The Carl Sandburg leaves Chicago at 8 a.m., is scheduled to arrive in Galesburg at 10:39 a.m. and in Quincy at 12:15 p.m. Then train leaves the Gem City at 5:30 p.m., arrives in Galesburg at 6:56 p.m. and in Chicago at 9:48 p.m.
"I would say we're up more than 3,000 on the Chicago to Galesburg run," Magliari said. "Most of that on the new state-subsidized route."
He said there are few available seats for Galesburg riders on the long-distance trains.
"The new morning departure from Chicago and the new afternoon train from Quincy gives people a lot more flexibility," he said.
Other Amtrak service from Chicago to Galesburg requires Chicagoans to stay overnight, if this is their destination and they plan to ride Amtrak home.
"I want to see how we do with Railroad Days in the summer," Magliari said.
Galesburg's two-day railroad festival, held the fourth weekend in June, has attracted enough interest to schedule excursion trains here from Chicago in previous years. Now, it will be possible for Chicago railfans to board the train at Union Station in the morning, spend the day here, have time to eat dinner, then catch the train and be back in the city before 10 p.m.
Magliari said an earlier concern about the freight lines getting used to the new service still is being addressed.
"We've seen an improvement in the on-time performance," he said. "There's still some capacity issues we're going to have to work through."
The first day of the Carl Sandburg saw it run into a number of delays as the passenger train was forced to wait on sidings to accommodate freight trains. Magliari said there is double track from Chicago to Galesburg but only a single track from Galesburg to Quincy, causing the capacity problem.
"We're working with IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) and the BNSF Railway to work with these capacity issues," Magliari said. "We expected them going in."


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