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Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Amtrak to take over Hoosier State starting on March 1
UPDATE (Feb. 28, 2017)
: Starting March 1, the
service between Indianapolis and Chicago is transitioning to “all-Amtrak” equipment and service. To help with the transition, Amtrak, the Indiana Department of Transportation and its community partners are offering travelers some special deals for the month of March.
According to an Amtrak/INDOT press release on Feb. 27, Horizon-series coach cars seat 68 passengers and include accommodations for passengers with disabilities. A café car with an attendant will have table seating on one end of the car and private seating at the opposite end for 14 Business class passengers. Food and beverages – including alcoholic drinks – will be available for purchase in the café and can be enjoyed at the tables or at each passenger’s seat.
All the railcars have power outlets, reading lights and tray tables at each seat, with free cellular-based AmtrakConnect® Wi-Fi that combines mobile data from multiple carriers along the tracks. Overhead space is provided for baggage and each of the railcars also has a rack to stow larger luggage at one end.
There is no extra cost to sit in the dome car, which features an upper level with windows on all sides to provide passengers with panoramic views of spring in Indianapolis and Chicago; they’re unreserved and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Passengers are encouraged to rotate in and out of the dome to allow all to enjoy this unique experience.
One-way adult ticket prices for coach service to and from Chicago range from $25 to $48 from Indianapolis, $25 to $47 from Crawfordsville, $23 to $45 from Lafayette, $17 to $30 from Rensselaer and $12 to $22 from Dyer. Children 2-12 years old are half-fare and discounts are also available for students, seniors, military and others.
Business class is in a curtained area with abundant space arranged with two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other side, with leather seating surfaces, foot-rests and leg-rests. Included is a 25-percent points bonus for Amtrak Guest Rewards members, as well as complimentary coffee, tea and use of the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago, which offers priority boarding. The additional charge each way for business class is $21 from Indianapolis and Crawfordsville, $20 from Lafayette and $14 from Rensselaer and Dyer.
To mark the transition from equipment and service provided by Iowa Pacific Holdings (see previous story, below), Amtrak and INDOT are offering a “buy-one, get-one” fare for the month of March: two adult passengers can ride for the price of one. See the
on Amtrak.com for applicable requirements for fare code V216, for purchase starting Feb. 28.
While Amtrak passengers in business class always have access to the Metropolitan Lounge at Chicago Union Station, coach customers normally pay for an upgrade for the Legacy Club, a separate waiting area at the station that has complementary snacks and beverages, charging stations and boarding ahead of other coach passengers. For the month of March, Amtrak Hoosier State coach customers will enjoy complementary Legacy Club access, a $20 value.
# # #
(Original story, Feb. 14, 2017)
: The state-supported
, which operates four days per week between Indianapolis and Chicago, will no longer use railcars, locomotives and on-board services supplied by Iowa Pacific Holdings after Feb, 28, Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) officials announced January 30.
Amtrak will provide the equipment and service beginning Wednesday, March 1. According to INDOT, no action is required from ticketed passengers as Amtrak will continue to provide ticketing and reservations.
INDOT officials noted that business-class service and WiFi will continue to be available. The business class fare will be adjusted and communicated to booked passengers after contracts with Amtrak are amended and levels of on-board services are finalized.
operates between Indianapolis and Chicago with intermediate stops in Crawfordsville, Dyer, Lafayette and Rensselaer. Train 851 runs north on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and Train 850 runs south on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. The other days each week these communities are served by Amtrak's
train, which operates between New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
notified Indiana in late December that it could not finish the contract through June 30, 2017, without additional funding, INDOT officials said. According to multiple news stories, the company also cited quirks in the contract language that it says led to decreased compensation as on-time performance improved.
Indiana became responsible for the
service in October 2013, due to Section 209 of the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which made states responsible for paying for all passenger rail routes under 750 miles.
In 2014, the state issued an RFP for third party contractors. And starting in August 2015, the train came under a new, dual-operating arrangement: Iowa Pacific Holdings provided equipment, maintenance, marketing and on-board amenities while Amtrak operated the train with its own crews, worked with host railroads, and handled ticketing and reservations.
In the first year of that arrangement, ridership was down overall, but revenues were up. And month-to-month comparisons showed ridership began rebounding in May 2016; moreover, since that time, ridership has increased each month through Dec. 2016 (the latest month data is currently available) compared to ridership in the same months the previous year.
In late December, after Iowa Pacific said they can no longer continue under the current terms of their contract, and after discussion with them and communities along the line, IPH and INDOT mutually agreed to end the contract on February 28, said Katie England, INDOT’s director of multimodal planning and programs.
INDOT officials acknowledged the specter of uncertainty about the train’s future had adversely affected ridership and revenue before Iowa Pacific took over the train in 2015. Spokesman Will Wingfield said those numbers are now back to where they were then, “which makes this transition so important.”
“We’re seeing ridership increases on Amtrak trains across the Midwest, we expect to be part of that,” Wingfield said.
Amtrak will continue to provide train crews and coordinate with private railroads that own the track, in addition to providing train equipment and on-board services. Indiana and 17 other states contract with Amtrak to provide short-distance, intercity passenger rail services.
Looking ahead, INDOT requested $3 million in general revenue funds for the train, which was part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s biennial budget as submitted to the General Assembly on January 10 ($15.6 billion in Fiscal Year 2018 and $16.1 billion in FY 2019). Given the state’s past fiscal support, and political support from communities along the route, “I think the support is there,” Wingfield said.
Wingfield also said that it is significant that the governor’s budget proposal includes a rail project:
double-tracking the South Shore Line from Gary to Michigan City
– a long-sought improvement to that commuter rail connection to Chicago.
are also important for the flow of railcars and locomotives between Chicago and Amtrak’s heavy maintenance facility in Beech Grove. More than 500 highly-skilled Amtrak employees rebuild and overhaul railcars and locomotives at the workshops southeast of Indianapolis for use across the nation.
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