Major League City; Minor League Rail Service.
In October of this year, the annual Fall meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana. I’m already thinking about how I’m going to get there and where I might like to stop off on the way back.
Indianapolis is a big city. Maybe not compared to New York or Los Angeles, but with a population of almost 900,000 people, it’s certainly respectable in size. This may not be the best time to mention it, but they do have a pretty good NFL team and a Podunk town doesn’t get one of those!
Anyway, I’ve been putting together a tentative itinerary to get me to Indianapolis for the meetings and back home again. As it’s both my habit and my preference, I’ll fly from Maui to the West Coast and take Amtrak from there.
The obvious routing is to go by way of Chicago and it’s only 200 miles from there to Indianapolis. A piece or cake? Getting to Chicago, yes. But the last leg, Chicago to Indianapolis, is less than ideal.
There’s one train a day … and it gets to Indianapolis at midnight. Going back to Chicago? One train a day … and it leaves at 6:00 in the morning. Are we surprised that ridership is sagging?
I’ve mentioned the old railroad axiom here before: “Double the frequency, triple the ridership.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? If the trains are more convenient, more people will ride. What a concept!
Let’s consider an almost perfect parallel situation: When Amtrak was running three trains a day between Chicago and St. Louis, the annual number of passengers was about 260,000. When frequency was increased to five trains a day, ridership increased to 478,000—an 84% increase the very first year. Today, those five trains are carrying well over 700,000 passengers annually. How about that! The old rule-of-thumb is almost exactly right!
But as we speak, the governor of Indiana and that state’s General Assembly are trying to decide if they should come up with $3 million to keep that once-a-day train running once a day … the train that connects the capital city of their state with Chicago and with Washington, DC, and New York City.
Who elected these people, anyway??