A Tale of Two Trains.
There’s some interesting news about passenger service between Chicago and Indianapolis. But first a bit of background.
Those two cities are actually connected by two trains. The first is the Cardinal, an Amtrak train that operates three days a week in each direction between Chicago and New York,and passes through the Indiana capital.
The Cardinal is 100% Amtrak—locomotives, coaches, Viewliner sleepers, all run by Amtrak employees. Food and drinks served on the Cardinal come from a café/lounge car offering microwaved meals and an assortment of snacks.
On the other four days, the five-hour trip is made by the Hoosier State, which terminates in Indianapolis. But there are other significant differences.
The Hoosier State’s locomotives and coaches are owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings and sport their own distinctive livery (photo above). The operating crew—the engineers and conductors—are Amtrak people, but the on-board service is provided by employees of IPH.
There is a dining car with food prepared on board and served on linen tablecloths and real china. Business Class passengers can take their meals in the dome of the observation car.
OK, so here’s the interesting news: Almost 2,500 people rode the Hoosier State last month, and that was up 46% compared to September of last year. It was also the fifth consecutive month when this year’s ridership exceeded the numbers from 2015. And there’s more: according to the Indiana DOT, revenue from tickets sold in September totaled more than $82,000 and that was a 64% increase from September of last year.
For examples of one-way Chicago-to-Indianapolis adult fares, I picked two mid-week days next month for a snapshot comparison: One-way Business Class, CHI – IND, on the Cardinal is $64; one-way Business Class on the Hoosier State is $70.
I shall now risk stating the obvious: People will respond to a quality experience and they will pay more for it. Likewise, nickel-and-diming passengers by cutting costs is counter-productive.
Everyone seems to feel that Wick Moorman, Amtrak’s new president and CEO, understands that. Let us hope so.