Indiana and California Among States Yet to Decide to Subsidize Amtrak Lines

Ron Nixon provides an update on the implementation of the Passenger Rail Investment & Improvement Act of 2008 that requires states to subsidize shorter Amtrak routes in order to reduce Amtrak's federal subsidy. 28 routes in 19 states are at stake.
May 6, 2013, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Described here previously in January (Amtrak Gives Ultimatum to States), Nixon continues following Amtrak's effort to comply with PRIIA. "Most of the states have already agreed to pick up the costs", he writes, which is expected to increase its revenue "by about $85 million a year".

Among those who have yet to decide:

  • Indiana is "studying whether to kick in $4 million to $5 million a year to continue the Hoosier State train between Indianapolis and Chicago.
  • California is "weighing whether to pay an additional $20 million to $25 million a year to keep service between San Diego and San Luis Obispo."

Michael Puente of WBEZ Radio, Chicago, reported on April 24 on the fate of the Hoosier State train, now in the hands of the Indiana legislature. His report is also available via audio.

The Hoosier State line runs four days a week between (Indianapolis and Chicago), carrying on average about 120 passengers per trip on trains that can accommodate up to 270 people, depending on demand.  By October, the Hoosier State line could make its last run if $3 million in funding doesn’t come through from Indiana lawmakers.

Tim Maloney, senior policy director the Indianapolis-based Hoosier Environmental Council, sees more demand for trains service "even though Amtrak can take up to five hours compared to approximately three hours in a car from downtown Chicago."

We’re very interested in seeing more (Indiana) investment and involvement with transportation alternatives to motor vehicles on highways because of the environmental and energy-savings benefits that those alternatives provide,” said Maloney

Should the line be eliminated, Amtrak's Cardinal train service will continue to operate three days a week between the two cities.

In addition to pressure being placed on states to subsidize the shorter Amtrak routes in their states, PRIIA itself must be renewed - part of a comprehensive, $40 rail package that funds the Federal Railroad Administration for five years. President Obama has not identified new sources of revenue to fund the programs in it, described here on May 01.

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, May 2, 2013 in The New York Times - U.S.
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