Ridership on Midwestern corridors continues uptrend, rising 54 percent in past five years
Passenger rail ridership on state-supported and other shorter-distance corridors (less than 750 miles) in the Midwest continues to grow. The number of riders on these nine routes increased by 5.4 percent in fiscal year 2011, reaching nearly 3 million for the period between Oct. 1, 2010, and Sept. 30 of this year.
Over the past five years, corridor ridership in the Midwest has risen by 54 percent.
Michigan’s Blue Water service (Chicago to Port Huron) had the largest ridership increase, 18.6 percent; Illinois’ Illini/Saluki service (Chicago to Carbondale) followed closely behind, with an increase of 18.2 percent.
The only decline in ridership occurred on the route between Chicago and St. Louis. This was because construction on upgrades to the line, which began this summer, resulted in approximately 45 days without train service.
These upgrades — funded by the federal High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program and the state of Illinois — will allow for train speeds of up to 110 mph and are expected to bolster Chicago-to-St. Louis train ridership in the years ahead.
Additional improvements funded through the HSIPR program are on the way, with the goal of bringing faster, more frequent service on several routes across the Midwest:
• Construction crews have begun work on the Englewood Flyover project, which will eliminate one of Chicago’s most congested rail intersections.
• Improvements to track and signal systems on the Chicago-to-Detroit corridor will begin soon.
• New rail cars and locomotives will be added to eight corridors in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri.
To date, more than $605 million in HSIPR funding has been awarded to seven Midwestern states for more than two dozen projects, including track, signal and bridge improvements; station development; and planning for new and improved service.
Brief written by Laura Kliewer, director of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission, which was formed by an interstate compact agreement in 2000 and now includes 11 member states. Illinois Rep. Elaine Nekritz serves as the commission's chair.