With $3 million hanging in the balance, the Indiana Department of Transportation has a big decision to make regarding Lafayette’s future involving mass transit to Chicago and Indianapolis. A decision that for the sake of a failing company, should be no.
In 2008, Congress made a decision to let the states take over the responsibility of whether to continue train routes that are less than 750 miles long. One of these routes is the Hoosier State line that runs from Indianapolis, through downtown Lafayette and up to Chicago.
Congress’ decision set a deadline of Oct. 1 for the state to take control of Amtrak and make its decision about a form of transportation that INDOT says uses $80 of government money for every $22 paid by each rider to cover costs.
If INDOT’s decision is in fact no, the Hoosier State line will be taken out, which services riders four days a week, and the Cardinal line will be the only train left going through Lafayette which fills in the other days the Hoosier State doesn’t service. This will take away the station’s now daily service.
Marc Magliari, a spokesperson for Amtrak, made it clear when he said, “The question is do you want the service?”
But the even bigger question is “Do we want to pay for the service?”
According to Will Wingfield, a spokesperson for INDOT, the organization collected data about ridership and is now sorting through the information to make its final decision of whether or not spending the money is worth it.
“We really weren’t in favor of the notion of transferring that responsibility to the states, but ultimately that was Congress’ decision and we are trying to make fact-based decisions,” Wingfield said.
The main problem isn’t the $3 million, but that the line will still not be self-sufficient with this “bailout.” Government money will still have to be used per every rider to cover the cost of the line, and this line, specifically, isn’t up-to-date with modern train amenities, which would cost even more money if the Hoosier State line wants to keep up.
Amtrak Lafayette has no Wi-Fi, no food on the train, no baggage storage or lockers and only makes one trip to and from Chicago once a day.
If INDOT does pay the $3 million, the money would not help cover any of these extra costs to try to attract more riders and it would not go to help make the organization self-sufficient without government help.
Basically it is a dying rail that needs to die in order to let other forms of mass transit take its place.
Yes, members of the community and Purdue will probably miss the daily service, but they also miss the money that comes out of their pockets every year for taxes.
Even current riders know that the service has inconvenient hours and amenities as is. Between taking a cab, a shuttle, a bus or the train, the train is the slowest form of transportation from Purdue to Chicago. If the $3 million will only keep the current format, then what is everyone who is in support of keeping the line holding onto?
One community member and Purdue Alumnus that mentioned some of the inconveniences was, Aaron Kleber, who has rode the Hoosier State line three times in the past year as a way to get to Chicago for pleasure. He is in support of keeping the daily service, even though added amenities is something that he is interested in.
“There are some changes that they could make to make it better, but I am still happy with the way it is because it is a valuable asset to our community,” Kleber said.
Unfortunately, some community assets have to go under in order to make way for others. In this case, the Hoosier State line is one of them.
Wingfield said since INDOT has received the data about ridership and costs of continuing the service, the decision will come soon.
For the sake of Amtrak, the community and the state’s budget, hopefully INDOT will allow just this one train to run off its tracks.
Taylor Carlier is a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and can be reached at email@example.com.