"$1.5 million annually needed to keep Valpo-Chicago Amtrak"
A study shows the Amtrak rail line from Valparaiso to Chicago has a good
potential ridership market, but will cost at least $1.5 million a year to keep
it running. A feasibility study was funded by the DOT and Northern Indiana
Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) to determine the feasibility of
keeping the Calumet running after its extended May 6 closing date.
Amtrak has said it will keep the line running for $2.5 million per year,
the amount the company believes wouldn't be covered by an estimated $300,000
in annual ticket sales. NICTD consultant L.E. Peabody of Alexandria, VA,
estimates that NICTD could do it for only $1.5 million, the cost of renting
a diesel locomotive and three cars to maintain the current one-run-a-day
When the study was proposed in July, state and local officials believed it
would be more economically sound to have the Calumet and South Shore merge
at Gary, so it could use tracks NICTD is looking at purchasing, thus saving
track rental fees (N.B for non-Chicago area residents: NICTD already operates
the South Shore electric passenger service.) However, as ridership is studied
a potential market has been found for a train running through Porter and Lake
Counties in Indiana and arriving at Union Station in Chicago, instead of
at the South Shore's Randolph Street station.
The current ridership study shows that there are 178 people who still ride
the Calumet. Constant rumors of Amtrak shutting down the line have curtailed
ridership, which was at 260 in 1987. The ridership survey showed that less
than half (40 percent) might consider riding a shuttle bus from Valparaiso
to the Dune Park station on the South Shore.
[I excerpted and edited portions of the original article - Mark]