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New Manager of Hoosier State Train Outlines Plans for Boosting Ridership

The private company which will manage the Indy-to-Chicago Amtrak line starting in February is spelling out plans for schedule and service improvements to increase ridership.

The Hoosier State line runs four days a week, on days when Amtrak's Cardinal train doesn't. Corridor Capital spokesman Fritz Plous says the company and INDOT agree the train needs to unschackle itself from Amtrak's schedule, and operate daily. Once that's accomplished, Plous says the next goal is to increase service to two or three trains a day instead of just one, and to schedule departures at times that will allow travelers to conduct a full day of business once they arrive. Plous says Indiana rail service, even in the pre-Amtrak years, has been a scheduling afterthought, with departures in the overnight hours or mid-afternoon.

INDOT selected Corridor Capital from among four bidders to manage and develop the Hoosier State after Amtrak announced it would no longer financially support the line. Amtrak will continue to operate the train.

Corridor Capital will add some amenities immediately, including wi-fi, bike storage, and video screens keeping passengers updated on how much longer they'll be traveling.

The Hoosier State stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer on its way to Chicago. Plous says the company plans to add shuttle buses to connect those stops to outlying cities including Bloomington, Fishers and Kokomo.

Plous says there's a growing pool of prospective riders who would prefer the train if they're persuaded the service is adequate. Arvid Olson with Greater Lafayette Commerce says the number of 18-year-olds who own a car has dropped by a third over the last three decades, and says young adults who don't drive will soon outnumber those who do. Plous suggests the advent of smartphones connecting you to your private life from wherever you are has changed the way people look at public transportation.

Further in the future, Plous says the Hoosier State could be extended south to gain riders from Cincinnati and Louisville. And Olson says it's at least technically feasible to give travelers a direct connection from Indianapolis International Airport to Chicago's O'Hare airport.

But Plous says the Hoosier State will need federal infrastructure grants to upgrade its tracks. He notes the Megabus bus service reaches Chicago in three-and-a-quarter hours, and says the train has to at least come close to that in order to compete.

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