Happening Now

Amtrak, NARP thank Hoosiers for saving and riding their train

December 6, 2013

Written By Malcolm Kenton

To celebrate the successful work of citizen advocates on the grassroots level--with the help of NARP, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association and other organizations—to preserve Amtrak’s Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State by winning state support for its operation, and to thank Hoosier State riders for their patronage, NARP members Doug Yerkeson and Joe Krause, along with volunteers Ed Ufkes and Derek Zollinger, organized a unique mobile thank-you event. They arranged for Amtrak to add a café car to last Sunday’s (Dec. 1) round-trip of the Hoosier State, which doesn’t usually offer food service. An Amtrak attendant gave free coffee, water, soft drinks and snacks to many of the 320 passengers who rode that day. Twelve of them signed up for NARP’s email list.

Amtrak did a great job supporting the event by not only providing the café car (which offered free wi-fi, another amenity not normally provided on the Hoosier State) and bringing in attendant Marty (who currently works the café on the California Zephyr, and once worked the Hiawathas), but they also covered over the Northeast Regional backdrop in front of the service counter with a mural of the Indianapolis skyline (see photo). The volunteers, with the new organization Hoosiers for Passenger Rail, are already talking with Amtrak about offering similar special café cars over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

The “Thank You Indiana” event was emblematic of how well thought out and well executed the campaign to save the Hoosier State has been from the beginning. From organizing media events at the Indianapolis station andrallies at the statehouse to draw attention to the threat to the train, to bringing on board local elected leaders andChambers of Commerce along with student organizations, to collaborating with the employees at Amtrak’s Beech Grove Shops and the unions that represent them, these concerted efforts combined to place enough pressure on Gov. Mike Pence to reverse his earlier course and dedicate the needed $3 million to keep the Hoosier Staterunning through at least the end of 2014.

But NARP and the leaders of Hoosiers for Passenger Rail know the fight is not over yet. We will have to convince Gov. Pence and legislators to appropriate sufficient funds to not only continue service beyond next year, but also to improve it, which will require fixing up the tracks and signals and acquiring additional equipment to provide a faster, more reliable and higher-quality train service that operates at more attractive hours. While events like “Thank You Indiana” may seem like goodwill gestures with little real impact, they are important to sustaining public awareness of and involvement in the cause, and cementing a partnership between the state of Indiana, local communities, passengers and Amtrak.

We look forward to continuing to work with Hoosiers for Passenger Rail to make the Chicago-Indianapolis corridor into a service that citizens can be proud of, that will draw even more riders, and bring more business to the downtowns along the route.

Photo by Doug Yerkeson