Amtrak stays on track despite decreasing number of travelers, funding

As many people head home for the holidays, some Amtrak customers in southern Illinois were concerned whether they would be able to catch the train back home.

Illinois State Rep. Brandon Phelps said the decline in Amtrak riders coupled with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed cuts in state funding for Amtrak could force the company to go from two trains a day from Chicago to Carbondale to one.

Students at Southern Illinois University like Kate Collins say they depend on the train to get home.

"It’s pretty convenient, because I usually take the bus here and then hop on the train. Then, my mom picks me up like 20 minutes from my house," said Collins.

While the Saluki Line is notoriously late, Danielle Kapanowski says she kicks back and enjoys the ride.

"It’s nice," said Kapanowski. "The people are friendly, and the conductors are extremely nice and helpful."

On average, about 330 people per day ride the Saluki Line to Carbondale, but a conductor tells Local 6 that gas prices have gone down, as have the number of riders.

However, that hasn’t detoured dedicated travelers from taking the train.

"That’s the reason I chose this school is that other schools don’t have direct transportation to my house, and I would have to find friends to drive to Chicago," said Collins.

"I don’t have a car, so it’s the cheapest way," said Kapanowski.

According to an Amtrak spokesman, it’s that loyalty that maintains their plans to keep two trains on the tracks.

We reached out to Rauner’s office to see if he had changed his stance on proposed Amtrak funding cuts, or if he was concerned by the decrease in riders, but the office politely declined comment on this story.

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