Former DOT Secretary Ray LaHood comments on Amtrak’s problems with late arrivals

9 out 10 trains from Carbondale to Chicago are late

Former DOT Secretary Ray LaHood in Carbondale to discuss polarizing politics

CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - Former U.S. Department of Transportation secretary and Illinois congressman visited Southern Illinois University Carbondale on Monday, Oct. 21 to discuss the challenge of bipartisanship in a deeply divided Washington, D.C.

However, he also commented on Amtrak’s problems with late arrivals in Illinois. “One thing for Amtrak that’s very very important is frankly ridership. Places like SIU and Western Illinois University and Eastern Illinois University need to be able to prove to Amtrak that they’ll provide the students that they’ll be riding the train,” LaHood said.

According to a report by the Office of Inspector General, six percent of “Illini” trains going to Chicago were on time, arriving within 15 minutes of the scheduled time, which means more than 9 out of 10 trains were late. 17 percent of trains on the Saluki route coming to Carbondale arrived on time.

According to AP last week, Amtrak’s Illini and Saluki trains that run between Chicago and Carbondale are among the worst-performing in the nation.

The Illini and Saluki trains operate in Illinois, connecting 246,000 riders each year between downtown Chicago, Champaign-Urbana, and Carbondale⎯homes to major universities in the state, according to the report.

“From my experience, it’s never been on time, never," said SIU Freshman Savon Cameron. His family lives in Chicago and he’s traveled home at least six times this year.

However, freshman Olivia Leach said she does not have a problem when she travels. “I think it’s good, yeah, I think it’s fine,” she said. Her family also lives Chicago, and she only rode the train once since being a student at the university.

Lauren Pugh is a sophomore and her family lives one hour north of Chicago in McHenry. “I took the train for Easter, and there was a semi truck that had hit the bridge the train was supposed to go over and we were I think two to three hours late for our destination,” she said.

The consistent problem is directly correlated to financial losses. In the year-long study, the OIG says 27 percent of all Amtrak trains arrived late, contributing to a loss of $171 million dollars during that time.

Last month, Amtrak began renovations at the Carbondale station. Upgrades include improvements to the plaza and the ramps.

LaHood has worked on a variety of infrastructure projects and transportation safety issues, ranging from aviation and automobiles to pipelines and railroads.

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