Amtrak rolls out localized Web sites

By Gus Bode

A new marketing campaign for Amtrak Illinois could mean more business for the trains and the cities they stop in.

During a press conference at the Amtrak station in Carbondale Monday, officials for Midwest High Speed Rail Association and Amtrak Illinois announced the new “Catch an Illinois Train” campaign.

Comprised of websites, posters and flyers, the campaign would offer passengers contact information for cities their train in scheduled to stop at. As a result, officials hope ridership and tourism continue to increase on the Chicago-Carbondale route.


“It will certainly help increase tourism to Carbondale,” said Rick Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

Each city a train stops at has its own Web page. The site would contain phone numbers for businesses, such as restaurants and taxis, and city services such as police, ambulance and local government. Webmasters at MHSRA would also be updating a community calendar listing events in the area.

Matt Hardigree, a representative for MHRSA, has been hosting press conferences at several Illinois train depots announcing the launch of the “Catch an Illinois Train” website, which he said is becoming more and more popular.

Several City of Carbondale officials, including Mayor Brad Cole, City Manager Jeff Doherty, Chamber of Commerce Director Meredith Rhoads, Councilwoman Mary Pohlmann and Murphysboro Mayor Ron Williams were in attendance.

The State of Illinois doubled its financial support for Amtrak in Oct. 2006, which allowed train frequency on existing routes to increase. Over the last year, Amtrak Illinois transported 3,000,000 passengers. Of those, more than 70,000 were passengers on the train to and from Carbondale. An Amtrak ticket agent in Carbondale said about 90 percent of those passengers were students or otherwise related to SIUC.

“It (Amtrak) is vital to Carbondale and southern Illinois – especially to Southern Illinois University,” Doherty said.

Kesha Doran of Matteson, Ill. was one of the passengers awaiting Monday’s 4:05 p.m. train to Chicago. Doran uses Amtrak twice a month to commute between her home and Carbondale. Doran said she was pleased with Amtrak Illinois besides the high-ticket prices.


“This trip alone cost me $62,” Doran said.

Since 2004, MHSRA has been trying to further develop the possibility of laying high-speed rails on the route from Chicago to Carbondale. They also are looking into high-speed rails for other train routes throughout Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin. The upgrade would increase train speeds from 79 mph to 90 mph, which may decrease travel time from Carbondale to Chicago by half an hour.

Daily Egyptian writer Barton Lorimor can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 274 or [email protected]