WHERE THE PUDDLE-JUMPERS CANNOT LAND. There are economies of scale in running a corridor service.

Double-digit ridership gains on state-supported passenger trains held steady in the first three months that Amtrak ran additional service on a trio of downstate rail corridors, statistics from the Illinois Department of Transportation show.

Trains on the Chicago-to-St. Louis line tallied the biggest increases. The newly named "Lincoln Service" carried monthly passenger loads ranging from 22,460 in November, 23,088 in December and 18,730 in January. Those figures represented increases of 91 percent, 93 percent and 103 percent, respectively, compared with ridership levels during the same months a year before.

That's despite the service being subject to the tender mercies of Union Pacific dispatching.

Ridership on the Carbondale line increased an average of 68 percent from November through January, compared to the same period a year before, according to the IDOT numbers. The "Illini" and "Saluki" trains carried 19,406 riders in November, 20,314 riders in December and 15,996 in January.

The ridership increase on the Quincy route averaged about 40 percent during the last three months, compared with the same period the previous year. The "Illinois Zephyr" and "Carl Sandburg" trains carried 14,103 riders in November, 14,650 riders in December and 11,126 riders last month.

These are encouraging numbers. I'm going to repeat my call for better connectivity.

What matters is that policy makers are also encouraged by the numbers.

Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat who pushed for the rail expansion, said continuing state support is warranted, based on the ridership numbers IDOT has reported. In fact, he said, the results justify additional rail expansion.

[Rick] Harnish said [the Midwest High Speed Rail Association] will urge lawmakers to support rail connections to large Illinois cities such as Rockford and Peoria. He said the advocacy group has proposed a roughly $1.25 billion capital plan to broaden the rail network and upgrade tracks and equipment over five years.

(Via Passenger Rail.)

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