Latent Demand Shows Intercity Passenger Rail Can Be a Critical Resource for Governors State University Students

University Park, Illinois –(ENEWSPF)–April 14, 2016.  More than one of every four have taken Amtrak to/from school, almost six of every 10 who have taken the train say passenger rail service is a very or extremely important resource to attend school, and almost all respondents say they would be more likely to take the train if more frequent service was available, according to a new survey conducted at Governors State University by the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission.

Governors State University is one of 10 four-year colleges & universities in Illinois, and 30 across nine Midwestern states, to participate in this survey which aims to assess the importance of intercity passenger rail service among college and university students, faculty and staff whose schools are located along current Amtrak routes and help determine what schools, states and the region can do to boost passenger rail service.

“These results are very encouraging; not only is there a solid ridership base today, but the survey shows enormous passenger growth potential could result from well-targeted marketing and education campaigns. That’s as good a ‘return on investment’ as we could hope to find,” says Missouri state Sen. David Pearce, chair of the MIPRC University Partnerships Committee, “We encourage states, schools and Amtrak to work over the summer break so they can begin tapping this market when fall terms begin.”

Among key results from GSU respondents:

  1. The vast majority of respondents (84 percent) said they consider passenger rail service important (29 percent) or very important (55 percent) to the United States’ transportation future.
  2. A majority of respondents (57 percent) say they would be more likely to take the train if more frequent service was available; 29 percent would be “much more likely,” and 28 percent would be “somewhat more likely.”
    [Governors State University is currently served by three daily roundtrip Amtrak trains with station stops at Homewood: the long-distance City of New Orleans route with daily roundtrip service between Chicago and New Orleans; and an additional two daily roundtrips between Chicago and Carbondale via the Illini and Saluki services, both of which are financed primarily by the state of Illinois.]
  3. Over 25 percent of respondents reported that they have taken the train at least once to get to/from Governors State. Of them, most had taken the train several times during the past 12 months: 29 percent say they’ve ridden 3-4 times, 48 percent have ridden once or twice; 6 percent have ridden 5-9 times; 17 percent have ridden at least 10 times.
  4. For those who have taken the train to/from GSU, most indicate that Amtrak service is an important resource for them to be able to attend the school. Asked how important Amtrak service is to their ability to attend Governors State University, 64 percent of these respondents said either “Very Important” or “Extremely Important.” Another 22 percent say it’s “Somewhat Important.”
  5. Among those who had never taken the train to/from GSU, a sizable number indicated particular changes that might motivate them to take the train in the future. For example, almost half (49 percent) indicated “If there was a station close to my permanent residence”, while 37 percent indicated “Transportation provided by my college/university to get to the closest Amtrak station” and 31 percent indicated “More/Better Discounts” might motivate them to use Amtrak to travel to/from the school in the future.
  6. Most respondents, however, are only “somewhat aware” (45 percent) or “not at all aware” (35 percent) of state and federal governments’ roles in funding passenger rail, including whether to increase service frequency or add new routes.

Governors State University’s online survey was conducted between November 23 and December 23, 2015. It drew a total of 314 responses (not every respondent replied to every question).

Of respondents who identified themselves, 69 percent are students, 19 percent are staff, and 12 percent are faculty.

Of student respondents, 72 percent say they are full time.

Additionally, respondents across all 30 participating schools who said they had taken intercity passenger rail recently were invited to take a second survey about their most recent trip. A total of 1,597 did so. Highlights among their answers include:

  1. 55 percent say it is “very easy” or “extremely easy” to get between school and an Amtrak station, and 47 percent say their ticket was either “very” or “extremely” affordable. Furthermore, 71 percent say they enjoyed their experience or enjoyed it a lot.
  2. But schedules are a concern; just 34 percent say they had “very convenient” or “extremely convenient” departure/arrival times. Moreover, 49 percent say their train arrived at destination later than scheduled (45 percent say their train arrived on time).
  3. WiFi service is a critical service amenity: 70 percent say onboard WiFi availability is “very” or “extremely” important, and 60 percent have used it during their rides.
  4. 74 percent say they have never used a discount code or card when purchasing tickets, despite Amtrak’s “Student Advantage Card” being among available discount programs.

The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC) is a nine-state interstate compact that promotes, coordinates and supports regional improvements to passenger rail service.