WBEZ | Amtrak http://www.wbez.org/tags/amtrak Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Passing through: Chicago's Union Station as Amish transit hub http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/passing-through-chicagos-union-station-amish-transit-hub-110453 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/157991456&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: In producing this story, producer Katie Klocksin quotes several people of Amish background. In a deviation from most journalistic practice, Klocksin and editor Shawn Allee chose not to publish the sources&rsquo; names out of respect for the Amish culture&#39;s longstanding premium on humility, as well as possible social consequences for participants. The decision was made in consideration of comments on the issue made by Dr. Steven Nolt, Professor of History at Goshen College and author of numerous books on the Amish.</em></p><p>Paul Vaccarello of LaGrange, Illinois, sees Amish people when he passes through downtown Chicago&rsquo;s Union Station &mdash; the nexus of several Amtrak and Metra commuter rail lines.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve just always been curious about where they&rsquo;re going, why they&rsquo;re here, if they&rsquo;re actually coming to Chicago or if this is a stop on their way to somewhere else,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>This led him to ask Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Is Chicago a large transportation hub for Amish travelers?</em></p><p>Reporting an answer provided Paul an opportunity to hear from people that Chicagoans and suburbanites don&rsquo;t ordinarily cross paths with. Members of the religious group seek to maintain a close-knit rural lifestyle and, though there are Amish settlements sprinkled throughout the Midwest, the nearest one lies 90 miles from downtown Chicago. As we approached an answer &mdash; by checking in with experts and Amish travelers themselves &mdash; we couldn&rsquo;t help but feel we were meeting our regional neighbors for the first time.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">A separate pattern of life</span></p><p>Dr. Steven Nolt, Professor of History at Goshen College and author of numerous books on the Amish, reminded us that adherents belong to a Protestant religious community that is &ldquo;sometimes referred to as &lsquo;the old order Amish,&rsquo; which means they have tried to maintain what they consider the old patterns of life.&rdquo; Typically, they limit their use of modern technology and their communities tend to be in rural areas. These &ldquo;old patterns of life,&rdquo; Nolt said, &ldquo;would be things that encourage community and cooperation and collaboration.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt noted, though, that there are few technologies that the Amish consider wholly bad. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s their attempt to try to control technology or engage technology on their own terms,&rdquo; he said. &nbsp;</p><p>Relevant to Paul&rsquo;s question, Amish people generally don&rsquo;t own or drive cars, although some will hire a vehicle and driver for transportation. It&rsquo;s common for the Amish to travel on trains or buses. &ldquo;The problem isn&rsquo;t the <em>thing</em>,&rdquo; Nolt said. &ldquo;The problem is when we own and control something, then, that heightens our sense of individual autonomy.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt described an aspect of Amish life that posed a problem for reporting this story: &ldquo;Amish people, when speaking to members of the media, almost always decline to be identified by name or photographed in ways that would highlight them as an individual. Their concern there is one of humility, of not appearing to present oneself as a spokesperson for the whole group, not wanting to call attention to themselves.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Traveling by train<a name="map"></a></span></p><p>Paul and I made several trips to Union Station and found Amish people each time. Most were happy to talk with us, provided my large microphone was turned off. Most people, as predicted, declined to give their names. Everyone we talked to confirmed our theory: Chicago <em>is</em> a hub for transportation among the Amish. The people we interviewed at Union Station were all waiting to switch trains. One woman put it succinctly: &ldquo;A lot of Amish travel from one state to the other on Amtrak. &hellip;Every train comes into Chicago and leaves Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Our map can clarify this: There, you can see how Amtrak lines cross near or through midwestern Amish communities. Nolt added, too, that more than 60 percent of the Amish live in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania: states with Amtrak lines. So Paul was onto something: Amish people, by avoiding cars, travel by train throughout the Midwest and the country. Many Amtrak trains converge in Chicago, thus Amish regularly wait for trains and transfers at Union Station.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/amish/index.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em><strong>Map: U.S. counties with extant Amish settlements as of 2010, overlaid with unofficial map of Amtrak rail system lines.</strong> Amish population data: <a href="http://www.rcms2010.org/index.php" target="_blank">Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies</a>.&nbsp;Rough Amtrak line map: <a href="https://www.blogger.com/profile/17241478144408980328" target="_blank">Rakshith Krishnappa</a>.</em></span></p><p>Nolt points out that Amish people aren&rsquo;t likely to use the word &ldquo;vacation.&rdquo; Instead, he says, they talk about trips. &ldquo;I think on one level it&rsquo;s because &lsquo;vacation&rsquo; suggests leisure type activity that doesn&rsquo;t fit with their rural way of life,&rdquo; he said, adding, &ldquo;Their worlds are not as neatly divided as many of the rest of ours are between work and leisure, home and work. There&rsquo;s much more fluidity and overlap between the domains of their life.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt says it is common for a long-distance trip to be centered around business travel. There are all-Amish trade shows, for example, which are similar to standard trade shows except they are hosted by a local community and attendees stay with local families. &quot;Most people bring their whole family and it kind of turns into a reunion of visiting,&quot; he said.</p><p>For the most part, though, Paul and I met people traveling to visit family members in other states. We met a large family returning home to Kansas from a wedding in Indiana. An Amish woman from Ohio was traveling with several of her grandchildren to visit her cousin and see the Grand Canyon.</p><p>A few Amish people we met were seeking medical care, including a man from Kentucky. &ldquo;We were in Mexico for medical purposes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t like to see it, but medical expenses in the States anymore are so phenomenal that an ordinary person cannot afford it.&rdquo; He was returning from Tijuana after a successful operation.</p><p>Another medical traveler, an Amish man with a salt-and-pepper beard and a constant grin, cracked jokes with us for a while. After we parted ways with him, though, we ran into him throughout our stay at Union Station. It&rsquo;s not an exaggeration to say he seemed to know every Amish person there that day, which perhaps reveals a benefit of Union Station&rsquo;s being a hub: For the Amish, it provides a space to serendipitously meet far-flung neighbors.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Paul%20Vaccarello%20-%20courtesy%20of%20Paul%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 254px; width: 190px;" title="Paul Vaccarello asked Curious City about the Amish at Union Station. (Photo courtesy Paul Vaccarello)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Our question comes from: Paul Vaccarello</span></p><p>Paul Vaccarello told Curious City he visits Union Station about twice a month, adding that &ldquo;pretty much every time, I see groups of Amish people.&rdquo; While he was curious about whether the Amish travel by train, he also wondered if Chicago was ever the destination for Amish people on the road. &ldquo;It was interesting to hear they sometimes stop in Chicago to sightsee, go to the Sears Tower and John Hancock building,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Paul said he&rsquo;s not someone who would normally talk to strangers in the train station, and striking up a conversation with someone from a clearly different background can feel like crossing a barrier.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s cool to see they&rsquo;re so willing to talk, and that they don&rsquo;t even really see the barrier,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is a freelance radio producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/passing-through-chicagos-union-station-amish-transit-hub-110453 Amtrak boosters hold summit on threatened Chicago line http://www.wbez.org/news/amtrak-boosters-hold-summit-threatened-chicago-line-108474 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP97855992307.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>LAFAYETTE, Ind. &mdash; Supporters of an Amtrak passenger line that runs between Indianapolis and Chicago are putting a spotlight on Indiana&#39;s looming decision on whether to keep that line moving.</p><p>State lawmakers and local mayors whose cities are stops along the Hoosier State line are hosting an &quot;Amtrak Summit&quot; Wednesday in Lafayette.</p><p>Sen. Brandt Hershman is scheduled to give the opening remarks, followed by comments by Amtrak&#39;s state government relations chief and a panel discussion.</p><p>Indiana must decide by this fall whether to contribute $3 million annually for the Hoosier State line, which ferries passengers four days a week between Indianapolis and Chicago.</p><p>The Hoosier State is in jeopardy because effective Oct. 1 Congress has eliminated funding for lines like it in 19 states that are shorter than 750 miles.</p></p> Wed, 21 Aug 2013 11:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/amtrak-boosters-hold-summit-threatened-chicago-line-108474 End of the line for Amtrak’s Hoosier State train? http://www.wbez.org/news/end-line-amtrak%E2%80%99s-hoosier-state-train-106809 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Amtrak Dyer .jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Amtrak&rsquo;s Hoosier State line has long been a popular way for college students at places like Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana to travel to Chicago for concerts, sporting events and to shop, especially on weekends.</p><p>&ldquo;The Friday train can be pretty packed,&rdquo; Marc Magliari, Amtrak&rsquo;s Chicago-based spokesman, told WBEZ on Tuesday.</p><p>But that service between Chicago and Indianapolis could be disrupted if Indiana lawmakers don&rsquo;t act soon to provide funding. The Hoosier State line runs four days a week between the two cities, carrying on average about 120 passengers per trip on trains that can accommodate up to 270 people, depending on demand. In 2012, some 37,000 riders boarded the Hoosier State line, according to Amtrak.</p><p>By October, the Hoosier State line could make its last run if $3 million in funding doesn&rsquo;t come through from Indiana lawmakers. That&rsquo;s because in 2008, Congress decided to eliminate funding for Amtrak routes that are less than 750-miles. Chicago to Indianapolis is less than 200.</p><p>Tim Maloney hopes that does not happen.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re very interested in seeing more (Indiana) investment and involvement with transportation alternatives to motor vehicles on highways because of the environmental and energy-savings benefits that those alternatives provide,&rdquo; said Maloney, senior policy director the Indianapolis-based Hoosier Environmental Council.</p><p>Maloney&rsquo;s been keeping a watchful eye during this last week for legislative action in the Indiana House and Senate. Hoosier lawmakers are busying putting the final touches on a new two-year budget. Maloney said the Senate&rsquo;s version of the budget includes funding to keep the Hoosier State line going.</p><p>Maloney believes there is a demand for alternatives to driving between Chicago and Indy, even though Amtrak can take up to five hours compared to approximately three hours in a car from downtown Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We believe there will be a growing demand for those alternative based on high gas prices and demographic changes. So, we think it&rsquo;s a good idea for the state to diversify its transportation investment, including passenger rail and urban public transit,&rdquo; Maloney said.</p><p>Indiana isn&rsquo;t the only state who has to decide whether to keep an Amtrak train route to Chicago up and running. A route from Chicago to St. Louis and Detroit to Chicago are also at risk of losing funding.</p><p>If the Hoosier State route is eliminated, passengers can still utilize the Cardinal line that runs three days a week from Chicago to Indy. Because the Cardinal line connects to the East Coast, funding continues. Maloney says Amtrak has seen an 80 percent growth in the last five years and thinks it could get more.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s close to 40,000 passengers a year and that&rsquo;s based on having just one train a day going each day,&rdquo; Maloney said.</p><p>Maloney said work is being done to improve travel times, primarily because Amtrak often has to stop for freight trains in its path during its four-stop trip which includes one stop outside Chicago in Dyer, Indiana.</p><p>&ldquo;But there&rsquo;s no question travel times need to improve. That&rsquo;s a key for attracting more riders,&rdquo; Maloney said.</p><p>But besides travel convenience, Maloney says there&rsquo;s also an issue of jobs. Amtrak operates a maintenance center in Beech Grove, a suburb of Indianapolis that provides about 550 jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;Amtrak spends over $21 million dollars a year buying goods and services from Indiana companies,&rdquo; Maloney said. &ldquo;There are 99 companies in Indiana that benefit and can benefit from passenger rail service, that&rsquo;s second only to Ohio.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, the Indiana Department of Transportation has hired an engineering consultant to evaluate what types of schedule changes might make Amtrak service in Indiana self-supporting. If Hoosier lawmakers don&rsquo;t make a decision this week on whether to fund the route, it could write the money into the budget and decide at a later time whether to use it on the route.</p><p>But Maloney questions some media reports suggesting Indiana can wait until October to decide.</p><p>&quot;If the legislature doesn&#39;t allocate the funding this week, it may not have the money to fund it later. This is a very important time,&quot; Maloney said.</p><p>On Wednesday morning, the Hoosier State pulled into the depot in Dyer, Indiana with no one boarding or getting off. When asked if she thinks Indiana will continue funding for the route, a female Amtrak conductor speaking from a window said, &quot;I think they will.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Michael Puente is a reporter at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a></em></p></p> Wed, 24 Apr 2013 09:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/end-line-amtrak%E2%80%99s-hoosier-state-train-106809 A hoodie, ten bucks and a train ticket http://www.wbez.org/news/hoodie-ten-bucks-and-train-ticket-106259 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 9.37.40 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p>Every day white vans pull into the parking lot of the Amtrak station in Effingham, in southern Illinois. From a distance they look like regular 15-passenger vans, but up close you realize that there&rsquo;s a metal screen separating the driver from the passengers in the back, and the doors of the vans each have a small crest that says Illinois Department of Corrections.</p><p>On the morning I was at the train station, four IDOC vans pulled into the parking lot: two from Vandalia prison, and two from another nearby prison, Robinson.</p><p>Two correctional officers parked at the north end of the parking lot, and almost two dozen just-released inmates got out and listened quietly as one of the officers handed out train tickets and money. Each inmate is entitled to the money he&rsquo;s got in his commissary account, but many don&rsquo;t have any money in their accounts so they&rsquo;re given $10.</p><p>All of the men are wearing gray, prison-issued sweat suits that are exactly the same, and most carry a large envelope or two with their release papers and other documents. Most also have either a small bag or shoe box with all their belongings.</p><p>Ryan Freeman was in Vandalia for a gun charge and is headed home to family in Englewood on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side. He lists off what he&rsquo;s got: &ldquo;A shirt. Sweater. You know, little simple stuff, you know. Have to keep my Bibles, you know, stay in contact with the Lord, you feel me, because he&rsquo;s the only one that got me through what I had to got through.&rdquo;</p><p>Like a lot of men just leaving prison, Terry Lawhorn is carrying few possessions ...but a lot of baggage.</p><p>Still, of all the men I talk to on this day, Lawhorn strikes me as the most likely to not return to prison.</p><p>He says this was his first time inside after dealing cocaine for 23 years without getting caught, but he says he&rsquo;s learned his lesson.</p><p>&ldquo;Really hurt my family a lot, kids probably hurt more than anything, a lot of embarrassment,&rdquo; said Lawhorn. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just something I wouldn&rsquo;t want to take the family through again.&nbsp; So, it&rsquo;s over for me.&nbsp; I mean I&rsquo;ll leave it to the young guys who want to deal with all that. As long as I got a roof over my head, some food on my table, stick close to Jesus, and I&rsquo;ll live the rest of my life being content with that.&rdquo;</p><p>Everyone leaving prison says they&rsquo;re done committing crimes, but of course that&rsquo;s often not the case. But Lawhorn has more going for him than most of the men waiting for the train. He&rsquo;s got a wife, two kids and, perhaps most important given how hard it is for ex-felons to get hired, he owns a small business. &ldquo;Well, I do landscaping and snow removal. I been doing it for foruteen years in Kankakee. But I&rsquo;ve got an opportunity to go to Roosevelt University in Chicago; they sent me some papers to apply so I&rsquo;ll probably try to get in there,&rdquo; said Lawhorn.</p><p>As Lawhorn and I talk in the parking lot, we&rsquo;re surrounded by former inmates, many of whom will likely be back in prison, as the recidivism rate is more than 50 percent. &ldquo;A lot of guys don&rsquo;t have a plan, they don&rsquo;t have anything to look forward to and the only thing they know is probably what they been used to doing,&rdquo; said Lawhorn.</p><p>Another just-released inmate, Chester Ryan, heads into the train station because it&rsquo;s cold out and the prison didn&rsquo;t give any of the men coats, or even jackets. Ryan holds out his sweater. &ldquo;Feel how thin that is,&rdquo; said Ryan. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a nice hoodie but you&rsquo;re freezing and you&rsquo;re a little cold out there, just jogging pants and a hoodie sweatshirt.&nbsp; I expected a jacket hopefully.&rdquo;</p><p>Ryan, looks at the large shoe box he&rsquo;s set down on a windowsill in the station. &ldquo;This is what I own in this box. This is it.&rdquo;</p><p>Ryan is headed to Bloomington. He hopes to seek out a church soon to get some clothes, including a jacket because he&rsquo;s wearing all the clothes he has. He&rsquo;s got a friend who will put him up for two months, but after that he&rsquo;s afraid he&rsquo;ll be going to shelters.</p><p>Ryan is a sex offender. He was in prison for child pornography. He says he&rsquo;s going to look at the sex offender laws in all the states and move to wherever the rules are most lenient. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s smarter to look at the rules for each state and say okay, which rules can you live with to stay out, to not go back to prison for a registry charge,&rdquo; said Ryan.</p><p>Ryan says it&rsquo;s not that he wants to reoffend. He just doesn&rsquo;t want to end up back in prison for something like looking for work on a computer, which could violate some rules against being online, that kind of thing.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, I think they should of gave a person with one count of child pornography a second chance to say, hey, register for ten years, ten, fifteen years instead of life,&rdquo; said Ryan. &ldquo;I think that&rsquo;s a little harsh, life.&rdquo;</p><p>Perrin Dunlap is another former inmate with a difficult road ahead. He just served eight months and it was his eighth time in prison. He&rsquo;s got burglary and theft charges but he says for him, it all goes back to one thing: heroin.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;And they say people, places and things, but it wasn&rsquo;t the case. It&rsquo;s always something different, it was just, that you know, that desire, you know, that addiction is, it&rsquo;s poison you know, and I know it, but thought that I could still do it,&rdquo; said Dunlap.</p><p>As the train rumbles toward the station the men in gray sweat suits make their way from the parking lot to the platform. When the train stops a conductor comes out and tells the now freed prisoners to stay where they are. He invites all the other people, families, couples, a small school group of some sort, all of them are invited on to the train first.</p><p>One inmate who just gives his name as Stewart quietly complains. &ldquo;See how they do us?&nbsp; That&rsquo;s crazy. It be like that sometimes especially when you black though, you know what I&rsquo;m saying?&rdquo;</p><p>The slight is pretty much the first thing to happen to these men upon release from prison, a less than encouraging welcome back to society. Other than a few resigned murmurs, the men stay put and do as they&rsquo;re told.</p><p>When they are allowed onto the train they all get seats, though the car is pretty full. Perrin Dunlap looks out the window as the train cuts through the flat fields of southern Illinois and talks about his next steps. He says there is a Catholic Charities facility in Chicago that he&rsquo;s hoping can help him out and he plans to get a Link card so he can get something to eat. He insists he&rsquo;s not going back to prison a ninth time.</p><p>&ldquo;I know in my heart I&rsquo;m not about to go do anything. I already know that,&rdquo; said Dunlap. I&rsquo;m not trying to win you over, or promise you that, or trying to win, none of that. I know in my mind and my heart what I&rsquo;m about to, what I&rsquo;m about to go do now.&rdquo;</p><p>When Dunlap gets to Chicago he plans to walk from Union Station to the Pacific Garden&nbsp;Mission shelter south of Roosevelt Road on Canal. Like many of the other ex-felons on this train, Dunlap has just $10 in his pocket.</p><p>Every year more than 33,000 men and women are released from Illinois prisons and make a similar journey facing similar odds. That&rsquo;s about 127 people every single weekday.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Sun, 24 Mar 2013 21:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/hoodie-ten-bucks-and-train-ticket-106259 Amtrak adds Chicago-Michigan trains for December http://www.wbez.org/news/amtrak-adds-chicago-michigan-trains-december-104379 <p><p>Amtrak is adding more trains on its Chicago-Michigan route to accommodate increased demand during the busy travel period at the end of December.</p><p>Amtrak will have two additional daily trains between Chicago and Ann Arbor from Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 28-30. Normally, the Wolverine Service has three daily roundtrips between the two cities.</p><p>From Ann Arbor, there is continuing service to Detroit-area stations.</p><p>Thanksgiving ridership on the route rose nearly 17 percent from last year to reach more than 15,000 passengers.</p><p>Amtrak says that resulted largely from the operation of extra holiday trains.</p></p> Fri, 14 Dec 2012 08:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/amtrak-adds-chicago-michigan-trains-december-104379 'Welcoming City' law aims to protect illegal immigrants http://www.wbez.org/blogs/marcus-gilmer/2012-09/welcoming-city-law-aims-protect-illegal-immigrants-102400 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/immigration%20AP%202.jpg" title="Undocumented Chicago immigrants rally for support in 2010. (AP/M.Spencer Green)" /></div><p><strong>Lead Story:</strong>&nbsp;On Wednesday the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance designed to protect undocumented immigrants. Dubbed the &ldquo;Welcoming City&rdquo; law, the bill means local authorities won&rsquo;t cooperate with federal officials when the only reason for issuing a warrant is the suspicion the resident is an illegal immigrant. The city hopes undocumented immigrants will now report crimes without fear of retribution, but as&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-chicago-city-council-meeting-0913-20120913,0,1221984.story">the&nbsp;<em>Tribune</em>&nbsp;noted</a>, the law is largely symbolic. Nonetheless, the bill&#39;s sponsor,&nbsp;Ald. Joe Moore (49th),&nbsp;<a href="http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/09/13/ordinance-protects-undocumented-immigrants-from-unfair-deportation/">told CBS 2</a>, &ldquo;It sends a strong message. It codifies what&rsquo;s been part of city policy and executive order for some time, that if you go to the police; if you have an encounter with the Chicago Police Department, you don&rsquo;t have to fear that you are going to be turned over to the federal immigration authorities.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Also:</strong>&nbsp;Amtrak <a href="http://www.galesburg.com/features/x1885026630/Amtrak-ridership-up-for-11-consecutive-months">ridership has increased</a>&nbsp;each of the last 11 months and by the end of the fiscal year in September the agency will set a new record of riders in a year.&nbsp;The ridership increase is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.enewspf.com/latest-news/latest-local/36431-durbin-amtrak-ridership-increase-is-more-good-news-for-illinois-travelers-and-businesses.html">also evident in Illinois</a>,&nbsp;where U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin heralded the increase as good news.&nbsp;But as the presidential election draws closer, the agency may still find itself in the line of fire.&nbsp;The GOP platform adopted at the party&rsquo;s recent convention includes&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20120911/us-amtrak-politics/">cutting out over a billion dollars in federal funding</a>&nbsp;to the agency, which operates at a loss and relies on the government funding to stay afloat.&nbsp;So the old argument over the role of government is resurrected anew, as the GOP tries to privatize what it can and Dems want to keep pouring money into Amtrak&rsquo;s bucket.</p><p><strong>And then:</strong> Speaking of transit, yesterday the CTA listened to more impassioned pleas from residents not to cut bus service on 12 routes as part of its &ldquo;de-crowding&rdquo; plan &mdash; and once again dismissed everything it heard and <a href="http://www.redeyechicago.com/news/chi-cta-board-oks-decrowding-plan-20120912,0,7819530.story">voted to enact the cuts anyway</a>. I&rsquo;ve <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/marcus-gilmer/2012-08/ctas-new-plan-isnt-all-its-cracked-be-101893">gone on at length</a> about why the CTA&rsquo;s plan is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/marcus-gilmer/2012-09/rahm-and-cta-haunted-selective-memories-102186">a giant plate of polished poop</a> so I won&rsquo;t go over that same territory again. But how frustrating it must be to voice your complaints time and again, only to know you&rsquo;re doomed anyway. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><strong>RIP:</strong> <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/obituaries/15111846-418/sharon-mcghee-a-playwright-and-wvon-news-director-dies-at-age-55.html">Sharon McGhee</a>, former host and news director of <a href="http://www.wvon.com/">WVON</a>, at the age of 55 after a battle with ovarian cancer. Besides her broadcasting accomplishments both here and in her hometown of St. Louis, McGhee was a veteran of the U.S. Army and a playwright; she was the author of&nbsp;<em><a href="http://pocketbookmonologues.com/book.html">The PocketBook Monologues</a></em>, which was performed at Steppenwolf.<br />&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p><strong>Elsewhere</strong></p><ul><li>The U.S. embassy in Yemen is the latest American outpost attacked <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19584734">over outrage</a> surrounding <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-libya-filmmaker-20120913,0,3754075.story">the bizarre film <em>Innocence of Muslims</em></a>, which was shot in the U.S.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</li><li>While there are still no signs of Jimmy Hoffa, archaeologists in Britain believe <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/9537600/Strong-evidence-Richard-IIIs-body-has-been-found-with-a-curved-spine.html">they&rsquo;ve found the body of King Richard III</a> under a parking lot.</li><li>Move over, <a href="http://westseattleblog.com/2012/09/west-seattles-now-famous-hum-apparently-not-a-fishs-fault">Seattle Hum</a>, there&rsquo;s a new weird phenomenon in town: <a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/09/dead-fish-blamed-for-foul-odor-in-southern-california.html">the SoCal Stink</a>, caused by winds that have churned up the smell of dead fish.</li><li>I, for one, welcome <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/12/world/africa/dr-congo-new-monkey/index.html?hpt=hp_c3">our new monkey overlords</a>.<br />&nbsp;</li></ul><p><strong>Looking Ahead:</strong></p><ul><li>There is hope the CTU teachers strike <a href="http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&amp;id=8808921">could end later today</a>. Follow <a href="http://twitter.com/wbezeducation">@WBEZEducation</a>&nbsp;on Twitter for the latest news.</li><li>The ACLU has <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/aclu-suing-illinois-over-juvenile-prison-conditions-102379">filed a lawsuit against</a> the state of Illinois over conditions in the state&rsquo;s juvenile prsions.</li><li>Illinois <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-illinois-posts-highest-foreclosure-rate-in-us-in-august-20120913,0,4942834.story">had the nation&rsquo;s highest foreclosure rate in August</a>, reflecting a trend that&rsquo;s been going on for months.</li><li>Lincoln Park&rsquo;s Clybourn Avenue corridor <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20120908/ISSUE01/309089986/look-whos-moving-into-the-clybourn-corridor">is getting more crowded</a>. Of course, given that many of the newly planned stores will be built on top of what was once one of the most violent public housing projects in the nation, maybe the New York developer behind the project should describe it with language other than, &ldquo;If you have a limited number of bullets, you&#39;re going to use them at North and Clybourn.&rdquo;</li><li>If you love McDonald&rsquo;s but know it&rsquo;s bad for you, you&rsquo;ll soon <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2012/09/12/mcdonalds_to_post_calorie_counts_mo.php">get visible reminders of <em>how</em> bad</a>&nbsp;the food is: The fast food chain plans to post calorie information about its offerings.<br />&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</li></ul><p><strong>Sports</strong></p><ul><li>Notre Dame will&nbsp;<a href="http://espn.go.com/chicago/story/_/id/8369070/notre-dame-sports-football-hockey-acc">move to the Atlantic Coast Conference</a>&nbsp;for all sports except football starting next year. Even then the Fighting Irish football team will play five ACC opponents a year, making them a de facto ACC team in that regard.</li><li>Sox Watch: <a href="http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2012_09_12_detmlb_chamlb_1&amp;mode=gameday&amp;c_id=cws">Another Detroit win</a> cuts the Sox lead in the AL Central down to just one game with one game left in this four-game series.</li><li>Cubs young gun Anthony Rizzo <a href="http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20120912/sports/709129617/">is a bit sore</a> but not seriously injured after <a href="http://deadspin.com/5942584/the-astros-are-now-hurting-other-people-with-their-ineptitude?tag=houston-astros">a bizarre collision</a> at first base earlier this week in a game against the Astros.</li><li>It&rsquo;s never too early to plan for next year: MLB has released next year&rsquo;s schedule for all teams, so check out the <a href="http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/schedule/index.jsp?c_id=chc#m=4&amp;y=2013&amp;calendar=DEFAULT">Cubs</a> and <a href="http://chicago.whitesox.mlb.com/schedule/index.jsp?c_id=cws#y=2013&amp;m=4&amp;calendar=DEFAULT">White Sox</a>. And&nbsp;yes, Ozzie Guillen and his Marlins will visit the South Side in May.</li><li>Don&rsquo;t forget: The NFL is on Thursday night every week this year and the first TNF game of the season is <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-videos/0ap2000000060964/Preview-Chicago-Bears-vs-Green-Bay-Packers?module=HP11_headline_stack">the latest match-up in the heated Bears-Packers</a> rivalry. Kickoff is at 7:20 p.m. and the game is on the NFL Network (for fancy pants cable folks) or WPWR My50 for everyone else.<br />&nbsp;</li></ul><p><strong>Finally</strong><br /><br />Because you always wanted to know where that iconic ESPN <em>SportsCenter</em> theme came from.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/_webwAPz9QU" width="560"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 13 Sep 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/marcus-gilmer/2012-09/welcoming-city-law-aims-protect-illegal-immigrants-102400 More rail work planned between Chicago, St. Louis http://www.wbez.org/news/more-rail-work-planned-between-chicago-st-louis-100054 <p><p>Rail upgrades needed for faster train journeys between Chicago and St. Louis will start north of Bloomington this weekend.</p><p>Work on part of the Amtrak route in the region will begin Saturday.</p><p>Improvements will include new premium rail with concrete ties and stone ballast. Upgrades will also be made to bridges, culverts and drainage.</p><p>The disruption will require chartered buses and connecting Amtrak train service for passengers on the Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle.</p><p>The work is to make way for an increase in speed to 110 mph from the current 79 mph.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Transportation plans to preview the higher speeds in September along a short section from Pontiac to Dwight.</p></p> Wed, 13 Jun 2012 09:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-rail-work-planned-between-chicago-st-louis-100054 Amtrak receives grant to upgrade train yard http://www.wbez.org/news/transportation/amtrak-receives-grant-upgrade-train-yard-98466 <p><p>The Chicago-based Amtrak station is getting an eco-friendly upgrade.</p><p>State officials have awarded Amtrak with a $300,000 energy efficiency grant to assist the agency in updating its train yard in Chicago.</p><p>State officials say the grant will reduce Amtrak's natural gas consumption and help the rail company save millions of dollars annually.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn's office says the grant is funded through the Illinois Energy Now program, which provides millions of dollars in rebates to public facilities that make large-scale equipment improvements to their electric and natural gas systems.</p><p>State officials say the energy efficient investments will help in the future by keeping the cost of business low.</p></p> Mon, 23 Apr 2012 09:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/transportation/amtrak-receives-grant-upgrade-train-yard-98466 Calls for cleaner air in Union Station http://www.wbez.org/story/calls-cleaner-air-union-station-96161 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-06/Metra Train 3.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is calling for better air quality in Chicago's Union Station. In 2010 the Chicago <em>Tribun</em>e found high levels of diesel soot and air pollution on platforms and in train cars at Union Station.&nbsp;</p><p>Joel Africk with the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago said it's a serious problem.</p><p>"The diesel exhaust we're talking about contains 40 chemicals that have been proven to cause cancer. Diesel exhaust pollution causes asthma attacks, it causes heart attacks," Africk said.</p><p>Federal agencies along with Metra and Amtrak did their own study and instituted some changes in response. One result was Metra installing filters to each train car which it says reduces pollution inside cars by 75 percent on average.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-06/durbin and pals metra.jpg" style="width: 392px; height: 301px; float: right; margin: 10px;" title="Sen. Dick Durbin (at mic stand) is joined by Amtrak, Metra and a health official at Union Station (WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel) ">But Durbin said the ventilation system in an adjacent building isn't working and is causing exhaust to back up in the station. Durbin sent a letter to the owners of the old Post Office on Monday asking them to fix their system. Amtrak filed a complaint in court last week asking the same.&nbsp;</p><p>At the press conference Monday, the company that owns the old Post Office delivered a written statement that said they're sending three of their extractor fans in for repairs this week.</p><p>When news of this new statement reached Durbin, he said, "I'm glad to see that they're here - welcome. And I didn't have to serve a subpoena to bring them."</p><p><em>The following video shows exhaust in the area of Union Station that sits directly below the Post Office building. You can see the exhaust by looking just below the lights on the ceiling. </em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/36308995?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="601" frameborder="0" height="339"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 06 Feb 2012 21:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/calls-cleaner-air-union-station-96161 $150 million for Chicago-Detroit high speed rail http://www.wbez.org/story/150-mil-chicago-detroit-high-speed-rail-94292 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-22/Chicago-DetroitTrain.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he's awarded $150 million to Michigan to buy a rail line for high-speed passenger service between Chicago and Detroit.</p><p>LaHood said in a news release Tuesday that the project "will increase the safety and reliability of Amtrak's Wolverine and Blue Water services" and create 800 jobs this spring.</p><p>The money enables the Michigan Department of Transportation to buy much of the Chicago-Detroit rail corridor.</p><p>On Oct. 5, Michigan said it had agreed to buy the tracks between Kalamazoo in western Michigan and Dearborn in suburban Detroit. The U.S. said then that it was giving Michigan $196 million for signal and track improvements.</p><p>The project allows speeds of up to 110 mph on 77 percent of the Detroit-Chicago line, cutting travel time by 30 minutes.</p></p> Tue, 22 Nov 2011 21:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/150-mil-chicago-detroit-high-speed-rail-94292