Thus ends a six-year debacle that started when Indiana balked at PRIIA Section 209 requirements. I will analyze the big players' roles starting with...
- Management reportedly told ex-CEO Joseph Boardman to not pursue CSX on making the Cardinal daily
- Responsible for Section 209 in the first place
- Delayed handing the Hoosier State over to Corridor Capital
- Offered free amenities when Corridor Capital was yanked and then rescinded them after five months
- Briefly provided Business Class after IPH pulled out
- Was the only state to hold out of Section 209 payments
- Conducted a bidding process for the Hoosier State
- Passed on Herzog, who wanted to operate the train in favor of contracting out the route while keeping Amtrak crews
- Almost sabotaged the route before partial private service even began
- Made no effort to upgrade the route to daily
- State officials at best merely tolerated the route while it was the cities who exhibited far more interest in it
- Imposed onerous requirements that made it impossible for IPH to operate the Hoosier State at a profit
- Had the cars to operate the route
- Maybe not much the expertise
- Had to deal with a saboteur
- Had the equipment and made good use of it on the Hoosier State
- Also made the best of its limited situation
- Ran out of money in 2017
- The FRA attempted to classify states as rail carriers in early 2015
- Congress had the power to enforce PRIIA and FAST Act provisions encouraging private sector competition but did nothing
- Most of them hated the idea of anyone other than Amtrak even touching this route from the beginning
- Rejoiced when Corridor Capital was booted and when IPH handed the Hoosier State back to Amtrak
The final verdicts
Thumbs down to Amtrak: If it wanted to, it could have made either the Cardinal or the Hoosier State daily. That it made such a fuss about keeping the train when others made bids on it says a lot about management and its culture. Yet another part of the country has been ceded to a startup bus company.
Thumbs down to the state of Indiana: Misstep after misstep led to the route's demise and state officials botching things. It is worth noting that all alternatives to Chicago-Indianapolis are either circuitous or they no longer exist.
Thumbs in the middle to Corridor Capital: It never got to prove itself. Hopefully that changes with the planned Eau Claire-Twin Cities route.
Thumbs up to Iowa Pacific: It was able make the best out of a bad situation. Unlike middle mangers in D.C. and Chicago, you can't deny the passion that Ed Ellis had for providing more than decent services on the Hoosier State.
Thumbs down to D.C. politicians: First, the executive branch under Obama cooked up a harebrained idea of making states rail carriers. If the intention was to prevent the states from selecting AIPRO members or any other non-Amtrak operator, then, mission accomplished. The attempted power play just set passenger rail back another 5-10 years when we couldn't afford to waste any more time.
Next, the legislative branch. Congress has no excuses because it has heard from enough experts so it needed to make sure that anyone bidding on existing Amtrak routes had a fair shake. Instead, state departments are more scared and even more risk averse all because our so-called leaders were willing to sit on their hands while a previously tolerated status quo could now lead to intercity rail crumbling from within.
Thumbs down to railfans: Their attitude over the nation's only non-daily corridor service vindicates everything I said 5 1/2 years ago.