Time will tell whether train station will be a boon or a bust

Time will tell whether train station will be

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The Issue: Some still think the new train station is a waste.

Our View: We believe the train station is used more than people think and ridership will grow.

Carlinville’s new train station is very close to completion, but there are still those who claim the structure is a waste of money.

Late last week, a mural by David Bellm went up on the outside east wall of the station. Along side the mural is Carlinville’s name and city seal. Even while the mural, which is beautiful, was going up, people were stopping to take photos. Over the weekend, people were seen taking family photos next to the beautiful painting.

After the mural went up, the Macoupin County Enquirer-Democrat posted a couple photos of it on its website, then shared the images on our Facebook page. Granted, most of the comments were positive and expressed appreciation for Carlinville’s new addition. Others were helpful with a woman suggesting a car-rental business might do well in or near the new station.

Then, of course, there were the nay-sayers. Some believe the station to be a waste of money. Of the approximately $3.75 million it cost to build the new station, 98 percent is being paid by funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the same as all the other high-speed rail improvements along the line between St. Louis and Chicago. Carlinville will be responsible for less than 2 percent of the cost of the station.

The fact of the matter is the old station was not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the only alternative was to lose the stop on the Amtrak line. Instead, Carlinville’s leadership thought it was worth spending approximately $75,000 for the new station. The station is the only stop in Macoupin County. Besides being ADA compliant, the building has many amenities lacking in the previous station. It’s heated and cooled, and has restrooms, vending machines, more seating, more parking, a water fountain and electronic monitors announcing arrivals and departures. Even the platforms are broad and long, making unloading and boarding the train so much quicker because the platform accommodates doors on more train cars.

Since the old station lacked heating and cooling, people in the northern and southern parts of the county would often opt to use train stations in Alton or Springfield to avoid having to deal with extreme heat or cold. Now, Carlinville stands a better chanse of attracting those riders. The nicer station is far more likely to bring in people who might otherwise use a different station. If more people come to Carlinville, it’s likely they might drop a few dollars on snacks at Boente Shell or a meal at the Wood Duck.

Someone on Facebook expressed their believe that only a few people in town ride the train. A couple of people even said they thought only 10-25 people a year road the train. That seems to be an exaggeration on the low side; we know the train is used more often than that. At about 9 p.m. last Sunday, there were 11 cars parked in that lot and the station isn’t even open yet. A quick visit to Amtrak’s website provides 2016 usage statistics and there were 10,138 arrivals and departures from the Carlinville station last year. That’s a lot. People do use that train and, now that the station is more convenient, more folks will likely choose the train and will use Carlinville’s station.

Having that train station is important to Blackburn College. There are many students from other parts of the state who rely on rail travel. The higher speeds at which people can travel on the train (up to 110 MPH), will make places like Chicago seem so much closer. Already it’s not unusual for Cub or Cardinal fans to take the train to St. Louis or Chicago to catch the rivals in a game.

We are in a rural area. The one thing we don’t need are fewer transportation choices. For whatever reason, not everyone drives or likes to drive. Sometimes rail travel is just more affordable. We soundly believe the new train station is a good decision for Carlinville and all of Macoupin County.