Score One for Amtrak / by Erin Wade

Mass transit in rural Illinois is very much a hit or miss proposition. While we have trains and busses as an option, the routes are limited and the logic behind the schedules is often difficult to fathom. For example, Amtrak runs from Mendota to Chicago three times a day on every weekday. This would seem generous, except that the earliest train arrives at Union Station at 10:35 AM.

That arrival time might be just fine for someone taking a casual trip in to do some shopping or see a show. But it is completely inadequate to offer a train commute as an option for someone who might want to work in the city but live out in the hinterlands.

In addition, the schedules are split far enough apart that, should you miss your train, you are very much stuck. I speak from experience on this, having spent an evening following the car show several years ago first running across Union Station to catch the Metra to Lisle, and then calling my Mommy to come and pick me up.

All of that noted, Amtrak demonstrated a new level of awesome for us the weekend of Valentine's Day 2015. MLW and LB were planning to spend the weekend in the City, going first to a friend's gymnastics meet at Navy Pier, and then spending the following day shopping and restauranting (is that a word?).

The trip looked like it was going to become unpleasantly complicated the morning of the trip. They had their tickets, but. We received notification - via email and through the Amtrak app - that the train was going to be delayed by several hours; delayed by enough to make them miss the gymnastics meet.

We looked our options and determined that, if need be, I could drive them in to Aurora to the Metra station there. This is a good hour of driving, one way, for us, but it still removes the need to drive in the city, find parking, etc. We solidified the plan and made periodic checks on the train status in the App to see if anything had changed.

A good hour before we needed to leave for Aurora, Amtrak actually called to let MLW know that they had added stops to another train coming through Mendota, and that they could take that train in to the city. Not only would it arrive on time for the meet, but it actually was scheduled to show up a little earlier than the original train.

Crisis averted, the ladies were able to leave from our local train station and arrive in time.

It's a small thing perhaps, in the big picture, but when you are using mass transit to move across rural regions, any breakdown in the system has the potential to make the user very inconvenienced at best. This was a show of good faith for which Amtrak deserves credit.