By Paul Gorski
We already have an Amtrak connection. As we wait for the Amtrak train to come to Rockford, residents should know we already have regular bus service to the Amtrak train station in Chicago, in addition to service to O’Hare and Midway airports.
Van Galder Bus Company (http://www.coachusa.com/vangalder/) offers nine daily trips to the Amtrak terminal at Union Station in downtown Chicago. The buses operate from the Clock Tower Resort on East State Street and the Van Galder bus terminal tucked behind Candlewood Suites off Bell School Road, near East State Street.
So, while bringing an Amtrak station to Rockford will bring jobs and economic development, we’re expected to only have one scheduled trip into Chicago a day, with a Chicago arrival time too late for daily workers, and too late to connect with some other Amtrak trains.
Furthermore, the decision to bypass Belvidere for a southern route may ruin any future chance of regular, practical Metra commuter rail among Rockford, Chicago and the suburbs of Chicago. It is hoped the track improvements will lay the groundwork for some form of frequent regular commuter service to Chicago from downtown Rockford.
No, this article is not an ad for Van Galder, but I am a happy customer. I’ve been taking the bus into Chicago, and comparing the experience to my drive, Metra train, and CTA bus combination ordeal of the past. I prefer taking the Van Galder bus. The bus ride is simpler, more comfortable and faster.
Did I mention the trip from Rockford to the Amtrak station is non-stop? The Van Galder bus drops you off at the Amtrak depot entrance in Chicago, without any stops in between. The trip to the Amtrak station takes about two hours. On the ride home, the bus may be diverted to O’Hare to pick up the overflow of passengers from the dedicated O’Hare service, but that only happens rarely.
We should welcome any transportation improvements to our region, may they be road, rail or air, but we should also utilize what we have. The Van Galder buses are rarely full and often under-utilized. If you want to travel to downtown Chicago or have friends who want to visit you here, I encourage you to check Van Galder’s bus schedule to and from Amtrak, O’Hare and Midway. They just may be able to make the right connection for you.
Paul Gorski is a Cherry Valley Township resident and a former Winnebago County Board member.
From the June 27-July 3, 2012, issue