Amtrak communities build revenue from rails

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As passenger rail service becomes more likely in the Quad Cities, towns already along Amtrak routes are joining forces for economic development. It's a way to use rail service to boost revenue.

Galesburg's Seminary Street is the place to shop. That's where you'll find Uncle Billy's Bakery. Betsy Clark takes care of customers.

"When they get off the train, the first place they stop is a place to get something to drink and snack on," she said.

Many customers come from the nearby Amtrak station. Along with the treats and coffee, it's a boost to business.

"It's a very good service to get from one place to another for those people who cannot drive or have transportation," she continued.

That's one reason why local, regional and state leaders met in Galesburg on Thursday.

"This is what you've got to do to have local and state service," said Tom Carper, former Macomb mayor and Amtrak's chairman of the board.

The regional group will continue to work together and help to build ideas into an action plan to boost rail service and its economic impact.

Amtrak communities want the most bang for the buck. That means looking to the rail and beyond for ridership and economic development.

"You can't take any service for granted," Carper continued. "Everyone's got skin in the game. Everyone is invested, and everyone can make a difference."

Amtrak communities want to make the most of passenger rail. It's all about marketing the region to enhance travel and tourism.

Passenger trains are a familiar sight around Galesburg. They connect cities in convenient ways. Stops that also bring spending to towns along the route.

"That supports not only the local economy of one town, but towns in the area, which is important," said Amtrak passenger Annie Pittman.

At Uncle Billy's Bakery, plenty of good feelings about the future. Baked goods and hot drinks hit the spot with passengers on a cold January day.

"I think it's very good for the community of Galesburg," Clark concluded.

It's a slice of life success story for towns and their trains.