University of Illinois campuses promote travel by Amtrak


Passengers line up to board the Amtrak train at the Illinois Terminal on Tuesday, March 17, 2015.

By Fatima Farha

University employees are being encouraged to take the Amtrak more often during travels to and from Chicago in support of the recent executive order issued by Gov. Bruce Rauner to reduce unnecessary travel.

Executive Order 8 addresses Illinois’ fiscal crisis by recommending that state agencies require employees, whenever possible, to take public transportation or carpool when traveling. The state hopes this action will reduce travel reimbursements in gas money.

The University’s Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) and the Chicago campus’ Office of Sustainability are working together to encourage employees to use Amtrak when traveling between campuses to save money and help the environment.

Grace Kyung, graduate intern for sustainable transportation at iSEE and graduate student, said the department has been promoting travel by Amtrak because it would help the University reduce its carbon footprint.

“We’re working toward understanding how people are choosing their mode of transportation and how we can work together in reducing unnecessary travel,” Kyung said. “Our goal is to ultimately become carbon neutral over time.”

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    On its website, the Office of Business and Financial Services shows a discount available for University employees. Travel cost between Chicago and Champaign via Amtrak can be as low as $14, compared to $78 for a trip made in a personal vehicle.

    The website also recommends scheduling meetings that work around the Amtrak schedule, so employees can easily take the train.

    Cynthia Klein-Banai, associate chancellor for sustainability at Chicago’s Office of Sustainability, said she began to encourage Amtrak travel when the office’s sustainable transportation committee brought up the idea that using it is cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

    Employees can receive reimbursements for traveling via airplane, car or train, Klein-Banai said, and when it comes to the Amtrak, even first-class seats are cheaper than driving a car.

    “There may be reasons why it doesn’t work for some travelers, and obviously there’s lots of consideration when deciding how one is traveling and we just want to make sure everybody is aware of this option,” Klein-Banai said.

    The Office of Business and Financial Services is emphasizing the necessity of travel by Amtrak to both campus departments, said Cathy Young, the office’s travel representative.

    Young said the office’s main responsibility is to highlight the benefits of using Amtrak to employees who are looking for reimbursements or cheaper traveling options.

    “We could make it more visible to people who go to look at the travel reimbursement website and also reach out in other ways to the people who may potentially be driving a lot between the campuses,” Klein-Banai said. “Let them know that this is a more sustainable form of transportation as long as you can make it work with your scheduling.”

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