There's a new way to train your dog, and it has nothing to do with obedience school.
Amtrak on Monday announced a six-month pilot project to allow small dogs and cats aboard its trains between Chicago and Quincy. The furry traveling companions won't get a seat, but their owners will have to pay $25, officials said.
The test is a partnership with the Illinois Department of Transportation and will run from May 5 through Nov. 2, officials said. The results of the program will provide a basis for possibly extending the pets-on-trains option nationally, officials said.
Travel with pets can begin only at stations in Chicago, Naperville and Galesburg, officials said. Advance reservations are required.
Dogs or cats up to 20 pounds will be accepted in carriers such as those used in airplane cabins and placed at the feet and under the seat of each pet owner on the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg trains, officials said. The trains operate to and from Chicago, La Grange, Naperville, Plano, Mendota, Princeton, Kewanee, Galesburg, Macomb and Quincy.
Amtrak already routinely allows service animals on trains at no charge and that policy is unchanged, officials said.
Amtrak previously allowed pets on trains in the late 1970s, but the animals were relegated to baggage cars, which are not heated or air-conditioned, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.
He said IDOT and U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham of California recently approached the passenger railroad about the idea of reintroducing pets on the rails.
"We will see how it works,'' Magliari said. "There are some people who are very excited about it, and other people who don't like animals.''
As for the $25 fee that will bring new revenue to the federally funded railroad, Amtrak will "experiment with the dollar amount'' to see whether it is the correct price point, he said.