• Amtrak Hiawatha Discussion: Chicago - Milwaukee and Possible Extensions

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by EricL
7 & 8 carried CHI/MKE passengers in the not-too-distant past - up until the last increase in "local train" frequencies - and this could easily be done again. (Even today they still do, in service-recovery/emergency type situations.) All it would take would be a managerial decision coupled with a concurrence from the State. The current situation is only in effect because Wisconsin wanted to prop up its own ridership/revenue numbers, and Amtrak was happy to let these newly-freed Superliner seats go up for grabs to potential long-haul pax. It really isn't that hard to calculate out the proportional shares between the parties - and it's irrelevant anyway, since Amtrak keeps all the ticket revenue; the amount by which the State subsidizes the service is contractually set forth, ahead of time, regardless of passenger counts.

In Illinois, 21/22 and 58/59 (all "federal" trains) still happily accept intra-state traffic, and in fact those trains do quite a bit of business that way.

Tangentially: the Hiawatha service is slowly inching toward reserved service - quite in the same manner which the NEC workhorses did a decade ago. They have already put on a $2 "peak" surcharge for the rush hour trains, and they have already declared that same will be reservation-only during the Thanksgiving holiday period. I get why they're doing it - overcrowding - but I do think it is a bit of shame, at least for now. If and when the new frequencies get put on, then okay, sure. But right now, it seems silly to me to turn away a rider from a 1.5 hr ride because it's sold out - when the next departure is two hours away. You've more than doubled their trip time right there, and they're probably going to walk down to the other side of the station to see about getting a sooner Greyhound or Megabus.
Last edited by EricL on Wed Nov 16, 2016 6:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by electricron
I think it's important to point out that there are far more and frequent Hiawatha trains per day than on any of the Illinois services trains. So it makes sense for Wisconsin to wish to maximize the Hiawatha trains ridership to minimize the state subsidies as much as possible. Whereas Illinois might wish the same, Illinois faces the reality that they aren't running as many trains per route, and relies more on Amtrak long distance trains to reduce the number of trains they must subsidize.

It's a Hobson choice both states must consider, how to get more trains on a corridor as cheaply as possible. I suggest if Illinois was placing all their trains on just one corridor that they might take the same choice as Wisconsin, but they are subsiding trains on more than one corridor so they have taken the other choice.
  by EricL
ALL trains included (short & long) - Wisconsin does 8 RT's a day, and STL does 5 RT's. Not that huge of a difference. Those five STL trips cover more distance and make more passenger-serving stops than the eight MKE trips do. I suspect that 7/8 would still carry local pax regularly, but it's just that their timeslots are mid-afternoon and there is the feeling that there is already enough scheduled coverage (and, not coincidentally, a lack of track capacity in Metra-suburban-train-land) to carry the existing service.

Equipment would also be another easy protest to putting local pax on 7/8, but the beauty is this: you could literally use whatever coach car that's available. Doesn't need food service; doesn't need any frills. If a Superliner coach is available; great, tack it on the back end to cut off at MKE, MSP, MOT, wherever. If only a single-level is available, then put it in between the bagg and the transition car and it would work just the same. Anyway, LD coach capacity constraints are typically only run right up against during the summertime and during the holidays. Sleepers - no worries, no one would want to book em for an hour and a half, and you could just embargo 'em in the computer system anyhow.

There have been rumors circulating lately about a second MSP frequency - specifically going over the MILW and not the Burlington, therefore mirroring the current EB route (maybe minus a stop or two), and going at "normal" speed (with none of the shenanigans that "high-speed" rail incurs). The black and white documents make no mention of this as a concrete reality, so it is certainly little more than just conjecture at this point. State of MN's post-Walker pipe-dream HSR via the Burlington route CHI-MSP was always a lousy idea - they only pushed it forward as a hedge bet against the impending doom of a GOP-dominated Wisconsin.
  by Jeff Smith
Local communities trying to put the brakes on: Chicago Tribune
Northbrook joins call for more information on Amtrak expansion

Northbrook joined several other North Shore communities Tuesday trying to slow plans for new railroad sidings that would allow Amtrak to increase its Hiawatha service, which links Chicago, Glenview and Milwaukee.

The Village Board passed a resolution 5-0 against the findings of an environmental assessment of the project. Glenview, Deerfield, Bannockburn and Lake Forest have filed similar resolutions in opposition to the assessment, according to officials.

Northbrook Village President Sandy Frum said that she was not necessarily against the project that would increase service from seven daily round-trip trains to 10, but she needed her concerns about idling trains in neighborhoods and blocked fire truck routes answered.

The assessment, created by the Illinois and Wisconsin departments of transportation and the Federal Railway Administration, downplays the impact of two versions of the proposed project, while Northbrook officials say that they need more information before they'll feel comfortable with the changes. They say they expect the railroad administration to decide soon whether to call for a more detailed "environmental impact study" or move forward with project plans.
  by gokeefe
This is going to go nowhere. FRA is going to concur with the "Finding of No Significant Impact". We have seen this over and over again when changes are made to existing grades of existing railroads. FRA agreed with the FONSI for the Amtrak Downeaster train servicing facility in Brunswick, Maine. This is only a siding and likely one without any impact on grade crossings.
  by Tadman
You gotta be kidding me. I hope the new administration does something about this bureaucratic crap because it serves the interest of nobody. Not the republicans, the democrats, the end cities, the commuters, or even the residents of the town. All it does is validate the existence of a bunch of busy bodies that should be adding value some other way. Meanwhile the parallel interstates remain jammed and people are staying in their cars, which is a far bigger problem than the chance an occasional train idles on a siding. Never mind seeing the forest for the trees, these people are stuck under a rock with their head in the sand.

If you've been in Chicago much, you know our traffic has gone from tough to bloody awful in the last ten years. This is why. We don't solve problems.
  by gokeefe
I wouldn't be worried at all. They are not going to stop any of this and the FRA under the current administration has been very accommodating about projects that are being built on existing rights of way.
  by Jeff Smith
https://www.journal-topics.com/articles ... expansion/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Glenview trustees put their money where their mouth is in the village’s opposition to proposed passenger service increases on Amtrak’s Hiawatha Line between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Trustees at their Tuesday, May 1 village board meeting approved spending $400,000 for the opposition efforts. Included in that overall cost is a contract not to exceed $50,000 with Jasculca Terman Strategic Communications for community education efforts.

The remainder of the $350,000 is earmarked for: $100,000 for research by environmental, traffic and rail consultants on Amtrak’s plan; $100,000 for possible litigation; $50,000 for lobbying efforts to oppose the Amtrak plans and $100,000 set aside as a contingency.
Amtrak wants to increase Hiawatha Line service from seven round trips a day to 10, or from 14 one-way trips between Chicago and Milwaukee to 20. The Hiawatha Line stops in downtown Glenview and shares trackage with Metra and the Canadian Pacific Railroad through the heart of the village.

Because passenger rail takes priority over freight traffic on the line, the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation, lead agency on the project with the Illinois Dept. of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration, has proposed a $195 million plan to add siding tracks in five Northern suburbs (Glenview, Northbrook, Deerfield, Lake Forest and Bannockburn) where freight trains could hold.
  by doepack
I don't think Glenview would need a siding if the desired increase in Hiawatha frequencies ever come online, freight traffic between the city limits and Northbrook is slim to none. Nearly all CP traffic on C&M's south end heading to/from Bensenville use the junction at A-20 in Northbrook, which is north of Glenview. Or they can extend/upgrade the sidings in Rondout while they're at it...
  by electricron
The problem isn't additional freight trains running with their hazardous cargo, it's adding holding sidings for the existing freight trains. After a short glance with google earth from above, the rail corridor has double mainline tracks already - at least through Glenview. We all know sidings aren't maintained as well as the mainline tracks - so there is a small bit of concern over safety adding them.
But I do believe they are making mountains over molehills. Six extra passenger trains over an entire day isn't going to bring traffic to a complete halt. Noises these additional trains make will not affect the comfort of anyone living next to the rail corridor because they are already accustomed to the existing heavy train traffic. Amtrak and Metra will probably win any court case - but the hope here lies in delaying the project in the courts long enough the train companies will forget about improving their services.
  by Arborwayfan
more sidings should mean more meets happen close to the ideal spot which will mean shorter waits. If people are objecting because they know a place (and I know some) where freights habitually wait half an hour on a siding, blocking streets, someone needs to explain that having more sidings will make that happen less.
  by electricron
Well, that isn't occurring now in Glenview because there isn't any sidings there now, but it would be happening once a new siding is built there - from Glenview's point of view only. Of course, more sidings may reduce the amount of delays overall, but they also increase the number of places for trains to idle and block traffic at. If the goal is to increase the flow of traffic and reduce the amount of delays caused by idling trains in sidings, wouldn't it be better to just triple track the entire line?
  by Suburban Station
a dishonest approach from glenview. the number of trains offered affects how many riders choose the service. "an extra car" is not a solution.
“The main issue they and Illinois have from the data we have seen is not a need for more trains, but rather a need for an extra car on their rush hour trains to address some that are standing room only,” Owen said.
https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/ ... story.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by Jeff Smith
https://www.progressiverailroading.com/ ... ice--57776
The Wisconsin Legislature’s Budget Committee last week approved a $35 million proposed expansion of Amtrak service between Milwaukee and Chicago, a local radio station reported.

Funds will go toward adding three more roundtrips a day on the Hiawatha route, bringing the number of daily round trips to 10, WUWM 89.7 reported...
  by Jeff Smith
https://www.progressiverailroading.com/ ... ice--57776

For discussion of 2nd Empire Builder frequency (to MN): viewtopic.php?f=46&t=1019
The Wisconsin Legislature’s Budget Committee last week approved a $35 million proposed expansion of Amtrak service between Milwaukee and Chicago, a local radio station reported.

Funds will go toward adding three more roundtrips a day on the Hiawatha route, bringing the number of daily round trips to 10, WUWM 89.7 reported...
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