• 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

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  by eolesen
 
There's only so much Evers can get away with as long as Democrats are a minority in the legislature.

I'd think service to Green Bay or Eau Claire would be higher priority than Madison.
  by mtuandrew
 
Mr. Olesen (which sounds like a proper Upper Midwest Scandinavian name if there ever was one), why do you think that GBY and EAU are more deserving than MSN? Except for game day, I don’t see MKE-OSH-APP-GBY being a particularly busy train. Even less so MKE-TOH-EAC, especially without the benefit of those Lambeau weekends. MSN seems to have a stronger everyday draw, and definitely has a passenger-friendlier route. (I feel like Wisconsin Southern would jump at having tens of millions invested in their track structure, whereas CN and UP wouldn’t be so eager to have the strings attached.)

I would love to see train service to both, with better bus or train GBY-EMI-MQT and a connecting EAU-MSP train. I don’t think it’s nearly as practical though, and wouldn’t be a hugely successful political gambit right now.
  by eolesen
 
Rail is going to be used more by the less affluent. Both GRB and EAU are less affluent by a good margin than MSN is.

GRB-OSH as a combined area has the same population as MSN-JVL, and it's already fairly well served with bus service to/from MKE. Not quite the same story for EAU or GRB, and arguably both cities could use better connectivity to the largest city in the state.
  by mtuandrew
 
How about we institute a pair of Hiawatha service extensions to Madison (the city) and to Green Bay via Appleton (sorry Manitowoc), and build in study money for Eau Claire and MSP via La Crosse? That shows the outstate folks that Madison (the government) cares about cities that aren’t within 150 miles of Chicago.

Also, I’m not sure that the less affluent use Amtrak in higher numbers than the more affluent. College students are famously known for riding regional trains, and Amtrak hasn’t gotten any cheaper.
  by Tadman
 
Manitowoc = SS Badger, could be a nice traffic source.

Which raises the question, why aren't there interline tickets to the Leak n Sink, I mean Lake Express, from the Hiawatha?
  by eolesen
 
mtuandrew wrote: Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:42 pm Also, I’m not sure that the less affluent use Amtrak in higher numbers than the more affluent. College students are famously known for riding regional trains, and Amtrak hasn’t gotten any cheaper.
College students are also notoriously broke and frugal...
  by EricL
 
The expansion proposal, at least as it existed, has been dead by IDOT's hand for about a month:

https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/ ... story.html

https://www.journal-topics.com/articles ... ng-tracks/

https://urbanmilwaukee.com/2019/05/14/t ... expansion/

As previously discussed, it's all NIMBYism and petty local politics, as clearly evidenced by the Village Board of Glenview's willing expenditure of half a million dollars on lobbying alone.

The proposed Rondout/Lake Forest siding would have been located in quite a sparsely populated area - mostly a forest preserve - and so far as the extra track along the Techny cut-off at Glenview/Northbrook, trains of both the UP/CNW and the CP/MILW regularly idle in the same area every day as it is already.

Lake Forest had expressed interest in stopping Amtrak there for years, and Glenview had been trying to kick us out of the main station and shifting us up to North Glen. One must wonder whether the current opposition doesn't derive at least minimally from the fact of these past proposals having been shelved. Now, though, owing to their collective egotistic ornery, you can bet that neither of the ideas will be carried out any time soon.

Green Bay/Eau Claire trains: never gonna happen. 2x CHI-MSP?- Minnesota's gonna have to handle all the legwork. Madison: as you might remember, it was pretty close to happening - then Scott Walker was elected. He might be gone now, but the two State houses are still of similar composition now as then. I don't see the state coming up, on its own, with anything approximating the $810 million originally granted by the federal stimulus program.
  by knope2001
 
Apparently Wisconsin and Illinois are working to find alternatives to the roadblock North Shore NIMBY's

https://www.biztimes.com/2019/ideas/gov ... a-service/

As for passenger rail to Green Bay if it ever would happen it would not be over Manitowoc. There are sections of track both nor and south of Manitowoc long gone -- specifically between Rockwood and Denmark (Devil's River State Trail) and between Cleveland and Newton. It would be Fox Valley or nothing.

Although rail to Green Bay (through Fond du Lac, Oshkosh and Appleton) is nowhere on the horizon, Amtrak did start coordinated Thruway Bus service today 7/1/19 on a twice-daily schedule. Schedules are coordinated for quick connections to/from Hiawatha trains to Chicago though Amtrak will sell local bus-only tickets as well along the route. The new service has the support of the Wisconsin DoT in their efforts to backfill bus service lost when Greyhound pulled the plug last year. Oddly the service was only announced three days prior to launch and one media outlet described this as a "soft launch". In these first weeks a Coach USA bus will operate the service until the Amtrak bus is ready to take over the service.

Obviously this is not actual rail services to Green Bay and the Fox Valley but hoepfully having Amtrak-branded service with coordinated connections will bring more people to the Hiawatha.
  by Jeff Smith
 
CBS58.com: “Ridership is soaring:” Improvement projects announced for Amtrak’s Hiawatha line

So they're ultimately looking to get to 10 round-trips. Is ridership really soaring? How does this corridor perform financially?
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In 2018, more than 850,000 people rode the train and that number is expected to be even higher by the end of 2019.

On Wednesday, local leaders discussed three projects that are needed in order to keep up with ridership and reliability.

Two grants were awarded earlier this year. One of the grants will help add another platform at Milwaukee’s Airport Rail Station. The other grant will improve signaling.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is also waiting on another grant that would bring in new train cars.
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“Ridership is soaring,” WisDOT Passenger Rail Manager Arun Rao said. “It's a critical option for the business community and the general public and other travelers in this region. I think the big takeaway is the impact it has on commerce and the business community.”
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  by Tadman
 
Also the red/white Talgos are on the move. Somebody caught them in Chicago. No idea where they're going.
  by eolesen
 
Jeff Smith wrote: Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:18 am CBS58.com: “Ridership is soaring:” Improvement projects announced for Amtrak’s Hiawatha line

So they're ultimately looking to get to 10 round-trips. Is ridership really soaring?
Yup. NICTD is also making moves to increase frequencies.

The number of people leaving Illinois for southeast Wisconsin and Northwest Indiana but keeping their job in downtown Chicago rises every year, and the farther away they move, the more likely they are to ride the South Shore or the Hiawatha.
  by knope2001
 
Jeff Smith wrote: Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:18 am CBS58.com: “Ridership is soaring:” Improvement projects announced for Amtrak’s Hiawatha line
So they're ultimately looking to get to 10 round-trips. Is ridership really soaring? How does this corridor perform financially?
"Soaring" is maybe a little too dramatic but it's up 6.2% fiscal YTD. If it keeps up the pace for the last four months of the fiscal year it will finish with just under 900k passengers, up just over 50% from the (relatively) recent bottoming out in 2007 of just under 600k.

Financially last fiscal year's report had the Hiawatha in the black by $1.8m. Of the 29 state-supported routes the HIawatha's operating profit was 5th best. Three DC regional routes and the Carolinian had a larger operating profit. 17 of the 29 had an operating loss. So far this year Hiawath is in the red by $1.3m based largely on a 10%+ expense increase. Not sure what that's about. On the revenue side in the past 18-24 months or so they have started peak/offpeak pricing. Peak trains are weekday southbound at 615am and 805am and afternoon northbound at 315pm and 508pm. Originally they were $1 more and now they are up to $3 more, a 12% premium on the $25 base fare. Not only do the peak fares bring in more revenue but they help to mold less time-sensitive demand onto offpeak trains. The Hiawatha is unreserved and it's not uncommon to have standing passengers on peak trains.

In the most recent annoucement it was stated that over 40% of total Hiawatha passengers are traveling for business/work, and of those passengers about 60% of them are doing a day trip. That means around 4300-4400 people in the average week -- about 25% of the total traffic load -- are people doing day trips for work. Some are commuters (including perhaps many who only go into the office on certain days) while others are travel for client visits, meetings, sales calls, etc. This is where a third trainset and added frequencies can really garner more passengers. The current 7x has mostly 2-2.5 hour gaps and if you've got to wait much more than an hour you start to think you could be halfway home if you'd driven. Even an 8th train to east congestion southbound in the early monring and northbound in the afternoon woudl help. A standing train of 60-90 minutes is just not much fun.

So hopefully trip 8 isn't too far out and 9 and 10 not too far behind.
  by mtuandrew
 
That’s great news (except for the YTD deficit.) Hoping you guys do get that extra set of frequencies too, and that you work out some Madison and Green Bay extensions before long as well.
  by Jeff Smith
 
https://fox6now.com/2019/08/20/wisdot-t ... atha-line/
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The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will be awarded up to $25.7 million for the upgrade of train cars on the route.

It's the busiest Amtrak route in the Midwest.

The project will replace deteriorated, outdated passenger cab-baggage and coach cars used in the Chicago–Milwaukee Amtrak Hiawatha Service with three single-level cab-coach cars and six single-level coach cars. Replacement of the cab-baggage cars with cab-coach cars will increase seating capacity, reduce fuel consumption, increase equipment reliability, reduce crowding, and improve accessibility for passengers with disabilities.
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