Nearly 80,000 people rode Amtrak's Hiawatha route between Milwaukee and Chicago last month — more than any month in the route's history.Yes, and this summer's construction hassles on I-94, which will not offer any faster drive times once the work is done, contribute to the train's advantage. Now to add some late-evening trips for theater-goers returning from Chicago or ethnic festival enthusiasts returning from Milwaukee.
The record number was a 5% increase over last July, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari, who attributed the gains to increased reliability, as well as riders' interest in avoiding traffic congestion on highways during the summer construction and travel season.
"Transit that's on-time, with crew members that passengers find likable, with costs that are affordable, tends to make our service grow," Magliari said.
James Rowen at The Political Environment is not happy that the benefits of the train don't extend to the rest of the state. "Scott Walker's weakness before right-wing talk radio and his robotic obeisance to the highway lobby cost southern Wisconsin a Madison connection to the now-record-setting Hiawatha Amtrak line." It's more complicated than that: Passenger Rail advocates in the state never came up with the proper case for frequency and connectivity, letting the radio talkers' yuppie lawyer train smear go uncontested.
There's also reason to consider the past history of the corridor, before lamenting what might have been."Now imagine an updated rail system carrying people from the Twin Cities to downtown Chicago in less than six hours - even faster than driving and on a par with a complicated airline connection." Six hours trims only fifteen minutes from the best Chicago - St. Paul timings of the late 1930s.
Those 75 minute trains of years ago were pulled by steam locomotives -- not necessarily built especially for speed -- on jointed rail past semaphore signals that were not repeated in the cab. One does not require space-age electronics and global positioning systems to run fast trains.Is it too much to ask for 75 minute, or 70 minute, timings, Milwaukee Airport to Union Station, as a next step?