June 15, 2005

Messing with the Hiawatha (Amtrak)

Category: Transit

antrak3.jpgChicago: As much as I think the current administration's attitude toward passenger rail is atrocious, I recognize that some Amtrak lines may indeed be less worthy of government support than others. If cuts must be made, let them be to the long distance trains which serve much more as tourist voyages than viable forms of long distance transportaion. Amtrak can then focus on markets where train travel is truely viable and growing, such as the Northeast Corridor, California and around Chicago.

One of the most successful routes in Amtrak's network is the Hiawatha, running many times a day between Milwaukee and Chicago. It's not cheap, at $40 round trip, but it's always packed and continues to gain riders. The line recently added a stop at Milwaukee's airport, giving Chicago passengers a third airport to choose from in their travels.

Unfortunately, as suggested in this article, if expected budget cuts coincide with poor leadership decisions, this line may see increased fares and service cuts which would threaten its viability. I say, don't mess with the Hiawatha, cut the poor performing lines first, if something must be cut.

Posted by Nick at June 15, 2005 5:54 PM

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 Comments:

Idiot!!!

Which is "Beyond Stupidity"? Your complaint, or the fact that the government is looking to cut support to higher performing Amtrak routes??

Govenment support, by definition, should only be used for underperforming routes (or anything else, in its infinite wisdom, the government deems saving regardless of its economic viability). Is is not so you, and others like you who are underpaying, at my expense, for a service that could likely stand on its own, or at least be subsized less.

It is people like you that lead politicians to raise taxes, run a national debt, and inflate the money supply because you want the everyone else to pay your way.

You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Posted by: daredevle [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 19, 2005 12:56 PM

Not an idiot - in response to the above comment. Underpaying? Subsidized? Every time we drive on a non-toll highway or road we are "underpaying" and the government is "subsidizing" our trip.

Posted by: Bob at July 22, 2005 8:20 AM


Daredevle - what are you talking about? My point was that certain routes are more deserving of government support than others. And government support is often needed to get them off the ground towards viability. The fact is that this particular line would be crippled without some degree of government intervention. However, it's also possible that if Amtrak didn't have to spend tons of money on its underperforming routes then this one might not need to be subsidized at all.

Posted by: Nick at August 16, 2005 4:40 PM

Good service

Posted by: Frank Johnson at January 6, 2006 2:55 AM

bob> Excellent point. People seem to think that the automobile isn't subsidized. Well the fact is, the automobile is subsidized at rate so much greater than rail service it isn't even funny. If rail was subsidized similiarly to the autombile we'd see congestion, and polution drop and have a safer commute! oh well

Posted by: bob at January 11, 2006 10:18 AM

I am very much in favor of rail service between Milwaukee and Chicaog and, in fact, would love it if the Hiawatha had twice as many scheduled runs. If it ran, say 14 times a day, it would be real option for people to live in Milwaukee and work in Chicago - right now there just aren't enough daily trains.

That said, I can see why Bush wants to cut funding to Amtrak. It is simply very poorly run. I have taken both the Metra train to Kenosha and Amtrak to Sturtevant many, many times and, hands down, Metra is the far superior service, even though ti s much slower. It is cheaper and more reliable. What's more, Metra treats customers much better than Amtrak does. If a Metra train is delayed, the conductors apologize and let you know when the train will arrive.

When I was on an Amtrak train that was delayed right before the Milwaukee station, due to a frozen drawbridge, in contrast, the conductor had no idea when the problem would be fixed, did not even bother to call on his cell phone to find out if the bridge was being repaired, shrugged and said "it was not his job," and offered no apology. The Amtrak automatic ticket kiosks are often broken, the customer service agents are rude, and, overall,the service a mess. That's why maybe it would be better if Amtrak's funding were cut and well-run regional commuter train lines could take over their routes. Just a thought.

Posted by: Julie at January 12, 2006 5:27 PM

But when the honorable senator from Texas has his favorite underage prostitute in that cute, nameless border town, how can you expect him to approve closing the line that gets him there from his lobby-funded mansion in houston?

Posted by: T0ny at August 21, 2006 7:24 PM

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