Amtrak Hiawatha Service Ridership Up Strongly

MILWAUKEE – Amtrak ridership in Fiscal Year 2007 on Hiawatha Service trains between Chicago and Milwaukee increased by 2.6 percent and is approaching 600,000 annual riders.

In all, more than 631,000 passengers used the three Wisconsin Hiawatha Service stations, including Amtrak Empire Builder passengers at Milwaukee’s downtown station. More than 2.8 million passengers used the two Illinois Hiawatha Service stations, including other trains at Amtrak Chicago Union Station.

Amtrak operates seven daily round-trips on the route Mondays through Fridays, with six round-trips on Sundays. The ridership gain on the Hiawathas is slightly more than the national Amtrak ridership increase of 2.4 percent and comes as Amtrak has made several improvements to the service with the Wisconsin and Illinois transportation departments.
Amtrak operates the Hiawatha Service trains under contracts with the two states.

Within the last few months, Amtrak has increased the capacity of the Hiawathas by adding a fifth 68-seat coach to most trains. An improved selection of beverages and food is now being offered to passengers on more trains and additional Quik-TrakSM Ticket Express vending machines have been added at more locations.

Also, work is nearly complete on the complete conversion of the former Milwaukee train station into the city’s Intermodal Transportation Center, with new space, more amenities and better connections to other modes. This follows on the openings of new stations for the Hiawatha Service trains in Wisconsin at Sturtevant and at the Milwaukee Airport.

“We know there’s strong support for passenger rail in Wisconsin and the increased ridership on the Hiawatha Service in 33 of the past 35 months is clear evidence of that,” Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi said. “I also see similar support around the country in my role as chair of the States for Passenger Rail Coalition.”

“Amtrak provides an invaluable service to Illinois families, seniors, students and members of our armed services. In some communities, Amtrak provides the only form of public transportation,” said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Milton R. Sees. “Governor Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois General Assembly have made a strong commitment to the state’s partnership with Amtrak. These ridership gains indicate that when you make passenger train service more available and convenient, the public will flock to it.”

“Highway and airway congestion, volatile fuel prices, increasing environmental awareness, and a need for transportation links between growing communities, are some of the factors that make intercity passenger rail extremely relevant in today’s world,” said Alex Kummant, President and CEO of Amtrak.

“Our record setting ridership and ticket revenue in FY07 indicate the stage is set for Amtrak to take on a role as not only a contributor to the nation’s transportation network, but as a leader among modes,” he added.

Nationally, Amtrak ridership in Fiscal Year 2007 increased to 25,847,531, marking the fifth straight year of gains and setting a record for the most passengers using Amtrak trains since the National Railroad Passenger Corporation started operations in 1971.
This total, for the period October 1, 2006 – September 30, 2007, topped the 24,306,965 for the previous 12 months and is greater than the passenger count of 25.03 million reached in 2004.

Total ticket revenue for the fiscal year, $1.5 billion, was an 11 percent increase over the $1.37 billion in FY06.