Amtrak Hiawatha Train Replaced By Bus During Pandemic
Service already cut from seven round trips per day to one.
The Amtrak Hiawatha Service between Milwaukee and Chicago will be converted from train to coach bus starting Friday, April 24th through at least May 25th.
The state-funded route had already been cut back from seven round-trips per day to one. It’s one of many Amtrak routes across the country that have seen service reductions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other trains, including the flagship Acela high-speed service, have been suspended altogether.
Amtrak, in a press release, said the train-to-bus move comes as a result of low ridership.
Train service is still available from Milwaukee. The Amtrak Empire Builder, which runs from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest, continues to operate on its once-a-day schedule through Milwaukee. Unlike in normal conditions where the line only accepts passengers going west of Milwaukee, passengers going between Chicago and Milwaukee may now book tickets on the train.
The once-a-day bus leaves downtown Milwaukee at 7:55 a.m. and will arrive in Chicago at 9:54 a.m. The return trip leaves Chicago at 5:00 p.m., arriving in Milwaukee at 6:59 p.m. All stops along the route will be maintained with the exception of Glenview. Passengers seeking to go to Glenview must book a ticket on the Empire Builder.
Hiawatha Service set a new ridership record in 2019 with 876,356 trips, more than double 2003’s total when the system began providing seven daily roundtrips. The route is the busiest non-coastal route in the Amtrak system.
Hiawatha revenue pays for 75 percent of the service’s cost. The rest of the cost is subsidized, with Wisconsin paying 75 percent and Illinois paying 25 percent of that amount.
Wisconsin continues to pursue federal grants to support increasing service to 10 round trips per day. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation was awarded a $26.6 million grant in March to partially fund the largest project required to accommodate the increased service, a freight rail bypass in the Menomonee Valley.
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