By the numbers
The Evers administration is vying for federal money to expand existing Amtrak service that runs from Milwaukee to Chicago. The administration wants to add Amtrak trains from Milwaukee to Madison and to Green Bay. While federal money would cover track upgrades and new equipment needed, state taxpayers would be on the hook for any operating costs not covered by ticket sales. You can read more about that proposal here.
The underlying numbers
The annual ridership on the existing Amtrak “Hiawatha” service between Milwaukee and Chicago had been rising slowly prior to the pandemic, rising about 18% over the 10-year period up to 2019, when ridership hit a peak of 873,537.
Ridership declined sharply amid COVID lockdowns, and Amtrak replaced rail service with buses for several months in spring 2020. Ridership in fiscal year 2021, which began in October 2020, amounted to 241,600, about 28% of the 2019 figure. In the fiscal year that just concluded on Sept. 30, ridership had revived to 635,000, about 27% below the 2019 peak.
The figures are from Amtrak’s annual fiscal year summaries in its year-end issue of its monthly performance report.
Published in the Nov. 10 issue of Top Picks.