Looks like more of us are riding the rails. It was another record year for ridership in 2008, on Amtrak's Hiawatha between Milwaukee and Chicago. Ridership was up 28 percent, and Ron Adams with the Wisconsin D-O-T says the increase can't be attributed solely to gas prices. “It's relaxing,” says Adams, adding that Hiawatha passengers don't have to contend with the weather, congestion or construction. “Even though gasoline prices are down, we've got more and more people riding, and they're discovering it's a good way to travel to and from Chicago.”
With seven round trips daily – six on Sunday – Adams says the Hiawatha provides a good deal of flexibility for travelers, many of whom learn about the service through word of mouth. In fact, the service is proving almost too popular: many peak period runs are now standing room only, and there are budget requests in place in Wisconsin and Illinois to acquire more rail cars.
Ridership surpassed 766,000 last year, including a record 63,000 in December. Adams says there are budget requests in place in Wisconsin and Illinois to acquire more rail cars.