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March Best for Amtrak, Not Hiawatha
While Amtrak sees record ridership, the Milwaukee-Chicago route struggles.

Sturtevant Station photo from Shutterstock.

March 2013 was the best month ever for Amtrak, the company reported on Tuesday. But not so much for our local Hiawatha line. While overall ridership increased 0.9 percent in the first six months of fiscal year 2013, the Hiawatha line saw a 4.3 percent decrease from the same time period last year. And the route’s ridership decreased 5.2 percent from March 2012 to March 2013.

Overall, 26 of 45 Amtrak routes saw ridership increases over the first six months of the fiscal year – the Palmetto route (running from New York City to Washington, D.C., to Charleston to Savannah to Jacksonville to Orlando to Tampa/Miami) saw a the biggest increase at 10.5 percent.

Last month, 69,307 riders chose Amtrak Hiawatha compared to 73,087 in March 2012. From October 2012 to March 2013, 387,818 riders chose Hiawatha compared to 405,248 from October 2011 to March 2012.

But the Milwaukee-Chicago line did set a ridership record last year for the ninth time in a decade, increasing 2.3 percent from fiscal year 2011. Plus: The route has shown a 132 percent increase in ridership since 1997, according to the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.

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