Jump to content




MSP to Chicago


39 replies to this topic

#1 Guest_guest msp_*

Guest_guest msp_*
  • Guests

Posted 11 July 2012 - 09:23 PM

With the horrible on-time performance of Empire Builder #8, why would anyone buy a ticket on Amtrak from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Chicago? I have traveled this route numerous times in the past, but would never consider it now. While service is diminishing, the fares keep rising so that the one-way coach fare from MSP to Chicago is at least $102 for many dates from now to the end of the year (even during 'slow' travel periods). This is more expensive than airfare and many times more expensive than Greyhound's new express bus service with online fares as low as $15. The Greyhound express is on brand new buses with leather seats, extra legroom, and free wi-fi; I rode it once and was quite satisfied. When I see what's happening with some of Amtrak's long-distance routes, it makes me wonder if they'll be around much longer.

#2 jebr

jebr

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,447 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:(near) SCD

Posted 11 July 2012 - 10:07 PM

With the horrible on-time performance of Empire Builder #8, why would anyone buy a ticket on Amtrak from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Chicago? I have traveled this route numerous times in the past, but would never consider it now. While service is diminishing, the fares keep rising so that the one-way coach fare from MSP to Chicago is at least $102 for many dates from now to the end of the year (even during 'slow' travel periods). This is more expensive than airfare and many times more expensive than Greyhound's new express bus service with online fares as low as $15. The Greyhound express is on brand new buses with leather seats, extra legroom, and free wi-fi; I rode it once and was quite satisfied. When I see what's happening with some of Amtrak's long-distance routes, it makes me wonder if they'll be around much longer.


Amtrak should really break off the MSP-Chicago section as a corridor in its own right, instead of having to rely on the EB's timekeeping (or lack thereof).

That being said, I'm not sure there's as many people doing MSP-CHI as there are doing Red Wing to Chicago, or Wisconsin Dells to Chicago. They may be pricing it high so that they don't fill up with $15 or $30 fares when they can demand $50 for a MSP - Wisconsin Dells (for example) trip (as Greyhound doesn't serve those with the Express service.)

#3 the_traveler

the_traveler

    Engineer

  • Global Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 20,742 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Penthouse Suite - here & there
  • Interests:Planning my next trip

Posted 11 July 2012 - 10:11 PM

Anyone is free to chose any form of transportation they wish. Nobody is forcing anyone to take Amtrak, Greyhound or any airline. I personally chose to ride Amtrak - even if the others are less and/or faster. I find Amtrak to be the more relaxing mode - especially in the winter when airports and highways are closed!

I'll take Amtrak over the others even during a rain storm!
Take it easy .......

Take the train instead!

#4 RRUserious

RRUserious

    Conductor

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 510 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 11 July 2012 - 11:37 PM

Amtrak could be relaxing. Last October it seemed this way. This June, it was not at all. Choosing a way to go starts to get complicated for some legs of a journey. One thing that trying some of these things out has done is to show me just what a range from good to bad there is on Amtrak. So in the future, I can make more informed judgments. Trouble with some Amtrak fans is that they consider no shortfall as serious. So if you go looking for testimonials, you can be badly misled. I started gathering more realistic data when my last trip didn't turn out to be enjoyable. But there was no advance warning from people who were frequent travelers. So that's why I'm on the side of "telling it like it is". At least people deserve to go into train trips with eyes wide open.

#5 AlanB

AlanB

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 28,862 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Queens, New York

Posted 12 July 2012 - 12:34 AM

Trouble with some Amtrak fans is that they consider no shortfall as serious. So if you go looking for testimonials, you can be badly misled. I started gathering more realistic data when my last trip didn't turn out to be enjoyable. But there was no advance warning from people who were frequent travelers. So that's why I'm on the side of "telling it like it is". At least people deserve to go into train trips with eyes wide open.


I'm sorry, but if you believe that then you clearly haven't been fully reading everything on this forum. Yes, there are some here who dismiss anything bad.

But there have also been plenty who have posted about bad things, plenty who take they middle of the road or at least try to. And there are plenty of people who do try to give the best possible advice here to newbies.

And even though I often cringe when I approve a post from a guest because I know that some will immediately go on the attack, unless its some totally outrageous, off the wall scenario, we do allow the bad to be posted here. Heck, you're living proof of that, as despite my belief that in some cases (although not all) you were being a little too hard on Amtrak, your posts remain here for all to see.
Alan,

Take care and take trains!

#6 Anderson

Anderson

    Engineer

  • Global Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 6,458 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Virginia

Posted 12 July 2012 - 01:20 AM

At least from my perspective, there are a few corridor "back ends" that should have a regular local/corridor operation as well as the LD train(s) running in the area. MSP-CHI leaps to mind, as does intra-Florida travel and the southern end of the Coast Starlight (i.e. EMY-LAX). Heck, I'd even qualify some parts of the Sunset route for this, notwithstanding the morass that is UP and the tri-weekly operation, and the same goes for IND-CHI, presuming somewhat better timing.

Of course, I say this with a distinct proviso: Passengers should, in general, still be able to choose the long-distance train if they so choose (even if subject to being informed of possible delays), since the LD operations tend to feature additional services (such as private rooms and full-service dining). Particularly once the states are running lots of their own cars, if this means that the LD train is running an extra coach and needs to push the dining cars a bit harder, then so be it (since Amtrak is likely to have some extra Superliner coaches freed up in the process). To take my frequent WAS-RVR scenario, if I'm willing to put an extra $20-30 down for my ticket on that train and then pay for dinner, Amtrak should take the money and run...considering that I am adding very little to their costs (only the COGS on the food, really, unless they actually have to add space on the train) and I'm frequently paying $80-95 when I could pay just $30 or so for a Regional ticket and grab a burger at WAS, they're making out like a bandit.
Capitol Limited (7), CA Zephyr (4) Lake Shore Limited (1), Acela (2), NE Regional (2), Sliver Meteor (4)
Upcoming: Silver Meteor (1), Lake Shore Limited (1), SW Chief (2), MO River Runner (1), Texas Eagle (1)
Possibly Upcoming: Either Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (2) or Texas Eagle (1), Capitol Limited (1), Silver Meteor (1)

#7 rtabern

rtabern

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,327 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:South Milwaukee, WI (4 blocks from the UP (Lake) Line MP 73.2)

Posted 12 July 2012 - 01:22 AM

If Amtrak actually had the funding it should and the budget for equipment that that it should really be getting -- it would be nice REALLY to have a CHI-MKE-MSP corridor train to compliment the Empire Builder as a second train between those cities.

If the train left early enough from Chicago, it could almost do a same-day turn in MSP and would only require 1 set of equipment and 2 train crews.

For example, a 6:00AM departure out of Chicago would but the train in Milwaukee around 7:30AM, and Minneapolis-St Paul around 2:15PM. Turn the equipment and leave at 3:30PM and you're back into Chicago around 11:45PM.

I'm sure it won't happen unless IL, WI, and MN kicks in some cash, but it would be nice for us who live in the area.

And UGH... I'm hoping #8's times improve... I chartered a dome car as part of my wedding reception... and it will be on the back of #8 on October 15th from MSP-CHI. This will be some of my wedding guests' first time on a long-distance train... I don't want it to be 6 hours late and give off that first impression to my non-railfan friends.

#8 EB_OBS

EB_OBS

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,013 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Spokane, WA
  • Interests:Family, PC games, outdoors, and working for Amtrak.

Posted 12 July 2012 - 06:24 AM

Just an FYI, and I understand a bus is no substitute for a train, but, generally when the #8 EB is running 3+ hours behind schedule into MSP, which it has been a lot lately, then Amtrak does bus on-time between MSP and CHI.

I receive all the communications between the General Manager Stations and Customer Service when they bus out of MSP and they have sent on-time busses a lot lately. If your major concern is making a connection in Chicago for a trip originating at MSP or further east, usually there is the option of an on-time bus.

Usually, by #8's arrival into Minot, ND, preparations and call-backs are being made to passengers so they know that there will be on-time buses.

Edited by EB_OBS, 12 July 2012 - 06:26 AM.


#9 tim49424

tim49424

    OBS Chief

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 345 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Holland, MI

Posted 12 July 2012 - 08:00 AM

Just an FYI, and I understand a bus is no substitute for a train, but, generally when the #8 EB is running 3+ hours behind schedule into MSP, which it has been a lot lately, then Amtrak does bus on-time between MSP and CHI.


I can vouch for this. I have had this happen a few times when I've gone from TOH to CHI on the EB. Today is one of them. I have to meet the bus at the train station in TOH at the time the train was scheduled. The particular charter bus that I've taken originates at TOH and stops at all the station stops to the east on the route with the exception of MKE and GLN. After the bus stops in CBS, it heads south and east to CHI along I-39 and I-90 arriving at CUS around 5 PM just in time to make the earliest of the connections (which happens to be mine) the Pere Marquette that heads into Michigan at 5:20. I hate the bus with a passion, but it's much better than the alternatives.

There was one time the charter bus from TOH was an express bus to MKE and we were allowed to catch the next running of the Hiawatha to CHI. I'm not sure why they don't do that more often.

Over 30,000 miles traveled on Amtrak since December, 2007.  Next trip:  unknown

Amtrak trains traveled on as of August, 2014:  Pere Marquette, Empire Builder, Hiawatha, Wolverine, Coast Starlight, California Zephyr


#10 jphjaxfl

jphjaxfl

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,043 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Jacksonville, FL
  • Interests:Rail passenger advocate for modern, reliable passenger trains that will allow for business or leasure travel. I have been riding trains for over 60 years, but I am not advocating going back to what we once had, rather an updated system similar to Europe, Japan, China, India and other nations with great passenger train systems.

Posted 12 July 2012 - 08:03 AM

When I lived in Minneapolis until 1996 when Amtrak had more equipment, they use to run a Superliner Coach and coach/snack bar train from Minneapolis to Chicago when the Empire Builder was more than 4 hours late. While it wasn't as nice as a full EB,it beats a bus! I guess Amtrak is too short on equipment to do that.

#11 Ispolkom

Ispolkom

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,941 posts
  • Location:St. Paul, Minn.

Posted 12 July 2012 - 08:48 AM

I'm sure it won't happen unless IL, WI, and MN kicks in some cash, but it would be nice for us who live in the area.

And UGH... I'm hoping #8's times improve... I chartered a dome car as part of my wedding reception... and it will be on the back of #8 on October 15th from MSP-CHI. This will be some of my wedding guests' first time on a long-distance train... I don't want it to be 6 hours late and give off that first impression to my non-railfan friends.


It sure would. I look in envy at the 1962 Official Railway Guide. Morning and Evening Zephyrs. Morning and Evening Hiawathas, with the Super Dome. Morning and evening 400s. The Milwaukee Road even still had the Pioneer, a night train between the Twin Cities and Chicago which might have still had a set-out Milwaukee sleeper.

October's a long way away, and I'd not be surprised if the Empire Builder isn't back on track (pardon the pun) by then.

#12 jimhudson

jimhudson

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,652 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Austin Texas
  • Interests:Passenger Trains/Travel/Sports(except Soccer)/Government-Politics/Reading/Old Buildings
    Movies/Music/Unicorns and Ancient Aliens!

Posted 12 July 2012 - 09:45 AM

And UGH... I'm hoping #8's times improve... I chartered a dome car as part of my wedding reception... and it will be on the back of #8 on October 15th from MSP-CHI. This will be some of my wedding guests' first time on a long-distance train... I don't want it to be 6 hours late and give off that first impression to my non-railfan friends.

Are your AU Friends invited to ride in the Dome Car Rob?? (must be nice to be a High Roller! :lol: )Really great Reception idea, lucky you to have a Bride that likes trains! :cool:

Edited by jimhudson, 12 July 2012 - 09:58 AM.

 
"There's Something About a Train! It's Magic!"-- 1970s Amtrak Ad
 
"What a Long,Strange Trip it's Been!"-  "Truckin'"-Grateful Dead
 
"..My heart is warm with the friends I make,and better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,No matter where its going!.." -Edna St. Vincent Millay

#13 afigg

afigg

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,484 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Virginia

Posted 12 July 2012 - 10:24 AM

When I lived in Minneapolis until 1996 when Amtrak had more equipment, they use to run a Superliner Coach and coach/snack bar train from Minneapolis to Chicago when the Empire Builder was more than 4 hours late. While it wasn't as nice as a full EB,it beats a bus! I guess Amtrak is too short on equipment to do that.

They would also have to have a locomotive stored at MSP to do that. Was probably a major money losing proposition to keep spare equipment - and crew? - at MSP in case the EB was running very late.

According to reports, Amtrak has been commissioned by MN to do a study to determine the subsidy costs to MN of running a daily corridor train between the Twin Cities and Chicago. Equipment availability is likely to be an issue for the next few years. But if there is federal funding available for intercity passenger rail in future years depending on the outcome of the November elections, MN might get federal funding with a 20% state match to exercise options on the bi-level corridor car order.

#14 the_traveler

the_traveler

    Engineer

  • Global Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 20,742 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Penthouse Suite - here & there
  • Interests:Planning my next trip

Posted 12 July 2012 - 11:45 AM

However, WI must also pay a share (also IL) for this separate train, since the corridor is under 750 miles. That alone may derail (pun intended) the plan - it's easier to get 1 state to agree to pay for a train than it is to get 3 states to do the same!
Take it easy .......

Take the train instead!

#15 jebr

jebr

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,447 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:(near) SCD

Posted 12 July 2012 - 01:22 PM

However, WI must also pay a share (also IL) for this separate train, since the corridor is under 750 miles. That alone may derail (pun intended) the plan - it's easier to get 1 state to agree to pay for a train than it is to get 3 states to do the same!


Do they? I remember reading another thread talking about this corridor that said that so long as it's covered by the states (not Amtrak), it doesn't matter which states sponsor it. Hence, in theory, Minnesota could pay for it all, including Wisconsin's share.

Of course, I would hope that they would give discounts to Minnesota taxpayers (like myself) that ride this train. ;)

#16 Dovecote

Dovecote

    Conductor

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 724 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Thomasville, GA

Posted 12 July 2012 - 01:34 PM

Just an FYI, and I understand a bus is no substitute for a train, but, generally when the #8 EB is running 3+ hours behind schedule into MSP, which it has been a lot lately, then Amtrak does bus on-time between MSP and CHI.

I receive all the communications between the General Manager Stations and Customer Service when they bus out of MSP and they have sent on-time busses a lot lately. If your major concern is making a connection in Chicago for a trip originating at MSP or further east, usually there is the option of an on-time bus.

Usually, by #8's arrival into Minot, ND, preparations and call-backs are being made to passengers so they know that there will be on-time buses.


Thanks for this informative explanation. I learned the hard way a few years ago when I arrived in MSP to catch the eastbound train. The EB was running late that day and knowing that I arrived around 3 hours late to the station with plans to catch the train a hour and half later. The ticket agent informed the train would not arrive until at least 3 hours later (it turned out to be five hours for a total of eight hours late). He than said I should have been informed by phone that a chatered bus would depart MSP on time in lieu of waiting for a very late train. I told the agent that I never received a call and he did not act surprised of my comment.

I was in the same exact scenario a year later. This time instead of waiting for a call I never did receive I called Customer Service (CS) myself and was informed of the alternate itinerary. On future trips I will be cognizant of the Minot arrival time and plan accordingly.

Edited by Dovecote, 12 July 2012 - 01:35 PM.

Amtrak Trains Traveled - Acela Express, Auto Train, Capitol Limited, City of New Orleans, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Empire Builder, Kansas City Mule, Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf, Northeast Regional, Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, and Vermonter.

#17 afigg

afigg

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,484 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Virginia

Posted 12 July 2012 - 03:04 PM

However, WI must also pay a share (also IL) for this separate train, since the corridor is under 750 miles. That alone may derail (pun intended) the plan - it's easier to get 1 state to agree to pay for a train than it is to get 3 states to do the same!

Why would you think that all states that the corridor train travels through have to contribute to the subsidy?

Maine or more specifically NNEPRA pays for the Downeaster, NH and MA do not.
Vermont pays for the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen; MA, CT, or NY (for the EA) do not.
NC pays for the Carolinian; VA does not.

Michigan will providing the subsidy for all the Michigan trains; I don't think IL or IN are expected to contribute, although IL might.

If MN wants a daily MSP-CHI train, I would imagine they would like WI to contribute. If the MPS-CHI train provides an additional daily train between CHI and MKE, maybe MN would ask WI to provide the proportional equivalent of what WI provides for the 7 daily Hiawathas. But MN may have to pick up the subsidy tab by itself along with any improvements that CP may demand for a 2nd daily train over their tracks.

#18 alben

alben

    Train Attendant

  • Training
  • Pip
  • 35 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:MSP
  • Interests:Domestic and international travel.

Posted 12 July 2012 - 05:52 PM

There really needs to be a separate service from Minnesota (Fargo, St. Cloud, or Minneapolis/St. Paul) to Chicago. Every once in a while I hear something in the news about studies regarding high speed rail from MSP to CHI, but talk is cheap. If this segment was broken off from the Empire Builder, good chance it would actually run on time :-)

When I take Amtrak the MSP to CHI route, I just pretty much assume the train will be late 1 - 3 hrs.

More power to Amtrak if they can charge a premium for their seats. It is obvious even with the seats selling at $133, they are selling them out.

However with Spirit airlines now at MSP, it begins to get hard to justify Amtrak.

#19 rtabern

rtabern

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,327 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:South Milwaukee, WI (4 blocks from the UP (Lake) Line MP 73.2)

Posted 12 July 2012 - 05:57 PM




And UGH... I'm hoping #8's times improve... I chartered a dome car as part of my wedding reception... and it will be on the back of #8 on October 15th from MSP-CHI. This will be some of my wedding guests' first time on a long-distance train... I don't want it to be 6 hours late and give off that first impression to my non-railfan friends.

Are your AU Friends invited to ride in the Dome Car Rob?? (must be nice to be a High Roller! :lol: )Really great Reception idea, lucky you to have a Bride that likes trains! :cool:


Hmmm... we still have 10 open seats... talk to me!! LOL

#20 jphjaxfl

jphjaxfl

    Engineer

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,043 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Jacksonville, FL
  • Interests:Rail passenger advocate for modern, reliable passenger trains that will allow for business or leasure travel. I have been riding trains for over 60 years, but I am not advocating going back to what we once had, rather an updated system similar to Europe, Japan, China, India and other nations with great passenger train systems.

Posted 13 July 2012 - 01:22 AM


When I lived in Minneapolis until 1996 when Amtrak had more equipment, they use to run a Superliner Coach and coach/snack bar train from Minneapolis to Chicago when the Empire Builder was more than 4 hours late. While it wasn't as nice as a full EB,it beats a bus! I guess Amtrak is too short on equipment to do that.

They would also have to have a locomotive stored at MSP to do that. Was probably a major money losing proposition to keep spare equipment - and crew? - at MSP in case the EB was running very late.

According to reports, Amtrak has been commissioned by MN to do a study to determine the subsidy costs to MN of running a daily corridor train between the Twin Cities and Chicago. Equipment availability is likely to be an issue for the next few years. But if there is federal funding available for intercity passenger rail in future years depending on the outcome of the November elections, MN might get federal funding with a 20% state match to exercise options on the bi-level corridor car order.

At that time, Minneapolis to Chicago had a lot more passengers than they do now. Many of the people I know that live in the Twin Cities have given up on Amtrak due to late trains and fly instead. I believe any additional expense was offset by the number of passengers because the train was usually 3-4 cars and would be standing room only by the time it reached Milwaukee. When Amtrak was anticipating a late Empire Builder, the locomotive and consist would deadhead up from Chicago on #7 so it was just sitting at the Midway Depot overnight. The crew was the normal Empire Builder crew that was scheduled out that morning. The extra board was used for the late Empire Builder which was discharge only from the Twin Cities to Chicago. Amtrak has thrown away the local Minneapolis-Chicago market. As has been pointed out in 1962, there were 4 railroads with 2 offering frequent upscale service. Even in the early years of Amtrak when schedules were much more reliable,trains were quite full. I usually did the Parlor Car on the Hiawatha when that was available and all the seats we being used at some point in the trip.



Reply to this topic



  


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users