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Uncle Sugar blows another $5 million

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Uncle Sugar blows another $5 million
Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 4:25 PM

This will never happen and is a waste of money in my view.    There is not enough passengers for two side by side Milwaukee to Chicago servcies like this even if one is slower.    If anything they should have a connecting bus service from the existing Amtrak Sturtevant stop to downtown Racine and Kenosha.     You have to wonder why they didn't fund that with the $5 million instead.

https://urbanmilwaukee.com/2024/01/02/possible-revival-for-kenosha-racine-milwaukee-commuter-rail-line/

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 4:50 PM

Back in the day, wasn't there three Milwaukee-Chicago services?

North Shore, Milwaukee Road and C&NW?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 8:32 PM

BaltACD
Back in the day, wasn't there three Milwaukee-Chicago services? North Shore, Milwaukee Road and C&NW?

Yes there were and this was the old C&NW route but back in the day the Interstate Highway system and local road system wasn't as developed and well, times have changed.     As it is now Chicago to Milwaukee on Amtrak is close to break even but still loses money...........so not enough riders.      They finally passed a limited yield management system with ticket prices so that will help more to close the subsidy gap.

I would love if this went through but I think they will lose their financial shirts on it and it will cannibalize some riders off the existing Amtrak service.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 9:08 PM

CMStPnP

This will never happen and is a waste of money in my view.    There is not enough passengers for two side by side Milwaukee to Chicago servcies like this even if one is slower.    If anything they should have a connecting bus service from the existing Amtrak Sturtevant stop to downtown Racine and Kenosha.     You have to wonder why they didn't fund that with the $5 million instead.

https://urbanmilwaukee.com/2024/01/02/possible-revival-for-kenosha-racine-milwaukee-commuter-rail-line/

 

 

I know you are knowledgeable about Wisconsin rail matters, so I tend to believe you when you say it will never happen.  Nevertheless I see that half the route is already duplicated by Metra's line to Kenosha.  It's a commuter line that seems to coexist with the Hiawathas.  A Kenosha-Milwaukee commuter route that has more convenient stops to locals, might attract a different population than those who happen to live close to Sturtevant.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 11:46 PM

MidlandMike
A Kenosha-Milwaukee commuter route that has more convenient stops to locals, might attract a different population than those who happen to live close to Sturtevant.

I think this might be the theory that is local but I see a few issues funding related and who would be in charge of running it.   Cooperation is great when the Feds agree to pay all the costs but even with that......issues below...

First, luke warm support from WisDOT.   Support primarily from Milwaukee and local communities along the line, which have been very price sensitive to any subsidy of any transportation option.   Heavy rail commuter I think is way out of their price range.    Also, strange inclination to buy new instead of used.   Dallas bought used and got a good deal on both operator contract and equipment.   Rail line acquisition from bankrupt Rock Island trustee wasn't a bad price either.   Milwaukee is fairly horrible at deals like that.

Second, SEWRPC which I think stands for SouthEast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission is roughly akin to NTCOG in Dallas area.   Regional planning org that loves to dream but has no taxing authority and no ability to fund or subsidize a transportation option.

Third, all attempts around Milwaukee Wisconsin have failed in regards to forming anything that appears to be a RTA in the past.   I don't see any change on that front.   The bus transit system in Milwaukee is good but local population not all that enthusiastic about it.   Even less enthusiastic about the HOP (trolley system).

Fourth, cross platform transfer in Kenosha is where it will lose a lot of riders Southbound, so if it ever does get built will primarily be a Northbound to Milwaukee service.    They have tried repeatedly in the past to build such a service West to Watertown, WI on former Milwaukee Road for several decades they made attempts.    Always falls apart on price of subsidy and initial implementation costs.   Attempting to get online cities to cough up cash fail because they expect the system to be paid for fully by someone else including the depots and parking areas.    The line West from Milwaukee was their best chance in my view because they are wealthy suburbs that could afford this.    Communities South of Milwaukee, not so much.

So primarily it will die on price tag unless they get a grant to fund 90-95% of it.   Would love to see it happen, grew up in Milwaukee and suburbs and pushed hard on the Western service attempts to Watertown.   Very disappointed at the excuses and justifications for not proceeding.   Former Milwaukee Road even lobbied for it and ran their train a year after formation of Amtrak between Milwaukee and Watertown, Milwaukee Mayor pleaded but Western suburbs said in effect:  No Thanks, any train serving Western Suburbs is Milwaukee's issue or it has to be fully paid for by the Feds.   Attempts to share costs via RTA formation failed.

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Posted by Gramp on Thursday, January 25, 2024 2:23 PM

CMStPnP

 

 
MidlandMike
A Kenosha-Milwaukee commuter route that has more convenient stops to locals, might attract a different population than those who happen to live close to Sturtevant.

 

I think this might be the theory that is local but I see a few issues funding related and who would be in charge of running it.   Cooperation is great when the Feds agree to pay all the costs but even with that......issues below...

First, luke warm support from WisDOT.   Support primarily from Milwaukee and local communities along the line, which have been very price sensitive to any subsidy of any transportation option.   Heavy rail commuter I think is way out of their price range.    Also, strange inclination to buy new instead of used.   Dallas bought used and got a good deal on both operator contract and equipment.   Rail line acquisition from bankrupt Rock Island trustee wasn't a bad price either.   Milwaukee is fairly horrible at deals like that.

Second, SEWRPC which I think stands for SouthEast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission is roughly akin to NTCOG in Dallas area.   Regional planning org that loves to dream but has no taxing authority and no ability to fund or subsidize a transportation option.

Third, all attempts around Milwaukee Wisconsin have failed in regards to forming anything that appears to be a RTA in the past.   I don't see any change on that front.   The bus transit system in Milwaukee is good but local population not all that enthusiastic about it.   Even less enthusiastic about the HOP (trolley system).

Fourth, cross platform transfer in Kenosha is where it will lose a lot of riders Southbound, so if it ever does get built will primarily be a Northbound to Milwaukee service.    They have tried repeatedly in the past to build such a service West to Watertown, WI on former Milwaukee Road for several decades they made attempts.    Always falls apart on price of subsidy and initial implementation costs.   Attempting to get online cities to cough up cash fail because they expect the system to be paid for fully by someone else including the depots and parking areas.    The line West from Milwaukee was their best chance in my view because they are wealthy suburbs that could afford this.    Communities South of Milwaukee, not so much.

So primarily it will die on price tag unless they get a grant to fund 90-95% of it.   Would love to see it happen, grew up in Milwaukee and suburbs and pushed hard on the Western service attempts to Watertown.   Very disappointed at the excuses and justifications for not proceeding.   Former Milwaukee Road even lobbied for it and ran their train a year after formation of Amtrak between Milwaukee and Watertown, Milwaukee Mayor pleaded but Western suburbs said in effect:  No Thanks, any train serving Western Suburbs is Milwaukee's issue or it has to be fully paid for by the Feds.   Attempts to share costs via RTA formation failed.

 

Then there is what's happening southwest of Sturtevant a couple miles. Microsoft is beginning to build a data center campus which in time will cover 2 square miles with $billions to be invested.  Nearby new housing is beginning to go up.  Two CPKC Hiawatha mainline grade crossings are less than a mile from the campus.  I've been cawing for a long time that all crossings should be grade separated north of Rondout.  So little forethought.  Quit frittering dollars away on Green Bay and other poor starters and build the Hiawatha route into something stellar. (And I live on the would-be GB route).

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, January 25, 2024 5:49 PM

Gramp
I've been cawing for a long time that all crossings should be grade separated north of Rondout.

Not sure if they will be grade seperated or not but.....

WisDOT is to make the Hiawatha route North of the METRA territory be a FRA "sealed corridor" by 2026........no clue what that means.    Since they also intend to increase the speed to 90 mph.    Suspect that means FRA 90 mph standards.    METRA, WisDOT treats as Illinois turf and so no idea what Illinois has plans for the Hiawatha service.   I had read Illinois wants to double track the Fox Lake line connection where it connects onto the Chicago-Milwaukee main so they can hold a Southbound train on the line right before the Chicago to Milwaukee main without blocking Northbound traffic onto the Fox Lake line.    I read into that a planned METRA delay there..........don't see that happening to smooth Amtrak schedules so no idea what the thinking is there on METRA's part.    Maybe a potential relocation of the Roundout station?     This would make operational sense.

I read on on WisDOT study a ways back was their plan was to consolidate UP and CP traffic on the second C&NW main with a purchase or long-term lease on the CP Chicago to Milwaukee line.    Not sure when they will execute on that.    They want to increase to 10+ RT Chicago to Milwaukee frequencies though.

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, January 26, 2024 2:52 PM

CMStPnP
 
BaltACD
Back in the day, wasn't there three Milwaukee-Chicago services? North Shore, Milwaukee Road and C&NW? 

Yes there were and this was the old C&NW route but back in the day the Interstate Highway system and local road system wasn't as developed and well, times have changed.     As it is now Chicago to Milwaukee on Amtrak is close to break even but still loses money...........so not enough riders.      They finally passed a limited yield management system with ticket prices so that will help more to close the subsidy gap.

I would love if this went through but I think they will lose their financial shirts on it and it will cannibalize some riders off the existing Amtrak service.

Traffic in and around Metropolitan Chicago and Milwaukee are closely approaching gridlock proportions on the Interstates and on top of the congestion there are tolls to be paid on top of what it takes to keep a car oprational.

My firsthand experiences with traffic consists of hauling my race car to and from Road America outside Elkhart Lake, WI to various races from 2009 to 2020.  Not daily experience, I know - but in my mind enough experience to make an assessment of the conditions.  I suspect things have only gotten worse as we move into 2024.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, January 27, 2024 10:34 AM

BaltACD
Traffic in and around Metropolitan Chicago and Milwaukee are closely approaching gridlock proportions on the Interstates and on top of the congestion there are tolls to be paid on top of what it takes to keep a car oprational.

We all hope so.   However, if you ever hold an elected position your going to find out that a block of your constituents are mostly dumb as a rock.   They might tune in to the transportation topic for maybe 5 to 10 min and usually it is to listen to a political commentary which is very superficial at best (in Milwaukee it is Charlie Sykes commentary that usually is anti-rail regardless of any reason).   The other scenario I see is they will have significant gaps in their knowledge and just fill the gaps with whatever nonsense they think is logical.

So I have to tell you from experience being in an elected position for an HOA.   The first obstacle to the above is communication and education which is going to require a face to face discussion or some kind of public debate.    Usually the efforts to improve transportation fail on that front and they have no support as a consequence.    Electoral apathy much like Homeowner apathy happens in my view because of lack of transparency and lack of participation.   Decisions are made without much explanation and the interpretation behind the decision process is a gap which various other actors or inputs fill.    Which is the human condition and is understandable.   For my HOA, I am pushing homeowner meetings to have a Zoom or WebEx component now so that homeowners can participate from their home or home office instead of driving in to attend the meeting (noticed WisDOT started this with pandemic but then it stopped post pandemic for public meetings....sad).   

All the above aside, having lived and visited Milwaukee.   The Chicago to Milwaukee Amtrak corridor is a special case.    Amtrak tried to downgrade it or reduce it to third world standards more than once in the past (1971-1990) for various reasons. The first to cry foul was the Milwaukee Business community.   Significant business was done in Chicago and more than one worker or business person used the train into Chicago daily.   So initially and even today strong Business support has Amtrak Chicago to Milwaukee corridor on the radar screen of both political parties as a hot potato issue when changes are made to it that upset the riders.  With the increased ridership since the 1980's it now enjoys broader support and a recent attempt by Amtrak to change it's monthly rail pass price structure generated so much negative publicity and pushback.........Amtrak quickly retreated and reversed itself.

The main issue with heavy comutter rail is and still is that there is little to no support for it.    Business Community is happy with Amtrak currently and I don't see them arguing or promoting KRM (Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee) even with the congestion and more convienent seat.    I only see various and rather weak political related groups advocating for it.  Nobody really pushing hard for it.    Only reason this ever became an issue in my view was the money was easily obtained politically and we are entering the elections season.   The Senator that pushed it didn't seem to be really responding to any specific request for this study, I feel she did it on her own initiative to raise hopes as an election approaches.

So while I hope this goes through it needs a lot more demonstrated and sustained local support and a lot more education at the local level to reduce the folks that show up at a public input meeting and ask when the proposed new service will turn a profit or why the bargain priced ticket is so expensive.

I agree with what you say about congestion.  I refuse to ever drive to Chicago because of it and I always take the Amtrak train from Milwaukee to Chicago if I need to travel to Chicago.    KRM though is a different animal because we already have a Milwaukee to Chicago rail option AND the constituency for KRM is not really developed yet.

 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, January 27, 2024 9:30 PM

I understand there are two UP/ex-C&NW lines between CHI and MILW, one freight, and the other one along the lakeshore was passenger.  It's still passenger (METRA) south of Kenosha.  I'm guessing that line north of Kenosha has not seen passenger service since Amtrak start-up.  How much is that line used, and what shape is it in?  Is there a danger of the UP wanting to abandon or sever the line?

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, January 27, 2024 9:36 PM

Quite a bit of the ridership in the CHI-MKE corridor consists of commuters to Chicago from north of the Cheese Curtain. Metra does serve Kenosha on the old CNW line. Perhaps service should be extended to Racine with more express trains,?

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Sunday, January 28, 2024 10:01 AM

charlie hebdo

Quite a bit of the ridership in the CHI-MKE corridor consists of commuters to Chicago from north of the Cheese Curtain. Metra does serve Kenosha on the old CNW line. Perhaps service should be extended to Racine with more express trains,?

 
That's not going to happen anytime soon.  Wisconsin is outside of the RTA's legally defined service area.  The UP North Line terminates at Kenosha strictly for operational reasons established by C&NW.
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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, January 28, 2024 2:11 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH
That's not going to happen anytime soon.  Wisconsin is outside of the RTA's legally defined service area.  The UP North Line terminates at Kenosha strictly for operational reasons established by C&NW.

You keep mentioning that but I think it is more nuanced than that.   I read and heard the restriction is related to current Illinois state law.  BTW, I thought METRA defined service area also excludes Rockford, IL..........yet METRA is about to serve them.

I was told by WisDOT it has to do with Illinois State Law which currently prohibits METRA from spending it's funds outside the state and they have a state waiver for Kenosha.   The state law is not a absolute block as it is only a law.   Wisconsin used to have a Constitutional provision that prohibited any subsidy or financial assistance to a railroad (from the robber barron era).    That provision was only amended around the time the Milwaukee started to abandon lines wholesale in the state. 

Illinois state law would be easier to change since it is not in the state Constitution to my knowledge.   WisDOT has been aware of this since at least the 1990's when it looked at extending METRA service into Wisconsin with both C&NW North Line (to Racine) and C&NW Northwest line into Walworth (Lake Geneva), this was a 1998 study.    So it is not a mystery provision WisDOT is unaware of.   Those projects stopped via lack of funding not because of any restriction on the METRA side (my guess was they were going to get Illinois to change state law).

In fact, they overcame the Illinois state law with Amtrak Milwaukee to Chicago service subsidy.    How did they do that you may ask yourself?    First, Amtrak is a third party.   Second is that Wisconsin and Illinois contribute jointly to that train subsidy based on track mileage it traverses in each state and the track in each state is upgraded using the tax money from each state.   Hiawatha upgrades in Illnois are going to be paid for by Illinois DOT, likewise with track upgrades in Wisconsin via WisDOT, track upgrades in Minnesota via MnDOT.   So they managed to work around the law in that case by not involving METRA.   They already have a precedent of sorts.

KRM is more intended as a commute service into Milwaukee vs Chicago.   Hence the name Kenosha - Racine - Milwaukee.    It would be cheaper to extend METRA but for the purposes I believe of funding from WisDOT and to speed up implementation they it is being presented as a Wisconsin only proposal.   That does not preclude though that METRA will not at some point handle the service or that this will never change.   If I had to guess, METRA is probably consulting or offered to consult on KRM for a fee of course.

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Posted by Gramp on Sunday, January 28, 2024 9:48 PM

Illinois' Rebuild Illinois Plan will pay Metra's over and above revenue costs of the 
Rockford twice a day round trip train services. 

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, January 29, 2024 3:51 AM

I am fairly vcertain there are Wisconsin commuters to-and-from Chicago ion the Anmtrask Hiawather service.  Are discounted multi-ride and/or monthly tickets sold?

Is the service useful in any way for Milwaukee-oriented commuters?

New York - Philadelphia fas both Amtrak and New Jersey Transit - Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority sevice, essentially same tracks.  Had thru service, now a required change at Trenton, but fares less than Amtrak.  Had the latter through service via Reading-CNJ to Newark-Penn, but not now.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, January 29, 2024 1:03 PM

daveklepper
Are discounted multi-ride and/or monthly tickets sold?

Yes I think they give away a monthly rail pass for some ridiculously low price of $400-450 or something like that.    They attempted to boost it to a more realistic $650-700 but too late too many people sold their second car and were claiming hardship to the DOT and Mayors office...........so Amtrak reversed itself instead of standing it's ground.   RT fare on the service is over $50.     So you wonder how much of the actual ridership is these monthly pass people or how the heck they are approaching break even with a revenue giveaway like that one.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Tuesday, January 30, 2024 1:46 PM

I looked at the proposed route on Google Earth images. I see the line has been single tracked north of Kenosha.  Racine has a transit center attached to the old station, presumably in anticipation of rail service restoration.  I wonder if the swing bridge across the Kinnickinnic River needs rehab?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, January 31, 2024 7:37 PM

MidlandMike
I looked at the proposed route on Google Earth images. I see the line has been single tracked north of Kenosha.  Racine has a transit center attached to the old station, presumably in anticipation of rail service restoration.  I wonder if the swing bridge across the Kinnickinnic River needs rehab?

I thought there was some historic value to that bridge.    Not sure if it is C&NW or Milwaukee Road though.   On the single tracking, I don't think UP did much of that as I remember watching the C&NW Prosperity Special business train in the 1980's through St. Francis and it was single tracked back then.    I read somewhere the single tracking was done in the 1960's?

On another note.    Extension of METRA service makes the most financial sense and I am just surprised that in over how many decades nobody has changed Illinois State Law here.   Everyone seems to want to tip toe around the issue instead of fixing it.    It would not be that difficult to correct but would probably involve both states politicians and probably the Feds.    It would be a win-win for both Wisconsin and Illinois.    Same deal with service to Indiana.     It seems to not just be METRA trains but getting METRA to upgrade it's tracks to higher speeds to handle both commuter and corridor services......at some point they need to fix that issue as well.    Seems all Amtrak higher speed service ends right where METRA track ownership starts.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, February 1, 2024 9:59 AM

Service to Indiana is already covered by NICTD.  Aside from the West Lake line to Dyer (ex-Monon) currently under construction, I don't see a real need for any additional routes.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul

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