MINNEAPOLIS — Ridership on a second Amtrak train from St. Paul to Chicago could exceed 150,000 passengers a year, but Minnesota and Wisconsin would have to pay for operating shortfalls, a new rail study concluded.
The study, commissioned by Amtrak at the request of Minnesota and Wisconsin state transportation agencies and the city of La Crosse, comes in the midst of metro-area rancor over transit funding. It projects $46.4 million in equipment purchases, as much as $175 million in railroad improvements and about $6.6 million a year in state-financed subsidies to cover the difference between ticket revenue and the costs of operating a second train.
The current, once-a-day Amtrak train that crosses Minnesota “provides little schedule flexibility to travelers in the corridor,” the study concluded.
Let’s start with the obvious… the government commissioned Amtrak, the entity that would benefit from a new train, to study a new train and (SURPRISE!) they found that it would be tremendously successful. But even by their definition of successful, it would cost $221.4 million up front and would lose a projected $6.6 million every single year – and that assumes that 150,000 people ride it every year. But what about that projection of 150,000 people riding it every year?
Currently, about 100,000 passengers ride it annually between St. Paul and Chicago, the study said.
That’s right… 100,000 people ride it today, and they are projecting that 150,000 people would ride the second train. They are projecting a magnificent 250% increase in ridership by increasing capacity by 100% because, apparently, there are 150,000 additional people who would ride the train every year if only it left at a different time – and it would still bleed money.
Uh huh… consider me underwhelmed with their prognostications.