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Economy & Business

Amtrak Trains Operating To Milwaukee During Pandemic, But With Reduced Ridership

Chuck Quirmbach
Amtrak's Hiawatha train leaves the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

Amtrak says ridership is substantially off this year, due to COVID-19. But the passenger rail system says many of its trains are operating, with health precautions, during what is normally a busy Thanksgiving period.

Amtrak says nationally, its ridership is down to about 20% of normal. Ridership on the Hiawatha Line, between Milwaukee and Chicago, is down about 50% compared to last year at this time.

The number of trains on Hiawatha and other routes has been reduced and there are limits on passenger capacity. Hiawatha currently offers four round trips per day, compared to the usual seven.

The Empire Builder train, which normally goes through Milwaukee daily on its way to and from the West Coast, has only been running three days a week since mid-October.

Chicago-based Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari held a news briefing in Milwaukee Wednesday morning, but said it did not contradict health warnings to stay home this Thanksgiving.

"We are not promoting travel. We are simply operating services as safely as we can for those people who really need to travel," Magliari said.

Magliari said Amtrak is cleaning its trains more frequently, and requiring passengers who are riding or waiting inside a station to wear a mask, unless they are eating or drinking, or in a private room.

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