- Oct 3, 2023
I share the hope that the new fare structures works out. I also hope they get back to the pre-COVID seven car trains; I hadn't even known they were up to 7 cars at one time. My interest in this question is also driven by the fact that the second daily train/TCMC (potentially called the Great River) between Chicago and St. Paul will be extensions of existing Hiawatha trips 333 and 340, according to some sources. I have been informed by those more in the know that at least some of the reason for the service starting sometime in 2024 and not late 2023 is due to equipment issues in Chicago, which doesn't surprise me.Under normal circumstances, changing the ticket in the app isn’t a big deal. Part of the issue might be, though, if the going rate of your new train is higher than your existing ticket, then you’d have to buy up to the higher fare. Last-minute changes also mean you can’t use any discounts that you could have used with a ticket booked earlier (such as RPA).
There’s also the chance that a train sells out, which I guess is more of an issue of capacity availability (pre-COVID, the Hiawatha was running seven-car trains; recently they just got back to five). In theory the new fare structure will encourage people to take the less-popular trains, but even still, it would be nice if we could get back to the old capacity. For people taking day trips (which is a significant portion of Hiawatha ridership), you have less flexibility in when you can travel vs. those who may be gone for longer (the morning southbounds from Milwaukee are far more popular than the evening southbounds, but a MKE-based traveler going to CHI for the day has no use for the evening southbound trains).
Hopefully this change leads to higher total ridership and revenue, and if it doesn't, then hopefully they're willing to just go back to the pre-COVID setup.
Regardless of the exact equipment used (Horizons or Ventures, etc.), I certainly hope that by the time the second train starts rolling--knock on wood--next year, that it runs with at least 6 cars, if not the pre-COVID 7 cars. It would be a crying shame (though a "good problem," if a self-enforced error) if the second train starts running with only 5 cars, for example, and consistently sells out and creates passenger frustration. If they use Horizon cars, which I understand have an approximate ~70 person capacity, they'd be leaving close to ~140 passengers on the table without the last two cars.