MILWAUKEE — Good news for Amtrak riders. The monthly pass is coming back, but it's still going to cost a pretty penny.
For years, riders who took the Hiawatha Line to commute to and from Chicago for work told us they were paying around $400/month. When Amtrak removed the monthly pass it forced daily commuters to pay more than double, just to get to work.
"There was no warning, there was nothing from Amtrak that told me this was going to take place," commuter Jim Windsor told us last week.
Now, a week later, Amtrak is reversing course.
"Your becoming involved helped us a great deal, and at least they're finding compromises of some sort," Windsor said Tuesday.
After we started asking questions and reported on the ticket change, what was costing riders $840/month will now cost $650/month from Milwaukee and $625/month from Sturtevant.
A change we wanted to see first-hand on the Hiawatha Line.
So Tuesday, we joined Windsor on his daily commute to the Windy City.
The 8:05 a.m. train leaving Milwaukee's Intermodal Station was packed. A lot of folks were in business clothes with backpacks and briefcases.
For Windsor, who got on at Sturtevant, the price decrease to $625/month still isn't enough.
"Overall, it is about the dollar amount. I can't afford it. I can't afford what Amtrak is asking," Windsor explained.
As we made the trek to Chicago, we reached out to Amtrak's spokesperson, headquartered at Union Station, to see if they could interview.
"What's your message to passengers who are still upset about this and who feel like they have to find alternative routes because $650 is still out of their price range," Jenna Rae asked.
"Well, I'm sorry that's the case," Amtrak's Spokesperson, Marc Magliari, responded.
Magliari said he believes the price change is fair.
"It's not the same product as it was a few years ago when the pricing was different," Magliari explained referring to the Hiawatha Line. "We continue to improve the product. It's going to cost more than it did, but we've also improved it to be better than it was."
Improvements, Magliari said, like one new train along the Hiawatha Route and improvements in the Chicago, downtown Milwaukee and Milwaukee Airport stations.
However, for riders like Windsor and others, the 61 percent price increase is still too much.
"I can't afford it, and a lot of my friends can't. They've already shifted over to Metra," Windsor said.
Windsor said he plans to switch over to Metra too, the train commuter line that goes from Kenosha to Chicago. That route, though, almost doubles his commute time.
"They're going to learn that they've chased away the regular paying customers and it will affect their bottom line," Windsor added.