Train gain

Amtrak ridership is up between the Twin Cities and Chicago — and nationwide

By Tom Johnson

More than 120,000 passengers take the Amtrak between Chicago's Union Station and the Twin Cities' Midway Station each year, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program. That's up nearly 20,000 compared to 1997. The trip takes about eight hours on the daily "Empire Builder" line, which connects Chicago and Seattle.

By the end of this year (if all goes according to plan), the line will switch from Midway Station to the historic St. Paul Union Depot. That grand old building (it's on the National Register of Historic Places) will also host the Central Corridor light-rail line, which will connect St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis when it begins services next year.

Nationwide, Amtrak ridership grew by 55 percent since 1997 (faster than other major travel mode) and now carries over 31 million riders annually.