Thursday, December 19, 2013

AmtrakConnect® Wi-Fi coming to Chicago Hub Service trains

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
Free AmtrakConnect® cellular-based 4G Wi-Fi service will be available to Amtrak passengers by early February 2014 year on Chicago Hub Services trains in the Midwest, on eight corridors that, collectively, carried nearly 3.3 million passengers in Amtrak’s Fiscal Year 2013 (Oct. 1, 2012-Sept. 30, 2013).

Amtrak is now installing Wi-Fi equipment on railcars under contracts with the states of Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin. AmtrakConnect® will be provided on these routes:

• Illinois: 1.22 million passengers—Lincoln Service: Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis (expanding to all four round-trips); Illini/Saluki: Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale; Illinois Zephyr/Carl Sandburg: Chicago-Galesburg-Quincy.

• Michigan: 1.05 million passengers—Wolverine Service: Chicago-Ann Arbor-Detroit-Pontiac; Blue Water: Chicago-East Lansing-Port Huron; Pere Marquette: Chicago-Holland-Grand Rapids.

• Missouri: 200,000 passengers—Missouri River Runner: St. Louis-Jefferson City-Kansas City.

Wisconsin (contract shared with Illinois): 821,000 passengers—Hiawatha Service: Chicago-Milwaukee.

Amtrak plans to announce a specific completion date in January 2014. Passengers on these Amtrak Chicago Hub Service trains will start seeing the availability of the service as the railcars are deployed.

“AmtrakConnect® capitalizes on multiple cellular providers to provide the best mobile experience possible, taking advantage of 4G technologies where available,” said Amtrak Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Matt Hardison. “We are continually looking to improve customer satisfaction, and this service is yet one more way to do so, while also delivering the speeds and connectivity required to maintain a competitive position among transportation providers. AmtrakConnect® is provided at no cost to passengers and has proven very popular—as evidenced by the fact that it routinely supports between 30% and 50% of passengers on a given train.”

Hardison added that as the demand for on-board Wi-Fi continues to grow, to ensure the best experience for all passengers, “data-intensive activities, such as streaming video and music, and large file downloads that can slow everyone down, will be restricted. Doing so helps ensure that high-volume data users onboard the trains do not degrade the experience for others.”

About 75% of Amtrak passengers nationwide currently use AmtrakConnect®. The addition of Chicago Hub Services will increase the coverage percentage to approximately 85%.

“Bringing Wi-Fi to these trains will better serve passengers and help Amtrak continue to set ridership records for the region,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chair of the Senate’s Midwest Passenger Rail Caucus.

“Free Wi-Fi service on Amtrak trains, combined with our ongoing high-speed rail improvements, means passengers will get to their destinations more quickly, comfortably, and enjoyably,” said Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

“Wi-Fi is an important additional amenity for passengers on Michigan and other Midwest corridor services,” said Michigan Department of Transportation Rail Director Tim Hoeffner. “Michigan looks forward to travelers enjoying Wi-Fi and other service improvements as we continue to implement our Accelerated Rail program. We are excited to partner with Amtrak and our sister state DOTs on Wi-Fi service as we look for more and creative ways to make train travel a more attractive option in Michigan and throughout the Midwest.”

“We are eager to start providing the free Wi-Fi service to our Hiawatha passengers through this partnership,” said Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb. “This is part of our commitment to improving the passenger rail travel experience between Milwaukee and Chicago, especially for daily business commuters.”