In recent years, the policy and regulatory environment for intercity passenger rail in the United States has shifted dramatically. To support the resulting increase in intercity passenger rail planning activities, there is a need to understand the roles for passenger rail service in an intercity corridor, including who is using the service and how it is being used. Using on-board passenger survey data, this paper examines the role of the Hiawatha Service in the modal mix of the dense Milwaukee-Chicago intercity corridor. Primary trip purposes among Hiawatha Service travelers include personal trips, work commutes, and business trips. In the absence of the Hiawatha Service, more than 85 percent of passengers would travel via alternative travel modes. Consequently, it is estimated that the Hiawatha Service removes nearly 400,000 vehicles and 32 million vehicle-miles (51 million vehicle-km) traveled from the congested Milwaukee-Chicago corridor annually. As the nation moves forward with significant investment in intercity passenger rail, there are lessons to be learned from the Hiawatha Service, both for rail service planning and the formation of transportation policy. For rail planning, this research indicates that the proper service configurations can result in a variety of trip purposes being accommodated on the route; this raises additional challenges when considering service elements such as on-board amenities. From a policy perspective, these findings present a compelling argument for continued investment in intercity passenger rail because they demonstrate that the availability of high-quality passenger rail service in the right corridor can have meaningful impacts on highway congestion, regional economic development and job access, and air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

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