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AMTRAK Chicago Layover: 30min vs. 4hrs

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AMTRAK Chicago Layover: 30min vs. 4hrs

Old 04-01-21, 06:04 AM
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mrv 
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AMTRAK Chicago Layover: 30min vs. 4hrs

yo!
Planning a multi-day / multi-modal trek in May (wow - coming up fast...).
AMTRAK is letting me reserve a ticket with a bike where I have 30 minutes to get from one train to the next.
My other option is a 4 hour layover in Chicago, waiting for the next train to Milwaukee.
- Or I just start riding toward Milwaukee and forget any kind of layover or train switching.
- Or I plan on making the 30 minute switch, and if I don't make it, just take off on my bike. (i like this option a quite a bit....)

A quick BF-search didn't bring up AMTRAK-layover topics.
Does anyone have experience with cutting things that close?
I've used an early morning AMTRAK to head from home and ride back in one day - no problems. We had to roll bikes through business class and they got stashed between the engine and business class car.
I've used AMTRAK to go from Toledo to Pittsburgh, no problem. We had practically a whole empty car for bikes.

That's it. Thanks for any feedback.
Cheers.
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Old 04-01-21, 06:47 AM
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Amtrak trains are frequently ,,,, frequently late.
Also, summer timetables may involve arrival/departure time changes.
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Old 04-01-21, 06:52 AM
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I've not dealt with a bike in Chicago/Union Station, but I've taken the Hiawatha (Milw-Chicago commuter) many times. I think 30 minutes is cutting things perhaps optimistically tight. Amtrak (particularly the non-commuter lines) doesn't have a great history with being that on-time..at least in these parts. If you're prepared to start riding from Union Station(you've seen my comments in your Great Lakes Regional thread), then roll the dice and see how it works out.
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Old 04-01-21, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by fishboat View Post
..... then roll the dice and see how it works out.
.....yep - for me a big part cyclo-touring is the element of unknown, not knowing how things will exactly work out. (.... i do like to draw the line at being able to get water though, which was becoming a problem during a multi-day ride last August.....)

And thanks for those different-thread comments - I'll be posting an update there after I pull the trigger on train reservations.
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Old 04-01-21, 08:53 AM
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if you're not on a dedicated commuter line, the tracks belong to some freight railway corporation.
amtrak passenger service is a secondary consideration.
if something goes off somewhere, it won't be the 75 double-deck railcars carrying new vehicles
sitting on a siding for 5 hours..........

i've ridded amtrak half a dozen times.
never, ever made it on time.
never, ever made it less'n a couple hours late.

so, um....no, don't expect to transfer trains with a 30-minute window.
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Old 04-01-21, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
so, um....no, don't expect to transfer trains with a 30-minute window.
What he said. Definitely go for the 4-hour buffer.
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Old 04-01-21, 09:17 AM
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I believe Amtrak stopped publishing on-time performance stats back in the late 2010s, but you can read about the causes here:

https://www.amtrak.com/on-time-performance

Aside from the Northeast Corridor, the Philadelphia to Harrisburg line, 98 miles of the Michigan line and maybe one or two other sections, Amtrak runs on lines owned by others, mostly freight railroads.

Depending on the service, I might be concerned about 30 min. If you get to Chicago in the morning/earlier after noon it's a nice place to explore. I have taken the train from the east cost to Seattle three times. All three times I had about a tour hour layover. Took the time to enjoy the city, although my bike was checked so I didn't have that to deal with. Maybe you can check it for a few hours at Union Station?
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Old 04-01-21, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
If you get to Chicago in the morning/earlier after noon it's a nice place to explore. I have taken the train from the east cost to Seattle three times. All three times I had about a tour hour layover. Took the time to enjoy the city, although my bike was checked so I didn't have that to deal with. Maybe you can check it for a few hours at Union Station?
+1..good point. If you can check your bike, Union Station is in a convenient location. If you're an art lover..the Art Institute is a few blocks east..wonderful place to spend a couple hours...world-class collection. Some nice parks to the east, Michigan Ave is right there. Lots of stuff around there.
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Old 04-01-21, 10:37 AM
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Went to the top of the Sears Tower one time. Always enjoyed walking down to the lake.
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Old 04-01-21, 12:16 PM
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I do not like any layovers anywhere that are less than 45 minutes, and that is airports where I do not have to move a bike from one train to the next. I would want over an hour to change trains in Chicago, and that is if it is on time.
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Old 04-01-21, 01:39 PM
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How frequently do the trains go from Chicago to Milwaukee? If multiple per day, I'd just take what they give you and if something is late, then you'll bump to the next train anyways.

Last time I transferred via Chicago on Amtrack with a bicycle was in 2018. I was coming from Minot, ND and transferring to a train headed southbound to Austin, TX.

The train from Minot was scheduled to arrive around 4pm. The first train out towards Austin left the next morning. So I booked a hotel in Chicago and figured I'd have a little bit of the afternoon to visit downtown Chicago in afternoon/evening and then be back for the next morning train.

The train was seven hours late. So instead of 4pm, I arrived around 11pm. Not a big worry, since I walked over to hotel and mostly went to sleep then. However, long haul Amtrak trains are sometimes late (I count anything within two hours as on time, but perhaps 1/3 time it is longer than that in my trips). It seems that the long haul trains were a bit more late than shorter connections I've had e.g. Seattle to Portland or LA to San Diego which also have multiple trains.

So if the Milwaukee train set is multiple per day, I would just schedule what they reasonably give you and adjust as needed when you get to Chicago.

I had something similar once when I was coming from Portland Oregon to San Diego. The southbound train from Portland hit a tree stump, knocked out the air brakes and delayed the trip by 9 hours. So rather than coming into LA around 9pm, it was 6am the next morning. By then my San Diego train had long gone, but they happened often enough that I just caught one of the morning trains.
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Old 04-01-21, 03:13 PM
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Check the schedule for the Metra Union Pacific north line running from the Ogilvie Transportation Center, (OTC) 500 W Washington. It is the commuter line with lots of trains from Chicago to Waukegan; fewer from Chicago to Kenosha. Metra has special bike cars, but bikes may be restricted at certain times: https://metrarail.com/riding-metra/bikes-trains

The schedule, map, and fares are at: https://metrarail.com/maps-schedules/train-lines/UP-N

My wife and I used it on a bike-train-boat multimodal. trip including the ferry from Muskegon, Mi to Milwaukee, WI

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Old 04-01-21, 05:13 PM
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The Hiawatha train is the (or one of) the Chicago-(Sturtevant)-Milwaukee commuter lines. It runs quite often, but no idea if it allows bikes. If it allows bikes..and you can get off at Sturtevant, then there's a couple places to camp a few miles NE of the station and you can pick up a MUP close to the campgrounds..that MUP will take you all the way to Sheboygan Falls on about 90% dedicated bike trail. MRV has my RWGPS routes..

https://amtrakhiawatha.com/amtrak/schedules.php
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Old 04-01-21, 07:52 PM
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Make the Chi-Town layover fun!!!

1. Take the 4 hour layover.
2. When you get there check the bike in for the next train as luggage -or- go to the Metropolitan Lounge and check in (Worth the $) ask them to check-in the bike -or- take the bike to a nearby first class hotel and ask the bellman (Tip needed for this idea) to check the bike into the luggage room until you get back.
3. Go walk around downtown Chicago. Get a deep dish pizza. Walk to the Art museum and check it out. Go to Grant Park and take your picture in front of the Cloudgate statue ("The Bean" to locals), Take the architecture boat tour on the Chicago River. Go window shop on the Michigan Ave. Go check out the historic rocks, bricks, embedded in walls to Tribune building. Buy a Cubs or Soxs or etc.
4. GO back to reclaim your bike and get on the train to Milwaukee.

OPTION #2
1. Check your gear except your bike
2. Take your bike and ride Chicago's scenic Lakefront Trail, an 18-mile paved path that follows the Lake Michigan shoreline on the city's eastern edge. It extends from Ardmore Street (5800 N. Sheridan Rd) on the north side to 71st Street (7100 S.)
3. GO back reclaim your gear and get on the train to Milwaukee.

Have fun!!!!!
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Old 04-01-21, 09:46 PM
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Another option, I think that if you get on the train at a luggage stop, and transfer in Chicago to Milwaukee, I assume Milwaukee is also a luggage stop, you could box your bike and check it as one of your pieces of luggage. Then Amtrak transfers your bike from train to train for you. I do not know if you would have to pay the bike fee once or twice in that case.

I did that in 2013, but that was before they put bike racks in luggage cars, so policies have changed since Amtrak took care of moving my bike from train to train for me, so things may have changed since then..
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Old 04-18-21, 05:27 PM
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Closing the loop: Thanks for everyone's replies. I got my tickets and I'm planning on a 4 hour layover in Chicago. Maybe time for Uno's!!
And if I get in early with nice weather, I can always kick off early.

Take care and safe pedaling.
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Old 04-18-21, 08:23 PM
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Nice I would do the layover and head down to the Chicago Diner and enjoy a delicious meal and maybe check out some bike shops on the main drag if I could. I love Chicago so any chance to hang out a little longer is nice for me. I have friends there so I could also meet them. Yeah waiting a while can suck but Chicago is a fun place at least for me.
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Old 04-18-21, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by mrv View Post
Maybe time for Uno's!!

mrv
Believe me when I say you can do much better than that.
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Old 04-19-21, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
Nice I would do the layover and head down to the Chicago Diner and enjoy a delicious meal and maybe check out some bike shops on the main drag if I could. I love Chicago so any chance to hang out a little longer is nice for me. I have friends there so I could also meet them. Yeah waiting a while can suck but Chicago is a fun place at least for me.
It is a nice place to visit. Back in '97 I dated a woman whose mom re-married to a man who had a penthouse condo in a building on Lower Wacker Dr. She went out to visit and I went there a few days later for 4 or 5 days. One thing that always struck me when I visited was how clean the city was compared to my hometown of Philly.
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Old 04-19-21, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
One thing that always struck me when I visited was how clean the city was compared to my hometown of Philly.
I think Chicago is blown clean every couple days.
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Old 04-19-21, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
I think Chicago is blown clean every couple days.
Heh. I first visited with my family when I was around 6. Dad has some convention to attend. It was early fall. Mom, sis and I saw the city. I do remember the wind. Mom had to take us to a department store for warmer coats.
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Old 04-19-21, 08:39 AM
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If you can pick up a free paper map of the downtown area, do so. I have had trouble with GPS working well between the tall buildings that blocked some satellite signals. And if you are under the El (elevated train system), that also can block GPS signals.

Or, if you have a mapping system on your phone, like Maps.Me, download the map first before you leave home. Even if the GPS on your phone does not function well, that can give you a map you can look at.
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Old 04-19-21, 09:22 AM
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I am not familiar with Amtrak or with Chicago, but if you have a few hours of layover in a large city, that's an opportunity to hop on bus/cab and find something good to eat.

I am thinking specifically of Toronto Centre Airport which is a 10 minute walk to downtown, so you can choose from a world's worth of exotic food while waiting for your connecting flight.
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Old 04-19-21, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
It is a nice place to visit. Back in '97 I dated a woman whose mom re-married to a man who had a penthouse condo in a building on Lower Wacker Dr. She went out to visit and I went there a few days later for 4 or 5 days. One thing that always struck me when I visited was how clean the city was compared to my hometown of Philly.
There are some dirtier areas but pretty clean overall, it is quite surprising.

Kozy's downtown is quite a neat shop I happened to get the grand tour when I was up there last for an ABUS clinic.
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Old 06-05-21, 03:07 PM
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Quick Conclusion

Howdy!
As previously mentioned I reserved my tickets with the 4 hours of hanging out in Chicago eating deep dish pizza. The train arrived in Chicago about 15 minutes late, with 15 minutes to get on a train bound for Milwaukee.
I'm thinking, "welp, maybe I'll saunter over to the ticket window and see if they'll let me get on the Milwaukee train leaving in 15 minutes......"
They did. So I did. And got into Milwaukee earlier than planned. I'm going to post a bit more of a trip report in the Great Lakes Regional folders, as I posted questions about Wisconsin and Door County there, and got some nice pointers and help.
Thanks for everyone's comments.
Happy Trails.




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