Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

March 23, 2017

Survey shows intercity passenger rail can be critical resource for Winona, Minn. university students

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A new survey conducted by the  Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation shows that four in 10  college students in southeastern Minnesota have taken Amtrak, and more than half would ride more frequently if more service was available.

The survey was conducted at three Winona-area colleges/universities – Minnesota State College-Southeast, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and Winona State University. Respondents to the survey were mostly students but also staff and faculty.

This survey included 664 respondents and supplements one conducted in 2015-16 involving 30 schools across nine Midwestern states. These surveys assess the importance of intercity passenger rail service among college and university students, faculty and staff whose schools are located along current Amtrak routes. They also help determine what schools, states and the region can do to boost passenger rail service.

“MnDOT continues to work at adding more frequent service to the Twin Cities to Chicago corridor.  It is encouraging to see that the survey respondents are currently using Amtrak and are supportive of passenger rail efforts to increase travel options for the future,” said Dan Krom, director of MnDOT’s Passenger Rail Office.

Minnesota is currently served by one daily roundtrip Amtrak train; the Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle/Portland, which includes a stop in Winona.

Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of all respondents to the MIPRC Universities & Colleges passenger rail survey said they consider passenger rail service important or very important to the country’s transportation future.

Other key results from a compilation of responses from all schools include:

  • 55 percent say they would be more likely to take the train if more frequent service was available.
  • 41 percent reported they took the train at least once to/from Winona-area schools. Of those, 63 percent rode once or twice during the past 12 months, and 17 percent rode at least 10 times.
  • For those who took the train to/from their Winona-area school, 67 percent indicate Amtrak service is an important benefit in attending the school.
  • For those who took the train, 49 percent said they chose passenger rail service because they don’t have a car, and 49 percent said taking the train is convenient and comfortable compared to flying or driving. Respondents’ friends and/or family members who took the train to visit them, also cited these reasons. Among those who never took the train to/from their school, many students indicated more and better discounted tickets, better proximity of station to residence and more convenient arrival and departure times, as factors that would motivate them to use Amtrak in the future. 

Two-thirds of those responding to the survey said they consider passenger rail service important to the nation’s transportation future. 

“The supplemental survey results add to the evidence that there is strong support – and an untapped passenger base – for passenger rail in the Midwest,” said MIPRC Chair Tim Hoeffner. “We hope these results add momentum to the push for a second daily Twin Cities-Chicago train and other regional services.”

Nine out of 10 respondents are either not aware or somewhat aware of state and federal governments’ role in funding passenger rail, including whether to increase service frequency or add new routes. MIPRC’s online survey of Winona-area schools was conducted between November 2016 and February 2017 and received 664 responses (not every respondent replied to every question).

Spokespersons from the schools surveyed agreed that since more than 27 percent of students who use train service in Winona have done so at least five to nine times a year, it is important to look to the future of train service for all students at all higher education institutions in Winona. More information about the survey is available on our website.

Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission is a nine-state interstate compact that includes Minnesota and promotes, coordinates and supports regional improvements to passenger rail service. More information about MIPRC is available at www.miprc.org. MIPRC can be followed on Twitter: @MW_Rail.