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Stories From Those Aboard the Borealis

The Borealis is the first new Amtrak service Minnesota has had since the 80’s. Let’s chat with some of the people riding on opening day to find out what this train means to them!

Episode chapters

00:00 | Intro
07:38 | Jeffrey Mack & Felecia Thomas Mack
11:11 | Lillaia Christiansen
16:03 | Brandon Maurisak
24:12 | Kadence Kushnir
34:04 | Angel Morris Hernandez
45:21 | Operating differences from Empire Builder
Ian Gaida’s video of opening day.
46:58 | Angel Morris Hernandez
51:19 | Colin Jones
58:00 | Outro

Attributions

Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band, The Urban Hillbilly Quartet, on their website.

The audio of the rain was recorded by Ian Gaida. Check out his video covering the Borealis opening day!

This episode was hosted, edited, and transcribed by Ian R Buck. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the show, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn.

Transcript

[00:00:00] Announcer: Also at this time, the conductor will be coming through the train to see, check on your destinations and inspect your tickets. Please remain in in your seats until the conductor checks with you after which you may freely move about the train. [applause from the passengers] Welcome aboard Amtrak train 1540 Borealis. We want you to sit back, relax, and enjoy your ride.

[00:00:21] Ian: Welcome to the Streets.mn Podcast, the show where we highlight how transportation and land use can make our communities better places. Coming to you from beautiful Seward, Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am your host Ian r Buck. [singing] It’s here! It’s here! The new train is here! That’s right. The Amtrak Borealis started operations on May 21st.

It is the first new Amtrak service in Minnesota since the 1980s. And we were so ready for it. It runs between St. Paul and Chicago hitting all of the stops that the Empire Builder serves between those two stations, eastbound Trains Depart St. Paul at 11:50 AM and arrive in Chicago at 7:14 PM Westbound Trains Depart Chicago at 11:05 AM and arrive in St. Paul at 6:29 PM On opening day, there were tons of celebrations happening at stations all along the route. And lots of people wanted to ride the train on opening day. Obviously that includes yours truly. So I bought tickets to go to Tomah, where I would then wait for half an hour until the westbound Borealis would pick me up and take me home.

And of course, I brought along my field recorder so that I could interview people on the train. I didn’t realize that there were going to be so many politicians on board, but it gave me the opportunity to corner Minnesota State Transportation Chair Scott Dibble and chat about what this train means for our state.

[00:01:55] Scott: Like Frank and I said in our comments at the opening ceremony, this is a, a tribute to vision and, the power of an idea. That’s then coupled with partnership and coalition and organizing and persistence, you know, just keeping at it. Uh, this is, you know, decades in the making and it’s here. And, uh, just staying at it and staying at it and staying at it.

I mean, we had many, many discouraging cycles where, you know, federal funds were received and rejected and uh, you know, and we had, you know, just. Great hostility and lots of high and mighty speeches that were opposed to something that is obviously such a good idea, um, because of, you know, for whatever reason and just, just not, not, uh, being discouraged and giving up.

Um, and so, um, if, if you have the power of an idea and you can, can rally people, you know, across many sectors around it, um, you know, to stay at it, that’s how. Representative Democracy works, it’s how it’s designed to work and, um, and when it does work out for the better and, and for the public’s interest, it’s a really great thing.

The idea has been around quite a while, I think originally carried by, um, you know, community leaders, um, and advocates and activists and the like. So, you know, a lot of, uh, elected officials, local representatives, chambers of commerce, as well as. Uh, folks who really believe in finding transportation alternatives so that folks who have mobility challenges, economic challenges, et cetera, as well as those who are really interested in providing alternative forms of transportation that are better for the environment, so big coming together of, you know, different perspectives, economic development, greater access and opportunity for those who need it.

People who just simply want the options. Uh, and those interested in a cleaner environment. Um, but of course, uh, it didn’t happen by magic. This is over the course of many, many years of advocating. There was for quite a while, a vision for high speed service between Chicago and the Twin Cities. Um, and there were actually dollars put on the table, um, that went by the boards when Scott Walker rejected, uh, the initial grant money that came, uh, under the Obama administration.

[00:04:23] Ian: Um. Uh, but things to get complicated when you have multiple states at play.

[00:04:28] Scott: Yeah. Multiple states and different political agendas and political perspectives and the like. So, so, you know, we might return to that conversation of, you know, 110 plus mile per hour speed service between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

But, uh, to have a second train, uh, you know, to make the service. Just much more viable for a lot more people is a huge step forward. So everyone’s pretty happy that we got here.

[00:04:52] Ian: Yeah. What is your thoughts on, you know, starting brand new service in, in, on new corridors that we’ve never seen, well, haven’t seen since the seventies or earlier.

Right. Um, versus, you know, adding this extra schedule on a route that we already, you know, have service on.

[00:05:10] Scott: Well, um, I, I don’t have radically differing. Uh, visions of what it means and, uh, and what people, how people will respond. Um, you know, I think making the connection between the Twin Cities and Duluth, uh, and Superior, uh, I think people are going to be veryresponsive to that.

It just makes the trip that much more tenable, viable, you know? Um, and I think a

[00:05:35] Ian: versus like the buses that already exist there.

[00:05:37] Scott: Yeah, the buses and, and driving. Um, you know, driving isn’t an option for folks and I think a lot of people will, will want to take the train rather than drive back and forth. Um, you know, it’s a two and a half hour plus drive, but, you know, that’s just a little beyond the reach for a lot of folks.

So just versus just hopping a train, which would make it so much easier, so much more convenient. Safer and again, more environmentally friendly. Um, so I think that Service Plus, remember it’s also about all the destinations in between. So folks who just want to run up to Hinkley or, you know, all kinds of, of points in between.

Um, I think will, people will find that attractive as well. Yeah.

[00:06:13] Ian: Do you have any, uh, I, so besides the ones that are like already kind of in motion, right? Northern Lights Express, let’s forget about that one for a moment, but like, do you have any other. Uh, transportation projects, you know, whether they be rail or other things that you’re excited about in the min in Minnesota?

[00:06:32] Scott: Well, for inner city passenger rails, certainly, um, making sure we get, um, Northstar up to St. Cloud. And then beyond, you know, up to the, the Moorehead area. I think there’s a lot of interest in, in and, and talk about that. Um, you know, ultimately going south towards, you know, Iowa and St. Louis is, uh, I think a very active conversation.

Um, I have a dream of course, of extending the Midtown, uh, Greenway corridor across the river. Yes. Um, and, you know, whether that’s on the CP, uh, KC Bridge or, um, or some other way, I, I just think that would be such a powerful connection. It’s basically a bicycle super highway today. Yeah. If you make that connection across.

The river just more, even more so it’s, it’s just simply not a recreational corridor. It’s a way people get to where they need to go and big numbers.

[00:07:38] Ian: Now, I didn’t just want to chat with other transportation nerds, but I was nervous that I wasn’t gonna run into anybody who did not already know that this was the inaugural trip of the Borealis. Rest assured I found my unicorns while I was standing in line to go down to the train platform. So here are Jeffrey Mack and Felecia Thomas Mack.

[00:07:58] Felecia: Well, we are headed back to Wisconsin. We are from Sussex, Wisconsin, but we came to Minnesota for a funeral. Okay. So this is just the train that actually was gonna get us back home in time to get to work. So, mm-Hmm. It’s pretty exciting to see all this happening. It’s like a first. So it’s glad. We’re glad to be part of a first.

[00:08:17] Ian: So, um, what, which, uh, which station are you going to? What’s the closest one to Sussex?

[00:08:22] Jeffrey: Union Station? Milwaukee.

[00:08:23] Felecia: Am Amtrak. Union Station. Union Station. In Milwaukee. Milwaukee.

[00:08:26] Ian: Cool. Yeah. So when you were, like, looking at all of your options, what attracted you to like this one instead of, you know, the Empire Builder at a different time of day today?

[00:08:35] Felecia: The timing. The timing of it. But I, I just knew it said Borealis, but I didn’t know it was a new train. Yeah. So. Yes. We wanted to just get up and have breakfast at our own comfort. Okay. And then get home. Yeah. At a decent time. So it was 11 what I think 1150 to five something. So that was like perfect.

Yeah.

[00:08:51] Ian: Yeah. That’s a, that’s a good, yeah. Not too late on, on the right. Receiving end. And not too early on the, uh, on Yeah. Have, have you guys ridden Amtrak trains before?

[00:09:02] Felecia: We rid, we rode one to New Orleans and Oh. And we were in a sleeper car for the first time together. Okay. You know, so. Yeah. So that was fun.

That was fun.

[00:09:12] Ian: And we were, yeah, we were just mentioning that, um, there isn’t a sleeper car on this one, right? Because it’s only, it’s only during the daytime, but we were hearing, you know, announcements about business class. So, uh, I’m kind of curious to see what that’s like. I’ve never, I’ve never seen a business class one before.

Okay. Yeah.

[00:09:28] Jeffrey: Okay. Well, one thing about Amtrak, um, when I was active duty, I was taking Amtrak from SIU to Chicago. Which was the same amount of time it would’ve take me if I was driving. Right. And I think that taking this Amtrak back to Milwaukee, it, it, it is the best, it is the best deal because if I was driving we would get there at the same time.

Just about. Right. Yeah. And plus we are, we won’t be exhausted. Yeah. That’s the main reason why we, uh, taking Amtrak and this particular train, since we are teachers.

Get us back in time for tomorrow to our students. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:10:17] Ian: Um, so how did you guys get here to the Twin Cities?

[00:10:21] Jeffrey: We took Amtrak train here.

[00:10:23] Ian: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. And you, and you booked those tickets at the same time that you booked these tickets? Kind of round trip. Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Correct. Um, but obviously, yeah, the, uh, so, so you had to arrive here at like 11:00 PM Oh my gosh, yeah.

[00:10:36] Felecia: Yes. The train was late. Go. So the train was an hour late coming to Milwaukee.

Yeah. And we got here an hour late, which threw everything sort of haywire. Yeah.

[00:10:45] Ian: Midnight is no fun. Yeah. No. Um, so I think you’ll be pleased to hear that now that the Borealis is running the trip from Chicago to here on the Borealis is also a little bit earlier, like it arrives here at 6:30 PM. So, alright.

That’ll be a, that’ll be a much better timing. Yeah.

Unfortunately we got separated on the train platform and our conversation was cut short, but I also met Lillaia Christiansen on the return journey.

[00:11:21] Lillaia: So I was headed to, um, Chicago to meet up with somebody and I’m headed back home now and I didn’t know it was the inaugural. Um, trip of the, the Borealis until I booked my ticket.

I kind of had a hunch looking at the tickets, um, on the website, and then it really sunk in, like getting to the train station and like getting on the train. And then I’m like, oh wow. This is really like the first, first iteration of this line. Because I thought maybe I would be like on one of the first couple trains to go out.

No, this was the first one.

[00:12:05] Ian: So obviously when you went to Chicago, the Borealis did not exist. So what, what was your, what was your trip like there? Was it an Empire Builder or did you take a different mode of transportation?

[00:12:16] Lillaia: So it was an Empire Builder and it was interesting ’cause it was my first time, um, on any… non-use museum rail. There we go. That’s,

[00:12:26] Ian: That’s a very good way of putting it, right? Yeah. So when you were buying the tickets and you, and you had not fully clocked that, like, oh, this is like the inaugural trip yet, right? You know, you, you had two options for getting back to, to, to St. Paul. What was the like deciding factor on why you’re on this train instead of the one, you know, later in the day?

[00:12:47] Lillaia: It was shorter and I thought they were gonna let me off to smoke cigarettes.

[00:12:54] Ian: Nice. They haven’t been having fresh air breaks?

[00:12:58] Lillaia: They have not. But it’s also not just cigarettes. I’m also a medical cannabis patient, so, okay. Um, but I mean, I got a tincture in my bag, so I’m not doing too bad Uhhuh, and like, they’re not doing wrong by me.

[00:13:13] Ian: I mean, I know that like the Empire Builder, they definitely have, you know, it’s not every single station, but it’s, you know,

[00:13:22] Lillaia: Oh, they had one fresh air break in Winona.

[00:13:25] Ian: On this trip, I’ve been kind of trying to figure out all of the, the little details that they don’t necessarily talk about, like what are the differences between the Empire Builder and the Borealis.

So that’s something that I, uh, had not been paying attention to. So thank you for calling my attention to that. Next, our attention turned towards designing a more cohesive passenger rail network.

[00:13:46] Lillaia: They would do really well if they used slime molds to like redo all their routes, right. Because it’s all based on like meat packing and grain right now.

[00:14:02] Ian: Because like, like based on where the existing rail routes are already.

So, because it’s easier to set up passenger rail along those routes, right? Yes. Okay. Um, and when you say slime molds, you’re referring to like, okay, we can put some, like some food on. A small scale map of the United States and let slime mold just kind of like grow from one place to the other and see where it, it prioritizes things.

[00:14:29] Lillaia: Yeah. So they do it by transporting their own nutrients. Mm-Hmm. Um, but it’s, it’s really just like a 2D map. Yeah. Um, so you get like a really nice map of where it would be good to put high speed rail. Um, and kind of like we can keep the cargo rail kind of along these existing rail railroad tracks, um, but then have like basically Japanese style high speed passenger rail along the new slime mold rail routes. .

[00:15:10] Ian: Do you think, is that what we should name it? Like, is that the brand name? This is the Slime Mold Rail.

[00:15:17] Lillaia: Yeah. Slime Mold Rail.

[00:15:20] Ian: Everybody’s gonna wanna ride that for sure. Um, oh man. Some days sometimes when I, uh, you know, touch the, the poles on the light rail, uh, I think, ah, this is the slime mold rail, right?

[00:15:34] Lillaia: Yep. Once we get that high speed rail in place, I think it’ll only be like 25 years before we can replace it with those high speed tubes like on Futurama.

[00:15:47] Ian: Fantastic. That’s our, that’s our positive vision for the future. Yep. Futurama, thank you for coming on the show. Thanks.

[00:15:55] Lillaia: Thank you for having me.

[00:16:03] Ian: This seems like a good time to chat with someone who has been working on the track routes themselves. Enter Brandon Maurisak.

[00:16:10] Brandon: Yeah, so I’m here with my company, HNTB. I’m the Minnesota Transit Mobility Section Manager, so my colleagues have been working on this project for the infrastructure improvements are are planned to be constructed over the next few years.

I think they are aiming to open those up in 2026, but they had an agreement ahead of time. With CP/KC to operate this train before all the improvements are done.

[00:16:32] Ian: Okay. Can you tell me about like, what are some of those improvements that we’re gonna be seeing on the, I we’re talking about like on the tracks, literally.

[00:16:38] Brandon: Yeah. Yeah. So there’s a number of spots along the corridor, predominantly around Winona and, uh, La Crosse for, uh, providing greater flexibility for moving around freight trains particularly, um. And just extending sidings, things like that. So there’s longer areas where two trains can be next to each other, where, uh, trying to avoid single track sections that cause, uh, delays there as you wait for a train to move through it.

[00:17:02] Ian: Yeah, because like railroads and car roads are designed very differently in terms of like what the flow of traffic is going to look like. Um, there’s a lot more coordination of the, the. Traffic on a railroad and designated places where things can pass each other.

[00:17:20] Brandon: Absolutely. You know, there’s rules for both, but on the railroad you actually have to go by them. [laughter]

So, uh, so, uh, you know, on this type of line here where things are utilizing signals, and then there’s the, uh, positive train control that overlays this whole corridor here that. Only trains can be in certain sectors at a time, and so you gotta be able to move through there. The the longer areas that you have a single track, the harder it is to move multiple trains through it.

There you gotta wait for trains to get outta the way. I believe it was between 20 to 40 trains per day through this corridor here. So there’s CP/KC on this side of the river, and then there’s Union Pacific on the other side of the river here. And so. Uh, there’s trains moving on, both alignments along here, but the passenger train’s just on the CP/KC side right now.

[00:18:03] Ian: Okay. So having just two passenger trains per day seems like it shouldn’t require a whole lot of new infrastructure upgrades. How does the amount of money coming from the government compare with the amount of money that rail companies typically spend on track upgrades?

[00:18:17] Brandon: Yeah, I think in what I’ve seen before, like BNSF and others, you know, they’re putting in billions of dollars over, you know, five year periods.

But they’re, they’re trying to invest in things that are making them money. So, you know, there’s, there’s corridors where they aren’t making money, so they may turn it over to a different operator or something along the way there. So this type of program here helps encourage them to create faster tracks through these areas and, and maintain them to a certain standard.

[00:18:45] Ian: Yeah. And obviously like the. You know, CP is going to benefit from being able to run faster trains on this section as well, but also like anybody who is a, a, a customer of theirs, you know, moving goods Yeah. Is also going to benefit. So it’s, it’s it’s trickle down economics? I’m not sure.

[00:19:05] Brandon: A little bit of some form, you know.

Yeah. It’s kind of, uh, you know, trading things to get things is what it comes down to here. Sure. So, you know, the railroads kind of were here before anything else, and so they. Have a lot of rules that, uh, things have to bend bound. But, you know, Amtrak’s supposed to have priority on these things. It doesn’t always work out that way.

But, you know, with this corridor, I think they’re trying to get that, uh, on time percentage up through here. Yeah. Um.

[00:19:32] Ian: Yeah, and I mean, thinking about my experience with the Empire Builder, like where do we get stuck? It’s almost always west of the Twin Cities, you know, it’s hardly ever the Wisconsin section.

That we have significant delays.

[00:19:44] Brandon: Yeah, absolutely. ’cause you get, you get west of here, you get to a lot more single track and so you’re waiting a lot longer for freight trains and, and like the railroads, you know, they, they maintain things to a certain point, but, you know, there are breakdowns of things out there that cause problems and delays and so it’s much harder to get a train outta the way out there Yeah.

Than it is through these corridors.

[00:20:05] Ian: How often do you get to ride Amtrak? Just in general?

[00:20:08] Brandon: It was a bit more, I was. I call my seven year vacation to Portland. And so, uh, I was doing a little bit more trips between Portland and Seattle. And so they have the Amtrak Cascades where I think they’re up to eight round trips a day between those two cities.

That’s nice. Yeah. And so you could just count on it so you knew there’s train every two hours.

[00:20:27] Ian: And how long is that?

[00:20:28] Brandon: Uh, just just over two hours, I think between the two cities there. Okay. And like I, I took it south down to Eugene for a concert in the past and it just, because it was there, it made things easy.

Mm-Hmm. Yeah. And so. You know, that’s my hope here is, you know, we’re, it took a while to get the second train, but hopefully, you know, ridership shows that we need more of this. You know, maybe it’s not all the way through Chicago, but maybe it’s connecting into La Crosse and, you know, smaller corridors along this way to supplement that.

But, you know, it’s, it’s a start. Yeah.

[00:20:57] Ian: It’s something that I’m noticing already. Um, and I’m just, I’m deducing all of this based on the fact that, uh, Amtrak scales the, the cost of the tickets up and down. Yeah. According, you know, depending on how full a particular train is already. Yep. Um, I’ve noticed that, like when I was trying to, uh, uh, book tickets, you know, into the summer Yep.

That a lot of the, like Friday midday, um, uh, Borealis trips from. St. Paul to Chicago. Like they seem like they are filling up a lot faster than Empire Builder trips are. Yeah. Uh, and I think that’s, you know, because of like the, the, it’s, it’s easier for people to like take half a day and, you know, leave early on a Friday rather than like leave at eight in the morning.

[00:21:42] Brandon: Yeah.

And I think, you know, probably just what, what people find is just the reliability that these trips are here. You know, as we were waiting at the station there, you know, Empire Builder came through, but it was an hour forty behind schedule. And so if that’s somebody traveling from St. Paul to Chicago, well they got there an hour forty too early.

’cause you know, the benefit with trains is being able to pretty much walk on when you get there, right? And so that kind of takes away from that experience. You know, but, you know, Empire Builder has things to gain from this project as well with these improvements of helping to, you know, gain time back as they move through the river corridor here.

So, you know, hopefully this trickles down to them too. So, uh, but you know, I, I think people are gonna be riding this more frequently to Chicago just because they can depend on that, you know, Empire Builder back north. That’s probably gonna be far more reliable because you’re coming through Chicago, you’re not dealing with.

You know, four to five states of delays before you get here.

[00:22:36] Ian: Although the, the Empire Builder coming back up to the Twin Cities is at a disadvantage because it arrives at 11:00 PM and who wants to do that?

[00:22:44] Brandon: Yeah, 10:30. I, I have coworkers that come up here for meetings and. He prefers to do it that way, you know, he can get on the train and hop on here, and then he has his hotel in downtown St. Paul. So it’s, it’s, it’s pretty easy there. So, yeah. But you know, it, it provides options, I guess here, you know, this one gets back to, uh, St. Paul around 6:30, but you know, four hours later you got that as an option. So if, God forbid there’s, you know, a delay on something, you miss your connection or something down there, it provides redundancy in the system.

So, yeah.

[00:23:15] Ian: I wonder. Yeah. So does, um. Obviously you’re not an Amtrak person, so you, you, you know, you don’t have the answers to this directly, but like I know that if, if, if you miss a connection, you know. On tickets that you, uh, uh, booked as a single trip, right? Yep. You know, like they will get you onto a different train to get to your destination free of charge, and so I guess, yeah, having multiple trains per day like that gives them more options for, for being able to put people, move people around when they need to.

[00:23:45] Brandon: Yeah. I think that that helps limit their risk too, you know, if. Is there’s not multiple trips. Maybe they’re paying for somebody’s hotel overnight. Right. Or something like that. So we are now, with having this train, they’ve got another option to put people onto it so it, it doesn’t cost them anything more to do that.

[00:24:02] Ian: So, yeah. Yep. Well, thanks for coming on the show.

[00:24:05] Brandon: Yeah, thank you.

[00:24:12] Ian: Next up, Kadence Kushnir,

[00:24:15] Kadence: I, I work in active transportation and have worked at transportation for many years. I obviously love bicycle pedestrians infrastructure and connections. But I also do have background with a lot of transit projects in and around Minnesota. I worked on Zip Rail many, many, many years ago.

[00:24:32] Ian: Oh, wow.

[00:24:32] Kadence: Yeah. There’s some stories there. There are quite a few stories there. I’ve worked on Southwest Light Rail. I worked on the original Blue Line.

[00:24:41] Ian: Oh!

[00:24:41] Kadence: DEIS. I’ve read every public comment on those projects submitted through the environmental impact statements. Mm-Hmm. And um.

[00:24:49] Ian: And you said you were talking about the Rush Line back when that was a rail proposal.

[00:24:53] Announcer: Yes.

Ladies and gentlemen, yes. This is Red Wing coming right up. It’s Red Wing at your destination. Folks, we need you to head the doors now. So head the same door as you boarded at in MSP. Red Wing. This is Red Wing.

[00:25:07] Ian: I can’t believe that they’re expecting me to remember which door I came in.

[00:25:11] Kadence: Do you even know which train car you came in on?

[00:25:14] Ian: I

came in one and then I walked forward and I went into another car and then chose a seat. So I’m not even sure where I am anymore in relation to that because, because I got up to walk around and explore and like, I’m, you know, I’m pretty sure my, my seat is at least one car forward, but I don’t, I don’t remember if it’s one or two.

Yeah.

[00:25:36] Kadence: I think if you can’t remember your seat, you’re stuck on the train forever. Forever. Forever. Oh.

[00:25:41] Ian: Yeah, this is a, like you, you die on the train, you die in real life kind of situation. Yeah.

[00:25:45] Kadence: Ooh, no. That would make some great short stories. I think we need to start plotting those out. Have you heard of the young professional abroad who basically lives on the train?

’cause it’s cheaper than renting an apartment.

[00:25:58] Ian: Oh, okay. And just like, like working remotely kind of thing from the train. That’s as okay. Yeah. Yeah. I think,

[00:26:05] Kadence: yeah. I think Brandon, you’ve probably read about that.

[00:26:09] Brandon: He just figured out. He’s just like, well, I can just go anywhere around the country on my pass and going, well, I’ll just work here on the day.

And it’s, it’s worthwhile I gets to see the world.

[00:26:19] Ian: Was was that Amtrak or was that Europe? What, what were we?

[00:26:21] Brandon: It’s Europe. Europe, but Amtrak does have a program where they’ll do, like put artists on boards and things like that where they can ride around the country and, you know, go through a trip and see things and either write or paint or what have you.

[00:26:36] Ian: And actually when. No, earlier before we boarded the train and you were talking about the overnight bus, uh, to Chicago, um, and how honestly a harrowing experience that can be. Uh, but I, I have, uh, I, I have taken advantage of that sort of thing where I’m like, okay, I want to plan a long distance, like train or bus trip.

And I don’t want to have to pay for, uh, hotels in the middle. So I always make sure that like, oh, I’m on a bus overnight. And then like during the day is when my transfers are and things so that in theory I can sleep. It doesn’t always work out, you know, to be good sleep, but

[00:27:22] Kadence: no, so this is actually when I was in grad school, I was with a few other students at the time and we decided to do the $1 fare overnight to Chicago. Okay. ’cause that’s when, uh, the National – Mega Bus Yeah. The National Planning Conference was in Chicago and we boarded and another group boarded with all of their musical instruments and their dog and decided-

[00:27:44] Announcer: Red Wing, this is Red Wing now, right.

Red Wing.

[00:27:48] Kadence: They decided to play music and serenade all the passenger. Yes, yes. For like a couple hours. And so the plan for sleep quickly dissolved.

[00:27:59] Ian: Because that’s like a, that that starts at 10:00 PM Yeah. Like that’s when that bus gets up. I felt, yeah.

[00:28:03] Kadence: I felt like I was going to like the late night open mic hour, and I was just sort of like, this is totally unacceptable.

I was planning on sleeping, so I, I didn’t really sleep. Uh, I remember we got off in Chicago at probably like seven or 8:00 AM and we were all just like sleep starved, like stumbling down the street. Like, okay, now we have to do a full day of conference.

[00:28:25] Ian: Now, I mean, sometimes some days the, uh, the alley outside of my apartment feels like open mic night at 11:00 PM

[00:28:35] Kadence: Yes.

Yes. When I lived in Marcy Holmes for a sublet, when I first moved to Minneapolis, I very much had the, uh. Parking lot crowd. Yeah. Would always take their breaks outside my window, uh, and sit on my window sill. Sometimes my window screen would fall out and we’d have awkward conversations about, uh, please don’t lean against my window.

[00:28:53] Ian: Yeah. What about this train gets you the most excited?

[00:28:57] Kadence: I am really excited to have an alternative way to get to Chicago. I don’t like to fly, and it feels a little silly for me to fly someplace so close. That also feels silly to spend eight hours in a car. Mm-Hmm. Uh, so this is a perfect mix of modes where I can just chill, relax, be on a more sustainable mode of transportation.

And also the views are really great. Boarding was super easy. Mm-Hmm. Everyone on the train talks to each other. That doesn’t happen on airplanes. Everyone ignores each other. Like this is like.

[00:29:26] Ian: Unless you’re my mom, she always finds friends to talk to on airplanes. Oh, I do. It’s super weird.

[00:29:31] Kadence: I do too. I, I actually prefer the middle seat, which nobody in the world prefers the middle seat on airplanes, but I like it ’cause it guarantees me like a conversational partner almost every time.

Yeah.

[00:29:42] Ian: A captive audience, one might say.

[00:29:45] Kadence: Very, very true. Also, it guarantees you, um, if you ever fly Southwest, almost guarantees you the front emergency row for people with long legs. ’cause ah, nobody wants to take the middle seat. And I, that’s my preferred seat, so there you go.

[00:29:59] Ian: Um, so what’s your, what’s your plan for today?

[00:30:02] Kadence: Ooh, my plan for today. So I am going all the way to La Crosse, Wisconsin, just to say that I went across the state border and then I will be returning. On a later train back to St. Paul, since I won’t be going all the way to Chicago. Yeah. I’m just playing it by ear. Um, this is actually my first ride on Amtrak.

Oh. I’ve done several events at Union Depot where I’ve boarded a train, walked along it, viewed it, you know, taken photos, but I’ve never actually been transported on the train. Mm-Hmm. So this is a very exciting. New to me experience. I don’t know. I was kind of expecting something halfway between Harry Potter and Anastasia.

I don’t know why. Um, so I’m kind of wondering where the chocolate frogs are, and they haven’t come by yet, but I’m still holding out hope.

[00:30:48] Ian: I, I hope that we don’t have dementors uh, boarding the train. That would be a bad time.

[00:30:53] Kadence: Yeah, we won’t talk about them.

[00:30:55] Ian: Do you have any ideas or plans for other destinations?

Other, you know, like. I love to plan trips around the train.

[00:31:03] Kadence: Yes, I, it is a goal of mine. I want to try to combine more bike packing with the train to just get outside of my Twin Cities bubble. ’cause I bike packed around the Twin Cities in quite a few places and even into Wisconsin. And the train provides additional radius that I can incorporate.

So I’m gonna be looking into that this summer to see how much further I can go. Uh, which is really exciting ’cause my, my. Biking distance limits probably about 120 miles. Yeah. Uh, radius of my home. But this really extends that.

[00:31:36] Ian: My experience with, uh, like bike packing and, and incorporating train into it.

Um, I love that, like the, the baggage, uh, policy for Amtrak is almost exactly the number of panniers that I would have on my bike anyway, you know, so it’s, it, it, everything lines up perfectly. To just like, oh yeah, I’m gonna pack everything that I normally would carry, and like, it’s just gonna go on the train.

Yeah.

[00:32:03] Kadence: I’m looking forward to having my first experience with that. So I, I don’t have a date or a trip or a route or anything like that planned yet, but I will definitely be leaving here today with ideas for what that may look like in the future. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:32:21] Ian: One, um, one future. Plan that I have is taking the train and bike down to Chicago and then the route from Chicago back up to the Twin Cities.

There’s, I mean, it’s obviously not all bike trails, but like there’s a lot of bike trail along that route. And it’s also comforting to me knowing that like, oh, along that route, if I need to call it quits, like there’s a train to take me home, so.

[00:32:50] Kadence: Absolutely. I have it on good authority that it’s, it’s a nice day trip down to Red Wing and then riding around here.

Mm-Hmm. And so, like, I have where we’re at now, rode my bike around here and it’s really beautiful, but it, it’s always been a day trip in a car.

[00:33:04] Ian: Yeah.

[00:33:05] Kadence: So I’ve never taken the train to specifically ride my bike here. I’m excited about that.

[00:33:09] Ian: Important to note that, uh, you can only take a full-size bike on the train if the stations support, uh, checked bag service. So Red Wing is not one of the ones where you can load a bike? Yes.

[00:33:22] Kadence: That’s important to know. Yeah. Um, I can tell you that I’ve done quite a bit of riding around the Wisconsin Dells area and it is so beautiful there. Um, blue Mound State Park.

[00:33:31] Ian: Okay.

[00:33:31] Kadence: Has this grueling, very, very long hill that never, ever, ever ends.

And if you can make it to the top of that, you can bike anything.

[00:33:40] Ian: There you go. Any other thoughts about. Trains or bikes or active transportation or anything?

[00:33:47] Kadence: I mean, always. It won’t fit into a single podcast, so I think we’ll have to revisit that in the future.

[00:33:52] Ian: All right. Yeah. Open invitation. Come on anytime.

[00:33:55] Kadence: Fantastic. Thank you. Thank you.

[00:34:04] Ian: One passenger who caught my eye was Angel Morris Hernandez, who seemed to be the only person who brought a bike on board. The Borealis won’t let you select a bicycle as an add-on item when buying your ticket since there is no baggage car to store them in. But Angel brought a folding bike, so I asked him about it.

[00:34:21] Angel: Yeah, so this thing’s a Tern Link, A7. Uh, I got it secondhand and it’s been my savior right now because I’m, I have no plans of getting a car in Chicago, uh, my destination, uh, and I was pretty bummed to find out that the train doesn’t have any like full size bike spaces, but when I saw on the website the carry on baggage policy includes folding bicycles, I, I had to find one.

[00:34:49] Ian: Okay. So it, so it doesn’t just specify like the size of the, the luggage that you can take on. It also specifically says like, folding bicycles are welcome.

[00:34:58] Angel: Right, right. So it’s like, it says that folding bikes are allowable in the, you can’t put it in the overhead bin. You have to put it into the, the check, the, the baggage area here.

Um, I’m pointing at the, the front of the car.

[00:35:12] Ian: Yeah. Right, because, so if, for those people who have experience being on the Empire Builder, right, there’s kind of like three different places where you can put your baggage in that scenario, right? There’s checking it in and it goes in the baggage car. There’s carrying it up to the second level with you and putting it in the overhead.

But then there’s also like. Just kind of these shelves on the ground floor where you can put them, and this is pretty similar to those shelves on the ground floor, except that of course, we’re, this is a, a single level car. So you just walk up and then you can literally, like from your seat, you’re looking, we’re looking at your bike right now because it’s just like, uh, in a space where there would’ve been like one extra row of seats at the front of the car,

[00:35:56] Angel: And no bag on it, by the way.

Right. Yeah. There’s no bag on it.

[00:36:00] Ian: Yeah. So, um. My, like, I have a Brompton, um, which I like. When I was researching and figuring out what folding bike I wanted, you know, I was very nervous about the fact that, oh, like Jefferson Lines, a lot of airlines, right? You know, they’re all very, very strict about the, like, it has to be within 62 linear inches, right?

It’s gotta be really small. And B Brompton is the only company that makes bikes that actually get that small when they’re folded up. Um, so I mean. Obviously Amtrak is a little bit more like they allow luggage that’s a little bit bigger. But then it also sounds like in this case, they didn’t care about the size, like at all.

As long as it’s like reasonable.

[00:36:40] Angel: Yeah, no, uh, it was able to fold. I got to the union station in St. Paul, I biked there, um, and just folded it in half and then rolled it through the gate, passed the, onto the, the station outside and then climbed on the stairs. Yeah.

[00:36:57] Ian: And, and like, and like nobody, they didn’t put it in like a machine or anything to like check like, what is the dimensions of this thing?

Yada yada.

[00:37:03] Angel: No, no. I passed multiple Amtrak employees and they just said nothing. Welcome, welcome me in. It was great. Nice.

[00:37:09] Ian: Yeah.

Um, have you, have you, did you buy this bike? Like, because this trip was coming up, it sounded like it. Have you taken it on other trips before?

[00:37:17] Angel: I have taken it just to like get used to the 20 inch tires.

’cause I’m used to a 26 inch tire. Yeah. Um, but yeah, I definitely bought this for this trip because I was going to take my other bike but then had to find this one to be able to bike in Chicago while also riding the Borealis.

[00:37:35] Ian: So. Okay. So tell me about this trip. Like what are your goals here?

[00:37:39] Angel: What are my goals?

That’s a good point.

[00:37:40] Ian: Like, like, I mean, a lot of us are on here because we just wanted to ride the Borealis for the first time. So we’re like, you know, a lot of people just got off in La Crosse and then they’re going to get on the return trip, but you’re going all the way to Chicago, so you’ve got slightly different plans.

[00:37:53] Angel: Yeah. Yeah. First the lake? I want to get some coffee in me too. I only just woke up. I, I bought my ticket today. Um,

[00:38:00] Ian: [laughter] heck yeah!

[00:38:04] Angel: Uh, and all I have is the stuff that I packed for the day too. Mm-Hmm. So I’m gonna have to find myself. Somewhere to stay. I’ve got a friend, luckily over in Chicago, I’m gonna surprise her.

Nice. So yeah, my goal is to make it to Thursday for my return trip. Uh, and I guess find a place to sleep some good food, spend time at the beach and bike around Chicago. Chicago had recently, uh, relatively recently, uh, improved their biking infrastructure over there too. So it’s like, it’s a lot safer to bike.

The common areas of Chicago, downtown Chicago. Yeah. So I’m real excited to try those with that thing. Heck yeah. Yeah.

[00:38:39] Ian: Um, are you, are you from the Twin Cities then?

[00:38:42] Angel: I am from the Twin Cities. Okay. St. Paul.

[00:38:44] Ian: Nice. Yeah.

Um, I, I’ve been, every time that I go down to Chicago, I’m like, I should bike here. But then they have such good public transit that I’m like, I’m always like, ah, I’m just gonna take the bus.

I’m just gonna like, go on the L train. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:38:59] Angel: I mean, like, I, I love the, the L over there. Awesome. It’s just great. I can just like get on it, get off, and it’s just like so seamlessly integrated with the rest of downtown as well. Oh, it’s lovely. Yeah.

[00:39:11] Ian: Um, tell me about, uh, so, so you got, you just got this Tern.

You’re very excited about it. It’s a expanding possibilities for, for travel for you. Um, tell me about your other bike. What other, what other kind of biking do you like to do?

[00:39:24] Angel: So, I’ve got an e-bike at home. Okay. Uh, it’s an Aventon Soltera.

[00:39:28] Ian: Ah, yeah, my partner has one of those.

[00:39:30] Angel: Oh, really? Yeah. Yeah.

It’s a skinny thing.

It’s a skinny thing. It’s got no suspension. So I’ve gotten used to the feeling the bumps in the road, uh, with this thing has no suspension either. The, the lit, the, the Tern. Yeah. Uh, and well, it gets hard after 10 miles to really like stay seated. Otherwise, the first 10, the after that, before then it’s, it’s nice.

It’s really like zippy. Mm-Hmm. I’m surprised by how nimble. And Zippy this thing is, um, having bikes, the Soltera, it’s a little heavier than other bikes of its class.

[00:40:04] Ian: O, obviously. Yeah. Having the big battery in the down tube and Yeah.

[00:40:07] Angel: Yeah, yeah. I forgot what it felt like to bike something so light. Mm-Hmm.

And it’s, oh, it felt effortless. Yeah.

[00:40:16] Ian: Um, you were talking about bumpiness and I know that like, the size of wheels really affects that, you know? Um, I mean, that’s one of the reasons that like. You know, big bikes have big wheels is because it’s, it’s like, makes it more comfortable. Uh, yeah. How you, how do you like the, uh, you know, the handling and the bumpiness on the, on the Tern?

[00:40:36] Angel: It caught me off guard at first when I tried it out at the bike shop. Uh, I was going to turn around, make a U-turn, and I nearly just flew off the bike. I wasn’t used to how, how, uh. Where the center of gravity was on this shorter bike. Mm. Um, but after a while, I, I guess started getting used to it and I started taking, uh, curves at greater and greater speeds with more confidence.

Mm-Hmm. Um, I don’t know. I don’t know. I feel like I may come to prefer smaller tires after experiencing what this, what this thing is. What, what do you have at home?

[00:41:11] Ian: Um, so I have three bikes. Um, my. Commuter bike is actually, it’s in the shop right now. It’s that Lowertown Bike Shop, so I’m gonna be picking it up when we get back into St. Paul. Nice. Um, and, uh, and that one’s a Marin, um, Presidio. So it’s, uh, I bought that one because it has a belt drive, uh, and internal geared hub. Um, because I was, I was getting really tired of, uh, in the wintertime, you know, commuting every day. And I cannot be bothered. To keep up on, you know, like wiping down a chain and relubing it every single day and taking good care of it.

And so, like I was, I was having to like replace like three chains every winter and I was like, this is too expensive. I’m going to buy a brand new bike to solve this problem. Um, so that’s, that’s the, that’s the bike that I ride most days. Um, and then I also have a, uh, Marin Four Corners, which is a big, beautiful touring bike.

Um. I’ve got it all tricked out with like the dynamo hub. So, uh, I, I can like, I can charge my phone off of a USB charger on it whenever the wheel’s spinning. Yeah. Um, lots of cargo space on that thing. Uh, I’ve got the aero bars for like, you know, real comfortable when you’re just like spending all day, all day biking.

Uh, and then I have the Brompton, um, for, for taking on Yeah. Trips like this. So, um, I love the, I love the, uh, the red color on there that’s like. It’s like shiny and also matte at the same time. It’s, it is kind of a trippy, like, I don’t know how they did that finish.

[00:42:45] Angel: I know, right? I quite like how bright and, but also sub subdued the color is as well.

Mm-Hmm. Uh, I, I’m not used to the frame size either, like trying to get my bags onto it, which, uh, thank. Thank the Lord for German engineering. My Ortlieb, can still fit on this. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:43:05] Ian: I, yeah. On the, on my Brompton, whenever I have my Ortlieb uh, panniers on there, I have to remember not to take super like banking turns because they start scraping on the ground whenever I tilt.

[00:43:17] Angel: You ever thought about putting those, um, those, uh, what are they? The spark pads on the bottom of your bags?

[00:43:24] Ian: Yeah, like look like a a, a train putting its emergency brakes on. Just like, yeah. Sparks flying.

On

[00:43:29] Angel: the little brompton. Why don’t that be a great thing for the summer?

[00:43:34] Ian: This is Okay. This is the adult version of like the kids who put, um, like playing cards in their spokes to make it sound like an engine.

You know, like I put spark, uh, pads on the bottoms of my panniers. Yeah. Uhhuh.

[00:43:50] Angel: Love it. I think that’d be great.

[00:43:52] Ian: Um. Any other thoughts? Did we, did we talk about, uh, did we talk about other, like Amtrak trips that you’ve ever taken or anything?

[00:44:02] Angel: Uh, I could, I could share some, yeah. Being that this is my second trip.

Okay. On the Amtrak, uh, I’ve only ever gone on the Empire Builder to Chicago. I had a, uh, a flight to catch in Chicago to go to El Salvador. Um, and so I took the Amtrak from St. Paul to catch the flight O’Hare. Um, and that was great because it was. Coincidentally cheaper.

[00:44:25] Ian: Huh?

[00:44:26] Angel: It was cheaper to take the Empire Builder, fly from O’Hare, come back.

Same way. Yeah.

[00:44:32] Ian: Than having a connecting flight in O’Hare.

[00:44:34] Angel: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Oh my gosh. It was so much cheaper, huh? It was like, it was like $800 cheaper. Wow. And that was with like purchasing everything that I needed for like the train food. I didn’t have to pay for parking. Mm-Hmm. I didn’t have to pay for parking.

That was great. I mean, like leaving my car in O’Hare, I, I could have driven to Chicago. And like left my car. Oh, in O’Hare.

[00:44:55] Ian: That would be so silly, right?

[00:44:58] Angel: This worked out better. Yeah.

[00:44:59] Ian: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

[00:45:00] Angel: That was the only other time. It was lovely. It was lovely. Um, this Borealis does not have the, um, what was it called?

The sky view.

[00:45:10] Ian: Oh yeah, the observation car. The observation car.

[00:45:12] Angel: Uhhuh. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I do miss that. However, I mean like for the, for the sacrifice of cost, if that’s what it is. Yeah, it’s nice.

[00:45:21] Ian: This is a good time to highlight some operating differences between the Borealis and the Empire Builder. So on the Borealis, we have no checked baggage service and therefore no roll-on bike service.

But you can bring the carry-on folding bikes. Like we mentioned, Amtrak hopes to get more equipment and add checked baggage, but I hear that there are other longer distance routes that would probably be first in line for any new equipment that they acquire. There’s no sleeper car, so no first class tickets, but there is business class which gets you roomier seats than coach and a free cold beverage or unlimited hot beverages.

There’s no observation car, and there are no sit down meals, but the cafe car serves enough food that you can make up a meal. There’s also no spigot to fill up a water bottle, which uh, really bit me in the butt on opening day. But we do have wifi that, uh, seems to get up to about five megabits per second.

Overall, I would say that it felt a little anti-climactic being on an opening day ride where the equipment was all several decades old already. We got rained on pretty hard on the way back near Winona, and there was basically a waterfall in the coupling area between two of the cars. Here’s some audio of that courtesy of Ian Gaida.

I definitely recommend checking out Ian’s video about the inaugural Borealis ride. Uh, I’m gonna include a link to that in the show notes.

[00:46:58] Angel: I am a more reserved person. I’m not too conversational out in public, but it’s different when I’m on the train.

[00:47:04] Ian: Yeah.

[00:47:05] Angel: Uh, I’ve like struck up conversations with you. The,

[00:47:08] Ian: yeah,

[00:47:08] Angel: my room, my, uh, my seatmate, who I met at the station and the people in line. They, the, the guy gave me his, uh, his business card too.

[00:47:18] Ian: That’s amazing.

[00:47:19] Angel: Shout out to shout out to shout out to Meyer. Yeah. We’ll be hanging out in Chicago. Don’t worry.

[00:47:27] Ian: Yeah. I love making friends on the train, like that’s what it’s all about. It’s crazy. Absolutely.

[00:47:31] Angel: I don’t know, I don’t know any other, like time in my life or situation where I’m like more likely to converse with someone than on a train.

Mm-Hmm. I don’t know.

Yeah.

[00:47:42] Ian: It’s, I feel like in our society, okay, I’m gonna get like really philosophical here now. Um, I feel like we’ve lost a lot of those opportunities to just be like, like randomly meet somebody in public and just strike up a conversation. And like, like even when we have opportunities for that, it often feels like it’s not the right thing to do because like those cultural norms have just like, they’ve changed, right?

And they’re not yeah, there anymore. But when you’re on the train, it’s like. We’re all in this together. We’re all going somewhere. Yeah. You know, and we all have to be here for however much time. We might as well chat.

[00:48:17] Angel: That’s right. That’s right. We’re all on an end adventure. I recall reading about the line philosophy, the design philosophy behind the lines at Disney World, where that they double back to be able to accommodate more people, but also to allow people to con converse with each other so that they can entertain themselves.

And it feels like when you do that now, like they still have that. Right. Um. The line still double back at Disney World. And it’s, it’s, it’s awful. It’s awful because you have to look at everyone else who’s just like waiting in the sun for the ride here. It’s, it, it’s somehow different. Yeah. We’re, we’re all waiting, but we’re all like, I know our guard is, is, is more relaxed.

Yeah. Something like that.

[00:48:58] Ian: And it’s, I mean, the. Even though like you would think that like being on a plane or being on a Greyhound bus would be a similar, you know, it’s still a different vibe. It totally is. It’s for some reason the type of people who who choose to travel on the train are like, they’re, they’re more amenable to having these like, random conversations.

Right.

[00:49:20] Angel: I see. I would’ve gone the route of suggesting the environment was what keeps, keeps people social in these places. Um. Say for example, well, for me personally, I am not gonna strike up a conversation with my seatmate at on the plane after being corralled like cattle beforehand by TSA.

[00:49:38] Ian: That’s a good point.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:49:41] Angel: Or like having woken up at 5:00 AM to catch my flight at the airport. Mm-Hmm. Which was three hours later. Thanks, dad. Yeah.

[00:49:50] Ian: So I know that like the, the, the tickets, the price of the tickets scales up. Yes. You know, uh, the, it’s not, it’s not directly like the later you buy, but it is like if the train is a lot fuller already than, than the tickets are more, um, you bought these tickets for opening day, the day of.

Yeah. I imagine that this is a very, I mean, there were a lot of people on the train. Yeah. So. The base price is $41. How much did you have to pay for them?

[00:50:18] Angel: I paid $112.

[00:50:19] Ian: Woo boy. All right.

[00:50:22] Angel: My excitement was too much to contain.

[00:50:25] Ian: There you go.

That’s, that’s a true believer right there.

[00:50:27] Angel: I saw everybody. This is the fanfare.

It all got to me and I was like, wait a second. I could just go to Chicago. Why am I just sitting here watching everyone have a good time? Mm-Hmm. I wanna get on

[00:50:38] Ian: You wants in on that? Um. Yeah. I hope, uh, have, have you, have you gotten in touch with your friend in Chicago to let her know that, like, Hey, I’m surprised that you, I’m gonna show up.

[00:50:46] Angel: No, it’ll be a surprise.

[00:50:47] Ian: Okay. I, I hope it’s a pleasant surprise. Oh, it’ll be, it will be good. Good, good, good. Um, Angel, any other final thoughts before we, uh, before we say goodbye,

[00:50:56] Angel: let’s see. Clean your chains. Indeed. Clean your chains, everybody. And make sure you’re not turning your bike orange. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:51:06] Ian: And rubber side down. That’s right. Is that here?

[00:51:07] Angel: Yeah, that’s right. rubber side down.

[00:51:10] Ian: All right, Angel, thanks for coming on the show.

[00:51:11] Angel: Thank you very much, Ian for having me.

[00:51:19] Ian: Finally, I ran into Colin Jones, who was sent by Amy Gage to do a written article about the Borealis for Streets.mn So keep an eye out for that article. Notably, Colin is a Duluth resident who is living in a carpet bagger, depending on who you ask, who, who is, uh, in Woodbury for the summer, but I met him in Rochester.

[00:51:44] Colin: Yeah, it’s, I’ve been, been all over the place in the past couple, uh, in the past month after, you know, sitting in a, all that depressing dorm. It’s, oh, at

[00:51:55] Ian: UMD?

[00:51:56] Colin: Yeah, both elevators always broken. Ooh, that’s fun. Seven, seven stories. But hey, you have a nice view of the lake. Who’s to say whether it, uh, outweighs the bad?

[00:52:07] Ian: Yeah. What, what is your previous like Amtrak experience before getting on this train?

[00:52:11] Colin: Zero.

[00:52:11] Ian: Ooh, nice. First one. So, um. Yeah, I, uh, where do we even begin then? Um, I, at least I, you, you don’t seem like the kind of person who is gonna get on the train and ask, uh, where are the seat belts? I’ve heard that one before.

Um, but like, you know, so, so how much of a train nerd are you, like I have you, do you know the names of all of the models of, of, uh, train cars that we’re on, or, uh, are you just

[00:52:39] Colin: kind of this is, uh, horizon. I know that Oh, great. We have an amfleet in the back. Uh, I have. You have a genesis painted in phase, whatever.

I don’t know. One of the newer ones, I’m not that much of a nerd that I know of. The difference between like the different phases with a slightly different paint job, but, but like,

[00:52:58] Ian: but like you’re somebody who can use the word the phrase “rolling stock” and you know what it means.

[00:53:02] Colin: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. St. Paul to Chicago is. It’s a very popular air route, and although train times are not competitive with that, you can still, nonetheless, it’s an alternative that you can choose. Yeah. Which I mean now I believe with the lowered prices is. Like, I think it’s cheaper Yeah. To take, to take the Borealis. Yes. I, I highly doubt you can find a plane ticket for $41.

Right, right. From Minneapolis. I remember looking at tickets for like mid-June mm-Hmm. Or probably in about a week from now. This was like, probably so, I mean, I was looking at tickets like, I think three weeks out at the time. Mm-Hmm. And the price had doubled from the, from the base price. Yeah. And I mean, that’s sort of, I guess like my only concern with this is that like you’re going to have.

Not enough capacity to deal with this, because you have a, it’s so much more convenient than the Empire Builder. Yeah. In every respect.

[00:53:57] Ian: Well, so what it sounds like is we need a third daily Amtrak between the Twin Cities and Chicago.

[00:54:02] Colin: Fourth. Fourth.

[00:54:02] Ian: Oh, fourth, okay. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I mean, but Colin, where does it end?

[00:54:08] Colin: Well, Eau Claire, well, Amtrak, I think, um, yeah, you were at the, the opening ceremony.

[00:54:13] Ian: I caught the tail end of it because I had to teach in the morning and then I hopped, you know, came here as quick as I could.

[00:54:19] Colin: Right. So, uh, but like they’re mentioning like they want to ’cause the Empire Builder and Borealis.

They just, they just, you know, conveniently exclude Madison so they want one to Madison as well. Right. That goes along that route. But also what I from, this is just like, like hearsay. Um, Eau Claire as well. Mm-Hmm. And even to the point at which, um,

[00:54:40] Ian: and there are local advocacy groups. Like there’s a rail coalition in Eau Claire trying to get, you know, service to the Twin Cities.

[00:54:46] Colin: And they’ve even considered, to my knowledge, like with private groups, and this became an issue in the legislature.

[00:54:52] Ian: That’s a very wisconsin,

[00:54:53] Colin: because Yeah, exactly. Because my mother who works like with legislators, she heard about like the fact that, um. I think Minnesota’s, uh, Republicans in the transportation Committee were making a fuss about the fact that Amtrak has a monopoly at St. Paul Union Depot, which is like, and my response to that was, um, I’m a like, okay, you know what? You can start making that fuss when you have Bright Line Midwest. Sure. At like, itching to come over here. But yeah. You know, you need to have a developed service plan. A company that actually wants it. Like it’s such a non-issue that I just like found it.

I found it hilarious and sad.

[00:55:34] Ian: I would love to see like Republicans today going and debating whoever it is in the 1970s. Probably also Republicans who, you know, set up this government mandated monopoly of Amtrak. Like, whatever, what?

[00:55:47] Colin: Jam, you, Nixon,

[00:55:48] Ian: whatever guys. Yeah. What other transportation projects and things are you excited about in the near future?

[00:55:54] Colin: Out of the personal bias, the, um, I think it’s the Little Crow line which goes from Minneapolis to Sioux Falls via, I think like Wilmar and Marshall.

[00:56:04] Ian: Okay. Mm-Hmm.

[00:56:05] Colin: And reason I’m excited for that is because I have family that lives in Pipestone, which is a decently, it’s like 4,000 people has a national monument.

Mm-Hmm. I’m Exci. I would, oh my God. Being able to go there. Carless like, yeah. I mean, it’s a small enough town, a small enough area. Everything you want is in bikeable distance. Yeah,

[00:56:24] Ian: yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:56:25] Colin: But you know, being able to reach there without, uh, four hours of driving is Right. Right. Oh my God. Yeah. And

[00:56:31] Ian: I think, I mean, Pipestone I think is a very underrated national monument.

Uh, it’s

[00:56:36] Colin: very, I mean, I haven’t been there in a very long time that that gives me a todo. Thank you for the to-do list. Yeah. Um, it is very beautiful in the spring though. That’s everything. Everything’s bloomed. The waterfalls are sometimes, I remember going there once in the spring. It was like, um, the waterfalls there still had, um, ice chunks in them or something like that on the cliff walls.

I mean, it’s, you know, a religiously significant and I believe treaty protected area. Mm-Hmm. But you know, it’s, I need to go back there, man. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And going there via by a train will be all the better too. It would probably help fill out some of the, um, the Main Street apartment lofts. ’cause there’s a lot of Main Street businesses that are like not doing very well.

[00:57:24] Ian: You’re talking in Pipestone itself?

[00:57:25] Colin: Yeah. Mm-Hmm. And sort of like the historic downtown. Um, you know it, and there’s a lot of apartment loss, which I was talking with my grandfather, who is the, who was the city administrator until he retired about a year ago. He was talking about like how, how like disappointing it was and all these like decent.

Like buildings. I mean, they’re, they’re old, but they’re in decent condition all things considered. Um, you know, all of it’s just going to waste and, well, I don’t know. Yeah.

[00:57:55] Ian: Well, Colin, thanks for coming on the show.

[00:57:57] Colin: Yeah, of course. Have a good day.

[00:58:00] Ian: Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Streets.mn Podcast.

The show is released under a creative commons attribution, non-commercial non derivative license. So feel free to republish the episode as long as you are not altering it, and you’re not profiting from it. The music in this episode is by Eric Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet. This episode was hosted, edited, and transcribed by me, Ian R Buck.

We are always looking to feature new voices on the Streets.mn Podcast. So if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at [podcast@streets.mn] Streets.mn is a community blog and podcast and relies on contributions from audience members like you. If you can make a onetime or recurring donation, you can find more information about doing so at [https://streets.mn /donate]. Find other listeners and discuss this episode on your favorite social media platform using the hashtag #StreetsMNPodcast. Until next time, take care.

About Ian R Buck

Pronouns: he/him

Ian is a podcaster and teacher. He grew up in Saint Paul, and currently lives in Minneapolis. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation, and wants to make it possible for more people to do so as well! "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"

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