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Amtrak’s Wolverine debuts quiet car on Chicago-to-Michigan trips

Amtrak's Wolverine heads west through Galesburg Mich. 2011. | AP Photo/Kalamazoo Gazette Scott Harmsen

Amtrak's Wolverine heads west through Galesburg, Mich., in 2011. | AP Photo/Kalamazoo Gazette, Scott Harmsen

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Updated: September 20, 2013 6:28AM

Two Chicagoans who regularly take Amtrak’s Wolverine line to see family in Michigan welcome the new “quiet car” service that debuts Monday so they can travel in peace and get work done.

Passengers on the quiet car use no cellphones or loud electronics and keep conversation low and to a minimum. The quiet car is first-come, first-served on the Wolverine’s three weekday round-trip rides.

“I would really enjoy a quiet car,” said Andy Crosby, 32, a Pilsen resident and doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Crosby, who grew up in Stanton, Mich., about 50 miles northeast of Grand Rapids, travels the Wolverine service at least once a month. He visits relatives and spent four weeks this summer at a seminar at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

He prefers the train to a Megabus because the train has more elbow room to set up a laptop and his classwork materials.

“I can plug in my computer and get a lot of work done,” said Crosby, who faces three comprehensive exams in October before he can start his dissertation in public finance. “It is nice to have quiet to do that. If I want to have a phone conversation, I can always go to the café car.”

The quiet car is at the opposite end of the train from the café car to keep noise down, according to an Amtrak press release.

Ryan Griffin-Stegink, a 26-year-old Lake View resident who works in communications at the Metropolitan Planning Council, takes the Wolverine line five to 10 times a year to his hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich.

“It will be nice to have the service in coach,” said Griffin-Stegink, who often pays extra to ride business class for the quieter environment. The round-trip ticket costs him $40 round-trip, compared with $140 for business class.

“I prefer to read or listen to music,” he said. “Coach can be busy and bustling, especially in the afternoon as people talk a lot or start to party for the weekend.”

Other commuters want the same, the train operators say.

“Many of our passengers are telling us they use their train trip to unwind, read or catch up on their sleep,” said Amtrak Central Division General Superintendent Tom Connolly in a statement. “They can’t do that as well when the rest of the car is buzzing and ringing with calls home and to the office.”

The line’s ridership is up nearly 6 percent in the 10 months through July, topping 421,000, Amtrak said.

The only other Amtrak corridor in the Midwest with quiet car service is the Hiawatha line between Chicago and Milwaukee, which has operated for eight years.

Amtrak also runs quiet cars on select lines in California and New York.


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