In its first month of operation, the Amtrak Borealis trains between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago are impressing Amtrak and state officials.

Amtrak says over 18,500 passengers used the Borealis service in its first month, an average of about 300 passengers aboard the east- and westbound trains in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Amtrak State Supported Service Vice President Ray Lang Borealis offers amenities like Wi-Fi and cafe service for its 7-hour-and-24-minute duratio. Lang says Amtrak and the state partners "always believed the Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago corridor was a great one with tremendous opportunity."

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Lang says the ridership numbers confirm their belief. He expects ridership to continue to grow into the peak summer travel season.

But Lang says there are a lot of college and university markets along the route. And he believes the line will only grow as students and staff travel in greater numbers this fall when school starts again. And with tickets as low as $41 for the general public -- and even better deals for students and seniors -- there's a lot of interest.

Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Nancy Daubenberger says the first month ridership "clearly demonstrates the need for this route." She says MnDOT is optimistic numbers will remain strong.

Borealis leaves St. Paul eastbound mid-day, and from Chicago west-bound late morning.

The trains offer Coach and Business Class, a cafe car, reclining seats with more legroom, no middle seats and free Wi-Fi.

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