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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak records highest-ever ridership during FY2003


Amtrak officials are looking for ways to convince Congress to approve the national passenger railroad’s requested $1.8 billion fiscal-year appropriation. They might have found one: Amtrak recorded its highest ridership in the railroad’s 32-year history during fiscal-year 2003, more than 24 million passengers.

The previous record set in 2001 was 23.5 million passengers. Last year, Amtrak carried 23.4 million passengers.

Ridership on long-distance trains increased 23.8 percent in the eastern region and 6.6 percent in the western region compared with FY2002. The Pennsylvania showed the largest increase —64 percent — mostly due to a route change. Ridership also increased on the Texas Eagle, 20 percent; Silver Meteor, 15.2 percent; and City of New Orleans, 14.5 percent.

Shorter-distance routes carried more passengers, too. In the West, ridership increased 11.7 percent. Southern California’s Pacific Surfliner had the largest change — a 26.3 percent increase compared with FY2002.

Midwest trains also recorded increases. Pere Marquette was up 22.1 percent; State House, 13 percent; and Illini, 11.4 percent

In the East, Regional trains carried 3.7 percent more riders compared with last year, and more passengers than any other Amtrak service in the country. But a reduced number of departures on Acela Express decreased the service’s overall ridership.

Amtrak attributes its record ridership to the Back to Basics program, which was implemented earlier this year. The program includes reduced fares and increased trains on some services, new menus on long-distance trains and upgraded automated voice response system to handle credit card transactions

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More News from 10/16/2003