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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak ridership stayed growth course in FY2012's first half


Amtrak is on pace to set another new annual ridership record based on passenger counts across its national network for the first six months of fiscal-year 2012. From October 2011 through March 2012, ridership rose 3.7 percent compared with the same period in the prior fiscal year.
All routes registered growth in the first half, Amtrak officials said in a prepared statement. Among the gains, the Northeast Corridor’s (NEC) ridership rose 5.2 percent; long-distance train usage increased 3 percent; and ridership on state-supported and other short-distance routes climbed 2.7 percent.

The ridership growth continues a long-term trend that has led to eight records in the past nine years, including 30.2 million riders in FY2011, Amtrak officials said.
“Amtrak achieving ridership records is important, but it is more critical that the right infrastructure be in place to continue this trend in the years to come, and to provide safe, efficient and reliable rail transportation for all current and future passengers,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman.
NEC ridership is expected to increase significantly as population in the region grows, highway and airport congestion worsens, and gas prices continue to climb, he said. Amtrak is working on the Gateway Program, a comprehensive, long-term plan to improve the NEC and expand high-speed rail service, such as by increasing tunnel, track and station capacity into New York City for intercity and commuter trains.

In the East, ridership during the first six months of FY2012 increased 8.2 percent on the Northeast Regional service between Washington, D.C., and Boston;
4 percent on the Keystone service between New York City, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa; 9 percent on the Ethan Allen service between New York City and Rutland, Vt.; 5.5 percent on the Adirondack between New York City and Montreal;
3.6 percent on the Empire Service between New York City and Albany, N.Y.; and 3.3 percent on the Downeaster between Boston and Portland, Maine.

Virginia services posted sizable gains, with Washington-to-Lynchburg ridership up 27.4 percent and Washington-to-Newport News ridership up 16 percent. Also, passenger counts on the Piedmont service between Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., climbed 15.1 percent.

Meanwhile, in the West and Pacific Northwest, ridership continued to increase on the San Joaquin service between Sacramento, Oakland and Bakersfield, Calif., with 11.5 percent more riders registered during the six-month period. Capitol Corridor service between San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento and Auburn posted a 6.7 percent gain, and Amtrak Cascades service between Vancouver, B.C., Seattle, Portland and Eugene, Ore., logged a 0.5 percent gain.

In the Midwest, the Chicago-St. Louis corridor served by Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle reported a combined ridership gain of 10 percent. The highest percentage hike was in the Central U.S., where ridership on the Heartland Flyer between Oklahoma City, Okla., and Fort Worth, Texas, rose 10.6 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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