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Rail News: Amtrak

Another year, another high-water mark for Amtrak's annual ridership


Despite two major hurricanes and five months without Acela Express service, Amtrak posted record ridership for the third-straight year. In fiscal-year 2005, which ended Sept. 30, the national passenger railroad carried 25.4 million passengers, besting the previous record of 25 million passengers set in FY2004.

Amtrak posted increases on many long-distance routes, including the Chicago-to-Seattle Empire Builder, which recorded a 14 percent ridership hike in September, when the railroad began operating refurbished equipment on the line and offering improved customer service. During the fiscal year, the Empire Builder carried 476,531 passengers — the most of Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains.

In addition, Amtrak increased ridership on the New York-to-Chicago Lake Shore Limited (11.8 percent), Washington, D.C.-to-Chicago Capitol Limited (7.9 percent) and Chicago-to-Oakland California Zephyr (3.6 percent).

In the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak posted ridership gains on most trains. Acela Express, Metroliner and Regional trains combined to carry 9.5 million passengers, a 1 percent increase compared with last year. State-supported services such as the New York-to-Harrisburg, Penn., Keystone and Boston-to-Portland, Maine, Downeaster carried 18.6 percent and 10 percent more passengers than last year, respectively.

In the Midwest, Amtrak’s Chicago-to-Milwaukee Hiawatha service topped the half-million mark, an increase of 14.1 percent compared with FY2004. All three Michigan routes posted gains, as well. Ridership increased on the Chicago-to-East Lansing/Port Huron Blue Water (18.3 percent), Chicago-to-Detroit/Pontiac Wolverines (11 percent) and Chicago-to-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette (9.9 percent). In addition, the Oklahoma City-to-Fort Worth, Texas, Heartland Flyer carried 23.1 percent more passengers and the Chicago-to-Carbondale Illini, 10.3 percent more riders compared with last year.

In the West, California corridors hit ridership highs. The Oakland-to-San Jose Capitol Corridor, San Diego-to-Santa Barbara Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquins service posted gains of 8.1 percent, 7.5 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively. In addition, Cascades service — which is operated by the states of Washington and Oregon — posted a 4.4 percent ridership increase.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/19/2005