Amtrak is on pace to set another new annual ridership record as passenger counts across its national network for the first six months of fiscal year 2012 (October 2011 – March 2012) are up 3.7 percent over the same period last year when the current record was established.
A closer look at the numbers show all Amtrak business lines experienced growth in the first half of FY 2012 as compared to the same period the prior year, including the Northeast Corridor (up 5.2 percent), long-distance trains (up 3.0 percent) and state-supported and other short-distance routes (up 2.7 percent.) This ridership growth continues a long-term trend that has led to eight records in the last nine years, including 30.2 million passengers in FY 2011.
“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 CEO Joe Boardman. “To do this in the Northeast, we must advance our proposed Gateway Program, as it is essential for the future growth and economic development of the entire region.”
Boardman explained the Northeast Corridor (NEC) in particular has seen strong ridership growth in recent years and demand for passenger rail service on this line is expected to significantly increase as population grows, highway and airport congestion worsen, and gas prices rise throughout the region. He added that Amtrak is preparing to meet these challenges by beginning work on a comprehensive, long-term plan to improve the NEC and expand high-speed rail service, including through its Gateway Program to build increased tunnel, track and station capacity into the heart of New York City for intercity and commuter trains.
The regional highlights below (and the attached ridership chart) show both the breadth and depth of increased Amtrak ridership across the country:
Northeast and Southeast
For the first six months of FY 2012, ridership on the Northeast Regional service (Washington – Boston) is up 8.2 percent from the same period the prior year continuing a strong performance from its record-setting year in FY 2011. The Keystone Service (New York – Philadelphia – Harrisburg) also is seeing strong ridership growth with a 4.0 percent increase.
In addition, the Ethan Allen (New York – Rutland, Vt.) is up 9.0 percent, the Adirondack (New York – Montreal) is up 5.5 percent, the Empire Service (New York – Albany) is up 3.6 percent and the Downeaster (Boston – Portland) is up 3.3 percent. The Amtrak Virginia services had sizable gains with Washington – Lynchburg up 27.4 percent and Washington – Newport News up 16.0 percent. Also, the Piedmont (Raleigh – Charlotte) is up 15.1 percent.
West and Pacific Northwest
Ridership continues to increase on the San Joaquin (Sacramento-Oakland-Bakersfield) with 11.5 percent more passengers in the first six months of FY 2012 over the same period last year and the Capitol Corridor (San Jose – Oakland – Sacramento – Auburn) is up 6.7 percent. Also, the Amtrak Cascades (Vancouver, B.C. – Seattle – Portland – Eugene) saw a slight increase of 0.5 percent.
Leading the ridership increase in the Midwest during the first half of FY 2012 vs. the same period in FY 2011 is the Chicago-St. Louis corridor served by Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle, with a combined ridership gain of 10 percent. The highest percentage hike in the Central U.S. is a 10.6 percent increase in ridership on the Heartland Flyer (Oklahoma City – Fort Worth.) Both routes are the subject of new technology deployments, with demonstrations of 110 mph Lincoln Service trains planned for this fall and a new train control system installed on the Heartland Flyer.
Several Amtrak long-distance routes are experiencing ridership growth in the first six months of FY 2012 over the same period the prior year. Among the routes with the strongest percentage increases include the Empire Builder (Chicago – Seattle/Portland) up 6.6 percent, the Coast Starlight (Los Angeles – Seattle) up 5.7 percent, the City of New Orleans (Chicago – New Orleans) up 5.5 percent, the Silver Star (New York – Raleigh – Tampa – Miami) up 3.5 percent, the Crescent (New York – New Orleans) up 3.3 percent and the Southwest Chief (Chicago – Los Angeles) up 3.2 percent.