Amtrak has reported that January is the 15th straight month of ridership growth for the company and also the best January on record with 2,126,429 passengers. This strong performance is part of a long-term trend that has seen America’s railroads set annual ridership records in seven of the last eight fiscal years, including more than 28.7 million passengers in FY 2010.
“The steady rise in ridership demonstrates a growing demand and the ongoing need for a national intercity passenger rail system,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman. “With oil approaching $100 a barrel, we expect to continue to post strong ridership numbers as more and more people choose Amtrak to meet their transportation needs.”
Specifically, there was a 4.6 percent increase in riders in January 2011 vs. January 2010, nearly 94,000 more passengers. The 15 straight months of ridership growth spans from November 2009 to January 2011 which averages a 6 percent growth rate over this period.
Factors that are contributing to the success of Amtrak include a moderately improved economic environment allowing some recovery of business travel along the Northeast Corridor, sustained high gasoline prices, the increased appeal and popularity of rail travel, effective marketing campaigns, and the introduction of Wi-Fi on the high-speed Acela Express trains.
The highlights below compare the first four months of current FY 2011 (October 2010-January 2011) to the same period during FY 2010 and show increased Amtrak ridership across the country from coast to coast.
The high-speed Acela Express service continued its popularity with a ridership increase of 9.2 percent. Piedmont Service (Charlotte – Raleigh) experienced a significant gain of 110.8 percent following the introduction of an additional round-trip frequency last summer. In addition, Virginia routes had sizable gains with Washington –Lynchburg at 26.7 percent and Washington – Newport News at 12.8 percent.
The Chicago hub experienced steep ridership gains as led by the Blue Water (Chicago – Port Huron) at 27.7 percent. In addition, the Chicago – Pontiac Wolverine Service was up 21 percent, the Chicago – Carbondale Illini/Saluki route up 15. 1 percent, the Chicago – Indianapolis Hoosier State up 13.3 percent, and the Chicago – St. Louis Lincoln Service was up 11.7 percent. Also, the Missouri River Runner (Kansas City – St. Louis) experienced a 17.2 percent gain.
In California, routes experienced gains including the Capitol Corridor Service (San Jose – Auburn) with 7.3 percent and the Pacific Surfliner Service (San Luis Obispo – San Diego) with 5 percent growth.
Among the long-distance Amtrak trains, the Cardinal (New York – Chicago) had the largest increase of 15.9 percent. Other long-distance trains with strong gains were the Sunset Limited (New Orleans – Los Angeles) at 13.8 percent, the City of New Orleans ( Chicago – New Orleans) at 13.1 percent, the Palmetto (New York – Savannah) at 12.8 percent, and the Lake Shore Limited (New York – Chicago) at 12.7 percent.