Amtrak had one of its best years in 2011 with all-time high ridership numbers, but according to a recent Amtrak press release, the passenger rail service provider may be on pace to reach new record ridership totals in 2012. For the first six months of the Amtrak fiscal year, October 2011 to March 2012, ridership numbers are up 3.7% across the nation when compared to the same period last year. Most of the ridership growth can be found in Amtrak’s heavily used business lines, including: the Northeast Corridor (up 5.2%), long-distance trains (up 3.0 %) and short-distance lines (up 2.7%). The increase in ridership has matched a trend in the last decade, which has witnessed record breaking numbers in 8 of the last 9 years.
Amtrak President, Joe Boardman is very pleased with the growth in Amtrak ridership, but emphasized that there are more important things than simply ridership totals. Boardman 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.”
Higher Amtrak ridership numbers are not completely a surprise, but it is still great news for passenger rail. Opponents of passenger rail funding have long used the reasoning that there are not enough riders to make rail spending viable. The increases in rider numbers over the last decade has helped to disprove this theory. Every year, more and more Americans are turning in their car keys for train tickets and, as city populations grow and gas prices rise, this will continue to be the case. It will likely be the case that 2012 will have higher Amtrak rider numbers than ever before, but this is just a fraction of the massive growth the passenger rail will experience in coming decades.
Posted in Amtrak