Amtrak Carries 30 Million Passengers for First Time

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 11:24 AM

Amtrak carried 30 million passengers in the past 12 months, the most the railroad has carried since its creation in 1971.  But despite its success in attracting riders this year, the railroad has come under political attack.

Amtrak has broken ridership records for eight of the last nine years (see chart above). Joseph Boardman, the CEO of the railroad, said in a statement that “Amtrak is fulfilling its national mission and is part of the solution to meet America’s growing transportation and energy needs.”

A decade ago, Amtrak carried 21 million passengers a year.

The railroad attributes the growth to increases in business travel, high gasoline prices, and expansion of Wi-Fi on more services. Total ticket revenue for Amtrak was just under $1.9 billion -- up 8 percent over the previous year, despite significant weather-related service disruptions.

The Northeast Corridor, which carries almost 11 million each year, had a five percent growth in riders and a seven percent revenue bump in revenue, even as discount buses expanded heavily along the same route.

The short routes in the Washington, D.C. area did particularly well in 2011. Washington-Lynchburg ridership jumped almost 30 percent, and Washington-Newport News climbed 16 percent. Long distance trains, used more for leisure travel, had their highest ridership in 16 years. Very few routes lost riders. You can see ridership information for all lines here (pdf).

Meanwhile, in the past twelve months governors in Florida and Wisconsin have killed high-speed rail projects in their states, and House Republicans have called for privatizing it and are proposing spending cuts. At a hearing in May, John Mica, the head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that Amtrak has "one of the most dismal records on earth for any rail service" and called for privatizing the Northeast Corridor.

And in June, a Republican Congressman from New Jersey called for diverting federal money -- already allocated to Amtrak for electrical upgrades on the Northeast Corridor -- to flood victims in the Midwest. After months of political wrangling, Amtrak eventually got that money.



Comments [6]


Marie - make no mistake... that secretary in Montana and that grocer in Florida are receiving subsidy one way or another. For instance - do you realize how much subsidy agriculture gets? Who do you think pays for that? Some of those same ppl riding the train.

I agree that the rail plan in Florida wasn't worth it...

Aug. 30 2012 08:38 AM

I think it would be nice to have a balanced budget. However, cutting Amtrak subsidies is NOT the answer. The answer is to eliminate 5 overlapping cabinet departments in the federal government. Those Depts are:

1. Education
2. Interior
3. Commerce
4. Energy
5. Housing and Urban Dept.

After these depts are eliminated, the states get the rights these Depts took away back to the states. Another solution is to bring all our millitary troops home from AROUND THE WORLD, stopping all foreign aid, and much more.

Aug. 29 2012 09:57 PM

@Marie: The high-speed train in FL does make sense because they were going to create bus routes to go along with the stations (both cities, Tampa and Orlando, do have buses I am not sure where you got your info), it would reduce traffic on the I-4 corridor, provide quick transportation between Disney and the attractions in Tampa (Busch Gardens, etc.), the studies showed the ridership needed, The federal gov. was helping fund it, etc. This was purely politics by the governor. BTW I am a civil engineer and the design and studies have been in the works but the Republicans keep stopping it every time it gets funded.

Oct. 19 2011 11:07 AM

It is too bad they won't print a story on "What the Government Won't Tell You About How Much Highways and Airports Really Cost to Build, Maintain and Operate."

Our biggest problem is that we can't get the American public to embrace train travel as they do in the rest of the world.

And don't give me the population density crap. It is 450 miles from Paris to Marseilles. They have hourly, non-stop TGVs running throughout the day. Plus there is an excellent Autoroute (interstate highway) system throughout the country.

I just returned from a three week vacation in Europe. My longest delay was getting through Immigration and Customs at Heathrow.

I traveled over 5,000 miles through nine countries, riding fifty trains on 27 different routes, operated by 14 different companies. My total delays added up to less time than the delays on one trip on the CZ.

In Europe, train announcements were plentiful and apologies were made for delays of even five or ten minutes, with full details. Usually, by the time they finished the announcement and apology, the train would show up!

Every large station was like rush hour at Chicago Union Station, but all day long, every day.

And it's not like people don't own cars in Europe. They all have cars. Lots of them. But give the people decent rail service options, i.e., fast, frequent trains to where they want to go, and they will use the train.

And I still don't know why Amtrak keeps coming up as the national "whipping boy," when it comes to trimming the Budget. Compared to just about any other appropriations, Amtrak's share is just crumbs.

Oct. 19 2011 08:17 AM

I don't think anybody hates Amtrak, but it shouldn't be subsidized. I love trains, but that doesn't mean some secretary in Montana or grocer in California should pay for my train ride. BTW, the Florida high speed rail project was just plain stupid. It went from one city with no public transportation to another city with no public transportation. An auto-train may have made some sense - so of course, the government didn't consider that. Get yourself an engineering degree, build me a train - I'll ride it. :)

Oct. 18 2011 06:47 PM

I understand that Republicans want to privatize everything, but the fact is that Amtrak owes its existence to the failure of the private sector to provide passenger rail service in the United States. As private companies got less and less interested in passenger rail, the government stepped in to fill in the gap and to provide a valuable service that people really needed. And clearly this is a very needed service today, so why hate on something that the government's actually done right?

Oct. 18 2011 01:09 PM

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