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Amtrak Posts Second-Best Ridership in HistoryOctober 14, 2009 By: George Dooley
Amtrak carried nearly 27.2 million passengers in fiscal year 2009, marking the second highest ridership total since the National Railroad Passenger Corporation started operations in 1971. The 27,167,014 total passengers for the 12 months ending September 30 fell short of the all-time record of 28.7 million for fiscal year 2008, but exceeded the 2007 total by 5.1 percent. Total ticket revenue for 2009 reached $1.6 billion.
"In a difficult year for the economy, particularly in the travel industry, Amtrak ridership has remained strong albeit with some regional variation," said Amtrak President and CEO Joseph H. Boardman. "In particular, reduced business travel along the Northeast Corridor prevented us from reaching the ridership we achieved last year."
In addition, Amtrak on-time performance system-wide topped 80 percent in 2009, a significant improvement that leads to ridership gains by bolstering passenger confidence. Amtrak on-time performance in 2008 was 71 percent.
Boardman said the 2009 Amtrak ridership figures are consistent with the annual growth seen since 2002 with a spike in passengers during 2008 due in part from that summer's record-high gasoline prices. He added that Amtrak is restoring and rehabilitating locomotives and passenger rail cars to be in a position to increase capacity and accommodate growth when the economy improves.
While ridership in the Northeast Corridor on Acela Express and Northeast Regional services did not keep pace with last year, several short-distance routes did achieve new highs, including the Chicago-St. Louis corridor (up 6 percent), the Harrisburg-Philadelphia-New York Keystone Service (up 2.7 percent), the Raleigh-Charlotte Piedmont (up 3.8 percent) and the Washington-St. Albans Vermonter (up 1.9 percent).
Elsewhere on the Amtrak national network, the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight ridership was up 22.3 percent from the previous fiscal year, recovering from a 15-week service disruption in 2008 that closed a portion of the route in northern California.
Other long distance trains that posted gains in FY 2009 versus FY 2008 include the Los Angeles-New Orleans Sunset Limited route (up 9.8 percent), the San Antonio-Chicago Texas Eagle (up 3.6 percent) and the New York-Miami Silver Meteor (up 3.4 percent) and Silver Star (up 1.1 percent).
While other segments posted declines, Amtrak said the 15 long distance trains as a group experienced an increase (up 0.7 percent), highlighting their role in many cases as essential public transportation and reflecting improved on-time performance in most instances.
With 21,000 route miles in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, Amtrak operates more than 300 trains each day at speeds up to 150 mph to more than 500 destinations.