While retailers are reporting Thanksgiving week sales increases at stores and on the internet, travel on Amtrak also exceeded expectations, Amtrak reports. Preliminary numbers show an estimated 720,000 passengers - a new ridership record - for the Thanksgiving holiday travel week. The gains, Amtrak says, are due, in part, to increased capacity and the recent introduction of free Wi-Fi service on several Amtrak routes.
Comparing Thanksgiving 2011 to Thanksgiving 2010, Amtrak estimated a 2.2 percent increase in ridership nationwide. The previous Thanksgiving ridership record was set in 2010 with 704,446 passengers. This year’s Thanksgiving holiday travel week extended from Nov. 22 through Nov. 28.
In preparation for the anticipated heavy passenger volume, Amtrak operated every available passenger rail car in its fleet and scheduled extra trains to accommodate additional passengers in the Northeast and on the West Coast, Amtrak said. Final ridership numbers will be available in early December.
Amtrak also reports the launch of free Wi-Fi service on three state-supported routes in California. The launch coincided with “Cyber Monday,” the busiest internet holiday shopping day of the year, allowing passengers onboard to shop online.
Using any laptop computer or Wi-Fi enabled device, passengers traveling on the Capitol Corridor (Auburn-Sacramento-Emeryville/SF-Oakland-San Jose), San Joaquin (Sacramento-Oakland-Bakersfield), and Pacific Surfliner (San Diego- LA-Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo) trains now can connect to the internet through AmtrakConnect for general web surfing and using e-mail.
Passengers also can use the Wi-Fi service to access corporate networks through most standard Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
In Amtrak’s fiscal year 2011, more than 5.5 million passengers rode the three California state-supported trains, up about 7.5 percent over the previous year. California ridership represents nearly 20 percent of all Amtrak passengers.