Amtrak Sets Ridership Record for Second Straight Year
25 Million Passengers Top Last Year Despite Hurricanes, Other Major Disruptions
October 18, 2004
September 22, the House of Representatives passed its FY05 Transportation Appropriations bill without funding for Amtrak based on the lack of an authorization. On the same day the Senate Appropriations Committee included $1.218 billion for Amtrak in its version of the FY05 Transportation Appropriations bill. Congressional staff expects funding to be restored when the bill goes to conference with the Senate bill.
Showing strong demand for passenger trains in 46 states, Amtrak announced on October 14 that it has set a ridership record for Fiscal Year 2004: 25,053,564 passengers rode Amtrak trains in the period October 2003 through September 2004.
That figure is an increase of 4.3 percent and exceeds by more than one million passengers the previous record of 24,028,119 set in Fiscal Year 2003.
The ridership increases are especially noteworthy because they came during efforts to restore the fleet, bring Amtrak facilities back to a state of good repair following several major service disruptions. The series of tropical storms and hurricanes across Florida and the southeast in August and September led to the cancellation of 147 trains, with another 178 trains truncated or operated short of their destinations.
Amtrak ridership rose by 4.4 percent on short distance services and increased by 3.3 percent on long distance trains.
The Boston-New York-Washington Acela Express showed a ridership gain of 8.7 percent, with more than 2.5 million passengers. On the same corridor, with Boston-New York-Washington Regional Service trains also serving Springfield (MA) and Richmond/Newport News (VA) ridership exceeded 6.4 million passengers, an increase of 9.5 percent.
Elsewhere, all three routes in Michigan showed increases in double digits, including the new state-supported Port Huron/East Lansing-Chicago Blue Water, which replaced the International train on that route.
Other state-supported trains showing double-digit increases are the Oklahoma City-Fort Worth Heartland Flyer (up 16.8 percent), the Raleigh-Charlotte Piedmont in North Carolina (up 14.5 percent), and the Chicago-Carbondale Illini in Illinois (up 10.3 percent).
In the California Corridors, the San Diego'santa Barbara Pacific Surfliner service carried more than 2.3 million passengers, an increase of 7.6 percent. The Oakland/San Jose Capitol Corridor service had more than 1.1 million passengers, a gain of 2.3 percent.
A change for the Cardinal to extend its eastern terminus to New York from Washington helped improve ridership by 23.1 percent for the three-days'weekly train that originates in Chicago.
Other overnight trains with large gains in ridership include the New York-Orlando-Miami Silver Star (up 19.7 percent) and New York-Tampa-Miami Palmetto (up 19 percent), both due in part to the temporary suspension of Silver Meteor service. The Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited was up 17.4 percent for the fiscal year.
The Chicago'seattle/Portland Empire Builder has the highest ridership of all Amtrak long-distance services, with 437,191 passengers in the fiscal year, a 5.2 percent increase.