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Amtrak sets ridership record

Stepped up business travel in the Northeast helped Amtrak boost ridership by nearly 6 percent to a record 28.7 million passengers in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, the railroad said Monday.

Amtrak, the only long-haul passenger rail service in the United States, also said year-over-year ticket revenue rose by 9 percent to a record $1.7 billion for the period that began last Oct. 1.

All of Amtrak's lines experienced growth as the railroad competed more heavily with air travel in its flagship Boston-New York-Washington market. Amtrak officials said in a statement that the rail agency has a 65 percent share of the air-rail market between Washington and New York.

Northeast traffic overall was up 4 percent, helped by more business travel, Amtrak said. Ridership on the Acela, Amtrak's fastest train and the service most geared for business travel, was up more than 6.5 percent.

Amtrak ridership and service have improved over the past several years with the help of increased U.S. government subsidies and political support in Washington for maintaining rail service outside the heavily traveled Northeast.

The rail line said it is working with states to expand existing service and establish new routes. It is also buying new rail cars and taking other steps to improve its aging infrastructure, especially in the Northeast.

-- Reuters and staff reports

From the Post's archives:

Amtrak unveils high-speed rail vision

Amtrak considers new Northeast tunnel

By Michael Bolden  | October 11, 2010; 2:34 PM ET
Categories:  Amtrak  
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If they could build the track infrastructure to let the Acela hit the speeds it really can hit, I think the NE corridor numbers will jump even more. Also building a line between New Orleans and Orlando would be a good get from Dallas to Orlando now, you have to go to Chicago, then DC, instead of straight across like they do westbound...just continue that line in fact, from LA to Orlando.

Posted by: kmcandrew | October 11, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

For some purposes, passenger trains are helpful, but fares have always been an obstacle. The "railroad barons" of the nineteenth century are almost forgotten, yet the fare structures they created through monopolies endure.

In 1949, the New Haven Railroad ran South Station, Boston, to Penn Station, New York, in 4-1/2 hours for a coach fare of about $8.50, equivalent to about $76 today. The Merchants Express and Yankee Clipper cut a half hour off the time for fares equivalent to about $100 today. In fall, 2010, for Boston to New York, the standard, weekday Amtrak fares range from $64 to $142 for 4 to 4-1/2 hour service, on average more expensive than in 1949.

Boston to New York Amtrak service competes mainly with bus lines, which start at $15. From New Haven to Penn Station, however, Amtrak competes with other train service. Its standard "regional" fares are $50 and $35 (peak and off-peak), while Metro North standard fares are $18.50 and $14, using similar equipment and mostly the same tracks--part of the Shore Line formerly operated by the New Haven Railroad.

The railroad barons did not have to compete with bus lines, commuter rail, airlines and the automobile, but now Amtrak does. It has been ineffective, trying to charge more than 4 times as much as bus lines from Boston to New York and more than 2-1/2 times as much as commuter rail from New Haven to New York. Amtrak trains are rarely crowded, while the much more frequent buses and Metro North trains are often full.

Potential high-speed rail from Boston to Washington, DC, through New York, could be a useful service, but not at Boston to New York fares well over $200 that Amtrak would need to charge. While Congress is hardly likely to approve the $4.7 billion a year Amtrak proposes to spend, if it ever becomes interested in high-speed rail, it should disconnect from the railroad baron legacy and develop a different operator.

Posted by: AppDev | October 12, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

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