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VRE sets ridership record

Virginia Railway Express set a single-day ridership record Wednesday, with more than 19,300 passengers using the commuter rail service.

VRE officials said the 19,322 passenger trips on Wednesday surpassed the record set in February 2010 by nearly 250 trips. Overall ridership for the first quarter of fiscal 2011, which started July 1, is at roughly 1.1 million passenger trips, up 84,000 passenger trips over the first quarter of fiscal 2010. The increased ridership equates to 2.5 million fewer passenger trip miles traveled on Virginia highways, according to VRE.

Chief Executive Officer Dale Zehner said he attributes the ridership growth to the improved reliability of the service and the fact it is a "viable alternative" to the clogged roadways. VRE's on-time performance slumped during the summer when the operator of the rail service changed from Amtrak to Keolis but has rebounded in recent weeks. Officials also attributed the problems to heat restrictions and maintenance issues.

Zehner said the commitment of the VRE Operations Board has also been key to the commuter rail service's success. Zehner said the board has backed various station and infrastructure improvements as well as supported the initiative to bring new locomotives and railcars onboard -- a move that improves VRE's efficiency.

VRE officials said all of the "top 10" ridership days have been in 2010. VRE operates 30 trains on the Manassas and Fredericksburg lines and has the capacity to carry just over 20,000 people.

-- Jennifer Buske

By Michael Bolden  | October 14, 2010; 6:21 PM ET
Categories:  Commuter Rail, Commuting, Virginia Railway Express  
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