Rail Supporters Hope Record Ridership Figures Help Funding Proposals In Congress
By Don Stacom
August 26, 2013
Ridership on Amtrak's Springfield to New Haven shuttles reached an all-time high in March, and is growing at nearly 5 percent so far for the year, the railroad reported.
The passenger count on the Northeast Corridor route, which passes through Connecticut, is also up for the year and reached a new peak in July, Amtrak said.
While some routes lagged, the total year-over-year ridership for Amtrak's nationwide network in July grew 4.8 percent to more than 2.9 million passengers, the most passengers it has ever carried in a single month, the railroad said in a recent report. Amtrak is projecting a record-breaking year over all.
"Amtrak is delivering record ridership across the country," President Joe Boardman said in a statement.
Rail supporters are hoping the new figures give Amtrak's funding proposals some fresh traction in the conservative Congress, which has been chilly, and frequently outright hostile, toward the nation's intercity train service operator.
Earlier this year, the National Association of Rail Passengers condemned the House's attempt to cut Amtrak funding by more than 25 percent, calling it "another instance of Congress kicking the can down the road. If enacted, it will be a disaster for future generations of passengers."
This spring, the Brookings Institution concluded that Amtrak is in the midst of a renaissance, with ridership up 55 percent in the past 16 years. It suggested that people are tired of the inconvenience of short-haul airline travel and the fuel costs and traffic jams of driving. Leading Amtrak's resurgence have been the Northeast Corridor regional and Acela high-speed trains serving the major markets of Boston, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., along with the mid-sized cities in between.
The shuttle service between Springfield and New Haven, which feeds the Northeast Corridor's main line as well as Metro-North's Connecticut commuter service, was up 2.6 percent for the first nine months of the fiscal year, climbing from 320,629 to 329,055.
That was enough to put its performance slightly ahead of the long-haul Lake Shore Limited route. The shuttle, one of Amtrak's shortest routes at just 62 miles, is now the 16th most heavily used of the railroad's 44 long- and short-haul lines.
"The Springfield Shuttle route's rise in popularity coincides with Amtrak's systemwide spike in ridership, with this July listed as the best July in our history," spokesman Clifford Cole said. "We don't have any projections for the future of the route, but Amtrak as a whole is presently on pace to eclipse last year's record of 31.2 million passengers."
Overall, Northeast Corridor trains, traditional electrics as well as the higher-speed Acelas, carried more than 9.56 million riders in the first nine months of the fiscal year, up 0.2 percent from the same period in 2012.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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