Amtrak ridership hits record levels

Amtrak is having a good year so far.

March set a record as the single best month ever in Amtrak’s  history. October, December and January set individual monthly records, the railroad said Tuesday.

Overall ridership grew about 1 percent in the first half of 2013, despite Superstorm Sandy and other severe weather events.

Rebounding strongly from such service disruptions, Amtrak ridership grew nearly 1 percent in the first six months of 2013-2014, compared to the same period the prior year. In all, 26 of its 45 routes posted ridership increases. Amtrak expects to end the fiscal year at or above last year’s record of 31.2 million passengers.

“The continued ridership growth on routes across the country reinforces the need for dedicated, multi-year federal operating and capital funding to support existing intercity passenger rail services and the development of new ones,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman.

Routes with ridership growth in the October-to-March period included the New York City to Georgia route, the Palmetto, up 10.5 percent, and the Coast Starlight, which operates between Los Angeles and Seattle, up 10 percent.

A recent Brookings Institution report said more passengers are shifting from air travel to Amtrak for shorter trips.

What’s your experience with Amtrak? Have you ridden any of its routes lately?

35 comments Add your comment

Cornelius Vanderbilt

April 9th, 2013
4:13 pm

If ridership is up then I would expect the need for federal funding to go down, but I understand federal leeches don’t see it that way.

Just Sayin

April 9th, 2013
4:39 pm

If we could only make MARTA palatable …

Delbert D.

April 9th, 2013
5:04 pm

Amtrak and Atlanta present a rather pathetic situation. Want to go to DC or NYC? The best bet is to board in Norcross in the middle of the night instead of the little station at the Brookwood interchange. Atlanta needs a first rate station and more routes for Amtrak. Of course, DC-Baltimore-Delaware-Philadelphia-NYC-and the corridor up to Boston doesn’t have an equal here in the south. Birmingham-Atlanta and the Carolinas won’t pay the freight, so to speak.

It’s a tragedy; I used to be able to board the Silver Comet in my tiny home town station for a ride to DC and beyond.


April 9th, 2013
5:11 pm

I love Amtrak – not always dependable as far as arrival times, but I always take it instead of flying if possible.

As to federal funding – no one complains that the gubmint funds highways, or airports, or any other sort of transportation; I wonder why folks like Mr. Vanderbilt get their panties in a wad over Amtrak?

southern hope

April 9th, 2013
5:21 pm

this is why I don’t worry too much about public transportation here in Georgia….folks in Georgia don’t like commuter trains or light rails or anything that’s not car based. I used to be frustrated and now i accept that it is what it is.
But, thankfully, the rest of the country is actually getting pretty excited about public transportation which makes federal grants (that don’t need to be put to a vote here) much more likely for us.

John Henry

April 9th, 2013
5:26 pm

I have ridden several Amtrak routes over the years and the Crescent several times in recent years. It is a wonderfully fun and restful way to travel.

Cornelius, can you tell us where highways, roads, and bridges come from? Tolls are extremely rare outside the northeast corridor and not all that common within it. Can you say taxes? Car, bus, and trucking transport are VERY HEAVILY SUBSIDIZED.

Point two: all passenger railroads in the world are tax subsidized, even in what are called “third world” countries the governments know enough to recognize that it is necessary for our civilization. In the world of (we hope) unintended consequences, the government uncoupled freight and passenger rail for what became the benefit of railroad shareholders. Shifting a share of operating costs from private industry to the taxpayers with the creation of Amtrak, has created record ever increasing profits for the freight lines and a relatively small subsidy need for Amtrak. It is one of the best bargains we receive for our taxes.


April 9th, 2013
5:37 pm

I love public transportation. However there needs to be a way to separate the riders who are loud, unruly or offensive. Sadly the people charged with enforcing the rules are afraid to deal with the belligerent offenders.

Madea gets reassignment surgery

April 9th, 2013
6:14 pm

Enter your comments here

Madea gets reassignment surgery

April 9th, 2013
6:16 pm

Typical tea party rhetoric to attack Amtrak. The fact more people are riding is indicative that we need to keep it alive. As has been stated here, all public roads are provided through tax dollars. It’s time to expand Amtrak. It would be nice to take Amtrak to Savannah, or have an easier way to Chicago.


April 9th, 2013
6:32 pm

I have not made a comment all day. I have been going to commenters anonymous. They said I may have setbacks but to stick to the 12 steps to remain addiction free.
I rode Amtrak in 1978, $200.00 and unlimited ride for 14 days I got on and rode. I hated to get off, atleast the train knew where it was going.
It is not worth a red cent of the publics money to subsidize the Amtrak. They can not support themselves so get off the :gravy train; and give us a break.

Gwinnett Railrider

April 9th, 2013
7:11 pm

We rode to Glacier National Park last year and we’re headed to LA this June on Amtrak. What Cornelius doesn’t say is that Amtrak’s subsidy is minuscule compared to what highways and aviation get from the government trough. If Congress would let Amtrak buy enough cars and engines, ridership could far exceed even current records. Face it, teabaggers, people love to ride trains and you’d have a colossal fight if you tried to kill them. We seniors with new joints love them because Amtrak doesn’t make us stand in long lines and take off our shoes and belts. They don’t Xray us, nor do they make us step behind a curtain and feel us up. We like being treated like humans. Delta is ready when you are, but so is Amtrak! And the scenery is way better too. Try it!


April 9th, 2013
7:12 pm

David Hoffman

April 9th, 2013
7:16 pm

I am willing to support Amtrak with a regular tax subsidy becasue it can reduce the need for more road construction in some areas of the country, which probably costs more in the long run. I have given up on Amtrak ever providing proper service between Valdosta, Macon, and Atlanta. Train travel in this country could have been so much more, if we had had the foresight to have invested in it like some other countries did.

Adrian Thorpe

April 9th, 2013
7:30 pm

Just Sayin, I agree with you. I wish MARTA could be handled properly. Georgia needs to get serious about public transportation. Roads and highways can’t be the only form of transportation here. With all these railroads in the state, they can be upgraded to produce commuter rail


April 9th, 2013
7:44 pm

Hey Cornelius. Actually you pay for the roads the cars travel on. Along with every car and truck driver. There is a little dedicated tax called a gasoline tax that is supposed to be in a trust fund for roads and bridges. But guess what? The federal government has tapped into that trust fund, just like the Social Security Trust Fund. For what. Well just about everything from head start, food stamps, etc. So you see the roads are paid for by specific road users. No one pays a railroad tax. Maybe you would want to start one. Of course the airlines do not have a tax either. The riders who choose to use that mode of transportation pays for it. What a unique idea.


April 9th, 2013
8:00 pm

Rode Amtrak last Summer from Atlanta to D.C. with my extended family, totaling about 20 folks. We wanted to make sure the teens and pre-teens in our family knew what it was like to ride the train. One suggestion for Amtrak,… perhaps if you could place screens in the back of our seats, like the ones on the planes, we could watch movies, or Satellite television, for a slight cost. Then, the trip would have been perfect!!

ATL to DC?

April 9th, 2013
8:23 pm

@DRCH2 I just looked up an Atlanta to D.C. route, over 13 hours each way and departed at night “redeye”…some of the routes in the Northeast make a lot of sense, but I don’t understand why people use it in the South

Jim Brown

April 9th, 2013
9:00 pm

DRCH2 my experience was completely different. We left Bham (CT) about 2 PM and arrived in ATL (ET) about 5:30 or 6 PM and arvd DC about 9:30 AM next morning. Reverse similar: left DC about 4 or 5 PM ET, arvd Bham about noon CT next day. Not bad and the roomette was comfortable with l20-v outlets!


April 10th, 2013
11:59 am

My wife and I ride Amtrak several times a year and with one exception, have always had first-rate service and on-time schedules. Although the Atlanta to DC route leaves here in the evening, it’s still a pleasant experience. As for government subsidies – that’s been covered adequately…..


April 10th, 2013
2:26 pm

Love the Crescent trip down to N.O. and back, a very relaxing way to travel.

For the folks looking for a way to replace the federal subsidy: Amtrak trains are usually pretty short so let’s have them start hauling freight, coal, livestock etc. for some added revenue. Long as the train keeps moving and the passengers are upwind of the livestock cars there shouldn’t be a problem.


April 10th, 2013
2:36 pm

Move all Amtrak stations to airports where they can. Make use of the aviation gravy. Not in the airport but to the airport. You will get better taxi, limo and car rental service. Heck move the bus stations there.


April 10th, 2013
3:28 pm

is the MMPT thing still happening? that would be the kind of station delbert is talking about. all the great cities have a historic and amazing train hub, well we have a shot at making an ultra modern and practical one.

what’s with the anti-govt hate?!?! we are only hurting ourselves in the long run by voting against public investment. even ultra-conservative charlotte is leaving us behind.


April 10th, 2013
4:47 pm

Ahh, love the comments re how roads are “subsidized”. Please keep making those statements, loudly, and in public. Since most folks know that the people who use roads pay the taxes that subsidize those roads, they’ll then realize how stupid you are, and not listen to your idiotic nonsense about how trains should be subsidized.

And guess what…..if you make trains free, then ridership would go up even more. Is that a good thing?


April 11th, 2013
8:09 am

In Atlanta, the Amtrak train going north leaves at 8pm. Since when is that a “red-eye”? SMH. Some people just want to complain and whine, whether it is about their taxes (which are already the lowest in the last 60 years) to 8pm being too late for them. Get over it already. I can take the train to visit family for a cost of $70 one way. Airfare is over $400 for the trip. I’ll take the train.


April 11th, 2013
7:56 pm

Edward, you are correct, the Amtrak trains leaves Atlanta at 8PM, and arrives in D.C. Around 9AM. The return route is similar, departing D.C. around 6-7PM, and arriving in Atlanta around 8AM. Since most folks are probably going to sleep the greatest chunk of the trip, it was an easy way to travel with a large group of kids. When the sun began rising around 6AM, the kids were able to go to the breakfast car and get a breakfast snack. You can walk around and talk to folks at leisure, go to the restroom, and enjoy the scenery, even at night. I recall waking up and realizing we were pulling into Charlotte, with all of the pretty lights. Seems like an easier trip than riding on a cramped plane with little if any leg room, crackers, and one cup of a drink. The day we got back to Atlanta, was the morning of the Aurora, Colorado shooting. We all hung around the TV’s in the station watching the news coverage until our bags came up. Again, would have liked to have been able to watch satellite television on the train. Otherwise, not a bad way to travel. Try it, it wasn’t that bad!


April 12th, 2013
2:10 pm

I love riding trains and have taken all of my grandchildren on several short hops. They absolutely loved riding the train. I’d rather have a longer trip time and not have to stand in line, take my shoes off, get x-ra(ted)yed, be charged to haul my bags with me, be able to stand up and walk around, than fly any day. Service on the trains I’ve been on was really good too. I cannot say the same thing about any airline service, though I’ve never flown SouthWest.


April 12th, 2013
6:01 pm

Every time I check the Amtrak prices out of Atlanta to DC they seem as expensive as a plane ticket. Is Amtrak an inexpensive alternative to flying?


April 12th, 2013
6:36 pm

I remember a few years ago when I could take AmTrak between Atlanta and Charlottesville, VA for $64 each way. AmTrak used to include the Cresent in its weekly sales but has not done that in a few years now. If they would bring back the sales on the Crescent between Atlanta and DC, I’d ride it again. As it is, it is actually more expensive to take AmTrak than flying now and as a result, I end up driving. Driving is much cheaper and beats wasting hours getting to and from the airport and then having to wait for flights that many times are delayed or even canceled.


April 13th, 2013
3:54 pm

The cars are filthy and the food rancid. What else could you expect from the government. Get ready for Obamacare.

SW Atlanta

April 13th, 2013
9:37 pm

When we think about the lack of a better rail system in the US, think bigger picture. Who benefits from a poor rail system? Airlines. Don’t think they aren’t lobbying against it. Want a high speed rail to Savannah? Good luck getting that past Delta.


April 14th, 2013
12:11 am

If the MMPT doesn’t get built, there will be no expansion in Georgia. The old station is just too small for such a large city.


April 14th, 2013
3:34 pm

Guess georgiadawg70 hasn’t ever been on a train.


April 14th, 2013
11:30 pm

yea georgiadawg 70 lets get rid of gov progs and let good ole private enterprise run things wide , bp, wall st etc etc etc


April 15th, 2013
12:53 pm

Probably the economics of the whole thing is why people are turning towards traveling on trains.And seeing that the prices it would take to fly are much more greater than they are as opposed to taking a plane. Simple economics if you were to ask me.

Benjamin Gerondale

April 15th, 2013
6:50 pm

The days of hopping into the car and driving to the video store to pick out a DVD to watch seem to be coming to a close for many people. Just as with many other aspects of life, watching movies has moved into the online world and lots of online movie watchers wouldn’t have it any other way. There is certainly a sense of nostalgia in going the video store route for many people, but the reasons to watch movies online just seem to keep piling up.’

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