Amtrak Sets FY 2013 Ridership Record

Amtrak set another ridership record this year, its 10th consecutive record in the past 11 fiscal years.

In fiscal year 2013, which began on Oct. 1, 2012, and ended on Sept. 30, 2013, Amtrak carried 31, 559, 945 passengers, a 1 percent increase over FY 2012.

The gains came despite extensive service disruptions caused by Hurricane Sandy and periodic disruptions in Connecticut.

Ticket revenue set a record as well, increasing 4.2 percent to $2.1 billion. Much of the increased ridership came aboard regional and short distance trains where ridership increased 2.2 percent and revenue rose by 4.4 percent in revenue.

The large increase was posted by the Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains, which added extra capacity when Amtrak refurbished, Wi-Fi equipped Amfleet I train sets.

Lincoln Service ridership rose by almost 10 per cent while revenue increased by 22.7 percent.

The most-improved long-distance train was the Coast Starlight, where patronage rose by 5.5 percent.

Amtrak President Joe Boardman said earlier this week that capacity constraints have limited growth of all services.

Acela Express trains are usually sold out after noon Wednesday through Friday and again on Sunday, and we are severely restricted in the number of trains that can use New York’s Penn Station,” Boardman said.

Boardman said that Amtrak expects to in November issue a request for proposals for the next generation of high-speed, multiple-unit electric train sets for the Northeast Corridor, but there are no plans to order any more coaches for long-distance trains or Northeast Regionals.

“We’ve rebuilt everything we have, but as some of the new cars ordered by the states are delivered, we will have the ability to move seats (in the displaced Amtrak equipment) where we have demand,” he said.

Amtrak’s order for 130 sleeper, dormitory-baggage, diner, and baggage cars now under construction by CAF in Elmira, N.Y., will add some first-class, high revenue capacity next year, but will largely replace existing cars that are more than 50 years old.

Boardman also reported that Amtrak recently supplied an engineer to BNSF because the freight railroad lacked sufficient qualified crews to operate a train over the route normally used only by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

“We expect to continue operating the Chief on its present route and are in discussions with the states to keep it running there rather than moving it to the [BNSF] Transcon (in 2016),” Boardman said. “There is a new mine opening in the region and we’re hopeful that BNSF will be running more trains on the line, but we’re not expecting their needs will change.”

Boardman reiterated his contention that greater Northeast Corridor revenues have helped offset long-distance train operating support losses.

With a new Amtrak reauthorization and surface transportation legislation soon to be debated, “there has to be a contract in Congress for the national mobility that the long-distance train (network) provides,” he said.

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