Amtrak Has Highest Ridership Month Ever
July 2013 set a record with Amtrak seeing its highest ridership in its history:
Amtrak had a record July for ridership, with more than 2.9 million passengers, up 4.8 percent from July of last year.
In the Northeast Corridor, including regular and Acela service from Washington to New York and Boston, ridership totaled nearly 965,000, up 2.7 percent from a year earlier.
Amtrak is on track to break its fiscal year ridership record of 31.2 million passengers. So far this fiscal year, which began in October, ridership is up 1.1 percent.
The previous monthly record was set way back in March 2013. In other words, this is no anomaly.
At this point it seems clear that if you build it, they will ride. Americans will use passenger trains and use them in high numbers as long as the option is available to them. Any claim that passenger rail would struggle to attain riders is now very, very hard to defend.
But here in 2013 the challenge facing rail projects across the country isn’t skepticism that people would ride. Instead it’s an unwillingness by conservatives and Republicans to let government spend any money on anything new, trains included. No amount of facts or evidence or logic will overcome an ideological stand deeply rooted in right-wing anti-government, anti-liberal values.
High speed rail and other passenger train systems will require electoral victories by candidates who are not wedded to a right-wing movement that is fundamentally opposed to rail. Who knows what will happen in the 2014 Congressional elections. But that is the nation’s best hope right now for getting the funds needed to capitalize on these gains – rather than watch Amtrak be ground into dust by Congressional Republicans.