Smaller Cities Key to Rising Amtrak Ridership in 2013
Streetsblog DC reports that Amtrak’s recent ridership growth is fueled in part by smaller cities:
The major growth was in routes serving smaller cities.
Ridership was up 4 percent in Michigan, where construction to improve the speed of connections between Detroit and Chicago is entering the final phases. St. Louis to Chicago boardings were up 9.7 percent, indicating riders are responding to new investments in that line as well. One segment of track was recently upgraded from 79 mph to 110 mph service, and by the end of 2015 up to 75 percent of the route will receive similar improvements, shaving an hour off the trip between the two cities.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvanian, serving Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, saw a 3.3 percent ridership jump. And service in the San Joaquin Valley saw 6.6 percent more passengers.
The rise in San Joaquins ridership is further evidence of the value of building high speed rail to serve Valley cities, as they will contribute riders and revenue that will help sustain the California HSR system. The increase in ridership on the St. Louis to Chicago route, where federally funded improvements in Illinois have raised speeds in some sections to 110 mph, also shows the immediate benefits of higher speed rail service.
The recent resolution to the debt ceiling/shutdown in Congress raises some small hope that the Tea Party stranglehold on the House might ease and a coalition of not insane Republicans and Democrats could potentially cobble together a budget, and that such budget could maybe include some more funds for rail. That may be a faint hope at best. But there is clearly demand for passenger rail in the USA, and Congress ought to be doing everything it can to support it.