Amtrak Long-Distance Trains Score Across-the-Board Increases

We keep hearing that Amtrak’s long-distance trains are in trouble, that budget hawks in Congress – specifically Republicans in the House – have their knives out and that some of these trains could be terminated.
But Americans want these trains. More to the point, Americans need these trains. In fact, I have just received a list of 187 cities and towns – mostly across the Midwest and west – for which Amtrak is the only public transportation. No airports within 100 miles and no bus service! Could be that’s a big reason why every single one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains had an increase in ridership in FY12 compared to the previous year.

The smallest increase was for the Capital Limited – daily between Chicago and Washington – which carried only 300 more people in ’12 compared to the previous year. That isn’t surprising, however, since it’s a very popular train and is sold out most of the time … and a good example of why Amtrak needs more equipment.
The daily Florida trains – the Silver Star and the Silver Meteor – were up 0.3 and 0.4 percent respectively and the SunsetLimited – three times a week between New Orleans and Los Angeles – posted an increase of 1.5 percent.
But ridership on the Cardinal, running between Chicago and New York and getting my vote for Amtrak’s most scenic eastern train, was up by 4.9 percent – quite remarkable when you consider that the train also operates only three days a week. Imagine what it could do running daily! (Again, the issue is lack of equipment.)
There were also some truly impressive gains:
* Coast Starlight (daily, Los Angeles-Seattle), up 6.5%
* City of New Orleans (daily, Chicago-New Orleans) up 8.5%
* Texas Eagle (daily, Chicago-LA via San Antonio) up 12.8%
* Empire Builder (daily, Chicago-Seattle/Portland) up 15.8%
Bottom Line: Altogether, the 15 Amtrak long-distance trains had an average ridership increase of 4.7 percent.
If these elected officials were truly representing the American public, they would be increasingtheir financial support of Amtrak. Then Amtrak would order new equipment, add more cars to existing trains, and add frequency to others. So more people would ride and revenue would increase and the amount of subsidy needed would go down.
This ain’t rocket science, folks!