Although Amtrak announced that its ridership had decreased by more than one million passengers over the past year, the total number of passengers riding the rails was still the second highest number in the railroad’s history.
Amtrak reported that it transported 27.2 million passengers over the past twelve months that ended on September 30, 2009. The number of passengers for the same time frame over the previous year was a record setting 28.7 million passengers; the most travellers ever in one year in the railroad’s history. Many in the travel industry feel this was because gas prices soared last year. As an alternative to paying high gas prices, many consumers opted to travel by railway rather than shell out the money for gasoline.
Amtrak President and CEO, Joseph Boardman attributed the decreased number of passengers for the past year to a weak economy. In spite of the lower numbers, rail travel was still up on many short distance routes and on all fifteen of the railroad’s long distance trains.
“In a difficult year for the economy — particularly in the travel industry — Amtrak ridership has remained strong albeit with some regional variation,” Boardman said in a statement. “In particular, reduced business travel along the Northeast corridor prevented us from reaching the ridership we achieved last year.”
The number of consumers riding the rails has been steadily increasing since 2002. Amtrak said its revenues on tickets were $1.6 billion over the past year. This represents a decrease of 7.8 percent from the previous year, but is still 5.3 percent higher than two years ago.
Many of Amtrak’s short distance corridors show an increase in the number of passengers over the past year. Even the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight ridership, which was hard hit with a fifteen week disruption in service in 2008, was up 22.3 percent.
The number of passengers that ride Amtrak is up more than five percent from two years ago, in spite of the sharp downward spike from this past year. The numbers are projected to be on an upward climb for the coming travel season.