Amtrak Has Busiest Year Ever

Once again, the passenger rail provider set a ridership record.
October 14, 2013

Amtrak had its busiest year ever, serving 31.6 million passengers in FY 2013, the passenger rail provider announced Monday.

The news wasn't a big surprise, given the ridership records it already set in eight different months last year. Monday's news marked the 10th time in 11 years that Amtrak set a ridership record.

"In towns all across America, Amtrak brings economic opportunities for people, businesses and communities to grow and prosper," stated Tony Coscia, chairman of the Amtrak board of directors, said in a statement.

 The breakdown included a record 15.4 million passengers on Amtrak's "state-supported" service, which includes routes shorter than 750 miles. The 4.8 million riders on Amtrak's long-distance routes was its highest total in 20 years. And the Northeast Corridor has its second-best year, with 11.4 million riders.

The news probably couldn't have come at a better time for Amtrak, which is undergoing significant transitions.

This year, 19 states with Amtrak service had to negotiate deals with Amtrak to collectively increase their annual contributions to the rail provider by about $85 million. The cost hike was required under a 2008 federal law designed to bring more consistency and stability to Amtrak's finances.

Read other infrastructure stories here.

All but one of those states -- Indiana -- has finalized an agreement with Amtrak to ensure they'll continue getting rail service. Indiana and Amtrak continue their negotiations.

Amtrak could be in a for a major overhaul impacting its long-distance routes as well. House Republicans have signaled that they want to reevaluate those long-distance routes, which lose money and some consider to be a waste of resources.

A Brookings Institution paper suggests states should start contributing funds towards the operation of those long-distance routes too, and if they aren't willing to do so, that may be a sign that they're not necessary.

Amtrak says those long-distance routes are critical pieces of its network and scrapping them would jeopardize the efficiency of the entire system.

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