Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Amtrak FY09 ridership dips, still notching second-best year

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Economic turmoil took its toll on Amtrak ridership during fiscal year 2009, which ended September 30, but the national passenger railcarrier reported it still notched its second-best ridership year in its 38-year history. Amtrak carried nearly 27.2 million passengers in FY09, down from the record 28.7 million carried the previous fiscal year. Total FY09 ticket revenue was $1.6 billion.

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"In a difficult year for the economy--particularly in the travel industry--Amtrak ridership has remained strong albeit with some regional variation," said Amtrak President and CEO Joseph H. Boardman (pictured at left) in a statement. "In particular, reduced business travel along the Northeast Corridor prevented us from reaching the ridership we achieved last year."

Amtrak on-time performance systemwide rose to 80% in FY09, up from 71% in FY08. Industry sources note privately that much of that improvement came due to less capacity stress and conflict between Amtrak and Class I freight traffic moves, an improvement which may disappear once freight traffic levels recover.

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Boardman also noted FY09 Amtrak ridership suffered in par tdue to the spike in passengers the previous fiscal year, resulting from soaring gasoline prices.

Though ridership on Amtrak’s flagship Northeast Corridor declined, other routes achieved gains over the previous year, including Chicago-St. Louis (up 6%), Harrisburg-Philadelphia-New York Keystone Service (up 2.7%), the Raleigh-Charlotte, N.C., Piedmont (up 3.8%), and the Vermonter (up 1.9%).

Among long-distance trains, Coast Starlight ridership rose 22.3%, in part due to a 15-week service disruption in 2008 that closed a portion Union Pacific in northern California. The tri-weekly Sunset Limited route saw ridership rise 9.8%, the Texas Eagle gained 3.6%,  and two New York-Miami trains, the Silver Star and Silver Meteor, gained 1.1% and 3.4%, respectively.