Monday, March 23, 2009

Vermonters call for extending Amtrak Ethan Allen service

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Members of Vermont’s Presidents of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, Rutland Regional Chamber of Commerce,  and the Addison County Chamber of Commerce on Monday were set to announce their organizations’ support for extending Amtrak service from Rutland to Burlington. The move comes following Vermont's abandoning plans to discontinue funding support for Amtrak’s Ethan Allen service, linking Rutland, Vt., with Albany, N.Y., and New York City.

The state had weighed discontinuing the state-supported service due to budget constraints. But Robert Ide, the state’s rail director, said ridership on both the Ethan Allen and the Vermonter has increased while fuel expenses have declined, reducing any potential savings resulting from discontinuing the service.

Amtrak data show that Ethan Allen ridership for fiscal year 2008 (ended Sept. 30) was 46,881, up 6.7% from FY07. Ridership on the Vermonter, 72,655 in FY08, was up 14.8% from the previous fiscal year.

Public opposition to the proposed service reduction, including recent public rallies, also appears to have swayed the state's decision. In late February the Vermont Rail Action Network, a citizens group, delivered a petition with 1,335 signatures urging Gov. Jim Douglas to reconsider the proposed service cuts, and in fact extend Amtrak service to Burlington.