Monday, October 14, 2013

For Amtrak, another record-ridership year

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Amtrak President Joe Boardman Amtrak President Joe Boardman
Congressional ultra-conservatives, including so-called “Tea Party” activists, may be trying to de-fund or perhaps even dismantle Amtrak, but the railroad’s soaring ridership numbers strongly suggest that the American people want just the opposite.

Amtrak carried a record 31.6 million passengers in Fiscal Year 2013, “delivering nationwide benefits, providing vital transportation services, advancing America's economy, and demonstrating the value and convenience of the national passenger rail network,” President and CEO Joe Boardman said in announcing the railroad’s tenth ridership record in 11 years. “Amtrak moves people, the economy, and the nation forward everywhere the trains go.”

FY13 ATK Ridership GrowthDuring FY 2013, Amtrak’s state-supported corridor services grew to a new record of 15.4 million passengers. In addition, all long distance routes combined had the best ridership in 20 years, with 4.8 million passengers. Ridership for all Northeast Corridor services reached 11.4 million passengers, the second-best year ever. As evidence of a strong ridership rebound following Superstorm Sandy, the Northeast Regional service set a new record.

FY 2013 produced eight individual monthly ridership records, the single best month in Amtrak history and new records on 20 routes. In addition, ticket revenue increased to a record $2.1 billion.

“State-supported services are vital links in the Amtrak national network,” Boardman said. “The power of increasing demand for passenger rail is recognized through state investments to improve service, speed, and safety. In addition, states and communities realize stations served by Amtrak are anchors for economic development, catalysts for historic preservation and tourism growth, sites for commercial and cultural uses, and points of civic pride.

 Amtrak itself is an economic engine that returns nearly three dollars to local communities for every one dollar of federal investment. This support has allowed Amtrak to place more than $12.6 billion back into the economy through the purchasing of goods and services and employee salaries to maintain, operate, and improve its national network.

 This year's record ridership was achieved station by station in the more than 500 communities across America that Amtrak serves.”

On Oct. 15, Amtrak, reached agreement with the 19 states with corridor services for them to provide 100% of the operating subsidy to keep 28 intrastate passenger trains (outside the Northeast Corridor) operating on routes of 750 miles or fewer. The 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) provided that by Oct. 31, 2013, states must pay 100% of the operating subsidy for those corridor passenger trains. States may still apply for federal funding to cover up to 85% of the capital cost improvements to those routes.

California-Caltrans, California-Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Maine-Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin have each reached agreement for Amtrak to operate their state corridor services. The agreements fulfill PRIAA Section 209. During the past four years, Amtrak and the states partnered to jointly develop the cost formula which received approval by the federal Surface Transportation Board.

Under the Section 209 policy, state partners will pay for approximately 85% of operating costs that are attributed to their routes, as well as for capital maintenance costs of the Amtrak equipment they use and for support costs such as safety programs and marketing. Amtrak will pay about 15% for “backbone” costs such as centralized dispatching and services, and back shops. States will continue to benefit from Amtrak’s incremental cost access rights to tracks owned by host railroads, dispatching priority, and Amtrak capital investments that support the entire system such as technology improvements like eTicketing.

“Our state partners have told us they are expecting Amtrak to continue to improve the services we provide to them,” Boardman said. “It is a challenge I know we are ready to meet.”

For more on Amtrak, see Railway Age Contributing Editor Frank Wilner’s blog.

FY13 ATK Ridership

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