Amtrak on Nov. 30 reported continued “strong growth” in Fiscal Year 2023 with nationwide ridership up 24.6%, as it resumed service on all routes and advanced infrastructure projects that it said will support plans to double ridership by 2040.
In FY23 (October 2022-September 2023), total operating revenue, including payments from state partners for State Supported routes, came in at $3.4 billion, a 20% gain over FY22, which Amtrak said was driven by higher ridership and ticket revenue across all service lines. Additionally, adjusted operating earnings (unaudited) were ($752.2 million), an improvement of $130 million over FY22, which “America’s Railroad” attributed to “strong revenue performance and successful cost containment as Amtrak recovers from the significant cost increase experienced during the pandemic and incurs ramp-up costs to support Amtrak’s infrastructure investment program.”
The railroad provided the following preliminary results for FY23, including a video (scroll down):
- Ridership: With 28.6 million customer trips, ridership was up 24.6% from FY22. For FY23 fourth quarter, Northeast Corridor (NEC) ridership levels were 8% above pre-pandemic levels, according to Amtrak.
- Service: Amtrak not only resumed service on all routes suspended during the pandemic, but also added more trains on Northeast Regional, Piedmont and Amtrak Cascades.
- Major Infrastructure Investments: Amtrak said it invested nearly $3 billion into modern trains, improved stations and facilities, new tunnels and bridges, and other critical infrastructure upgrades—its largest annual capital investment ever—and began in FY23 a multi-year capital program.
- Jobs Created: More than 4,800 new hires came on board to help “support ridership growth, improve existing service and advance historic infrastructure investments.”
Among Amtrak’s FY23 accomplishments:
• EXPANDED, IMPROVED, AND RESTORED SERVICE: “Demand for Amtrak services continued to grow, with ridership exceeding expectations,” the railroad said. “Systemwide ridership closed out the year on a strong note, with September ridership matching pre-pandemic levels (100% of September 2019).”
—State Supported: State Supported ridership grew nearly 23%, serving more than 12.5 million customer trips, according to Amtrak. Multiple services and/or states set monthly or annual ridership records, including the Amtrak Downeaster and services in the commonwealth of Virginia and the state of North Carolina. Additionally, Amtrak reported that a fourth Piedmont roundtrip between Charlotte and Raleigh was added in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation; Amtrak Cascades service was restored between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C., in collaboration with the Oregon and Washington State Departments of Transportation and other agencies, doubling the number of daily roundtrips between Portland and Seattle from two to four; service was resumed between Montreal and New York City via the Adirondack for the first time since 2020, in conjunction with VIA Rail Canada and the New York State Department of Transportation; travel times on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor improved with a new maximum speed of 110 mph for Lincoln Service trains, following successful implementation of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s high-speed rail project; Amtrak San Joaquins special train service to Allensworth State Historic Park for the 2023 Juneteenth Festival saw record ridership.
—NEC: Northeast Regional ridership surpassed pre-pandemic levels, up more than 29% from FY22 and serving 9.2 million-plus customer trips, Amtrak reported. Acela ridership, it said, grew 38% over FY22, serving nearly 3 million customer trips, with the fourth quarter (July-September) surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, the railroad said it expanded weekend Acela service, including additional roundtrips between Boston and New York on Sundays; debuted the “ultra-low” Night Owl fare program with one-way travel between $5-$20 on select routes in the Washington-New York market and expanded the program to the New York-Boston market with additional hours; added more Northeast Regional service connecting Springfield Union Station, New York City and other communities along the NEC, in collaboration with the Massachusetts and Connecticut Departments of Transportation and MTA Metro-North Railroad; and improved the Northeast Regional schedule between Washington and New York to provide more trips for stations outside major hubs, like New Brunswick, N.J., whose schedule enhancements helped drive a 54% increase in ridership.
—Long Distance: Long Distance ridership grew more than 12% across the network to serve nearly 3.9 million customer trips, according to Amtrak. The railroad said it deployed new locomotives, improved food and beverage offerings, updated passenger car interiors, restored stored equipment to active service, and developed designs and specifications for new fleet procurement.
—New, Connecting Service: Amtrak introduced new connecting bus service linking New Bedford, Mass., and Worcester, Mass., with the Providence Station in Rhode Island.
• FUTURE GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES: The railroad said it has advanced plans to expand service across the country in partnership with states, local communities, and host railroads, including:
—New State Supported service between the Twin Cities (Minnesota), Milwaukee and Chicago, in partnership with the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation. This service is slated to begin in early 2024.
—Reestablishment of Gulf Coast Service via two daily roundtrips between New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala., in partnership with the Southern Rail Commission. This service is expected to begin in 2024.
—Two new daily Amtrak Cascades trips, making seven daily roundtrips (six Amtrak Cascades plus one Coast Starlight) between Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore., in partnership with the Washington and Oregon State Departments of Transportation. This service will begin Dec. 11, 2023.
—The signing of a service development agreement with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to return intercity passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, La., “in the next several years, assuming available funding,” Amtrak reported.
—Amtrak has submitted four Corridor ID grant applications to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to study new intercity passenger service in New York and Texas, as well as more frequent Cardinal and Sunset Limited Long Distance service. The railroad said it also supported additional applications submitted by other entities.
—Amtrak said it actively participated in the FRA’s Amtrak Daily Long Distance Service Study, which is evaluating the restoration of daily intercity passenger rail service and the potential for new Amtrak Long Distance routes.
—Amtrak and Texas Central are evaluating a potential partnership to “further study and potentially advance” a proposed 205-mph high-speed rail project between Dallas and Houston, according to “America’s Railroad.”
—Amtrak Airo: Amtrak revealed the official name, new renderings and customer amenities that it said will “elevate the customer journey with a focus on comfort and efficiency. A contract option was executed with Siemens for 10 additional trainsets, bringing the total order to 83, and production began, with nearly 100 suppliers in 31 states.
—New Long Distance Fleet: Amtrak launched the procurement process for new passenger cars for its overnight fleet, and conducted customer research and gathered feedback from members of the accessibility community to influence final design.
—New Acela Trains: Amtrak said it advanced work to introduce new, high-speed Acela trains next year.
—New Locomotives: New ALC-42 Long Distance locomotives from Siemens continued to be introduced in an aim to reduce emissions and consume less fuel while reaching a top speed of 125 mph, Amtrak said.
—New State-Owned Railcars: According to Amtrak, new state-owned railcars continued to be introduced on Amtrak Midwest and underwent advanced testing for California routes, with plans to introduce the first railcars into California service in the near future.
—Restoring the Existing Long Distance Fleet: More than 12 Long Distance cars have re-entered service with a total of 63 projected to be restored by the end of next year, according to Amtrak.
—Major Maintenance Facility Upgrades: Amtrak said it advanced procurement for new and upgraded maintenance facilities in Boston, New York City; Philadelphia; Seattle; and Washington, D.C., and continued planning for upgrades to more than a dozen smaller sites around the country. “These upgrades will help modernize Amtrak’s maintenance practices and ensure a seamless transition to modern, state-of-the-art trains,” the railroad said.
—New York Penn Station: For the Penn Reconstruction program, Amtrak said it continued working with New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New Jersey Transit to advance conceptual design to the 30% design threshold, and issued a Notice to Proceed for preliminary engineering work to a consultant consortium. For the Penn Expansion program, it said it continued working with partners to advance to the 10% design threshold and environmental reviews. Additionally, Amtrak moved forward on the transformation of New York Penn Station’s busiest entrance, located at 7th Avenue and 32nd Street; the enlarged and fully rebuilt entrance opened in November (see photograph above) and expanded the entrance’s width by 50% with a new elevator, escalator and wider stairs.
—Baltimore Penn Station: Amtrak advanced construction at the station, including historic façade restoration, as part of a major redevelopment project with Penn Station Partners.
—Philadelphia’s Gray 30th Street Station: According to Amtrak, major station improvements advanced, including final design development and approvals for temporary facility construction, and state of good repair improvements.
—Chicago Union Station: Amtrak opened a new $10 million Clinton Street entrance to Chicago Union Station ahead of construction on Canal Street that is being led by the City of Chicago. A designer has been selected to “help reimagine” Chicago Union Station’s concourse, which Amtrak said is the first major station enhancement project on the floor level since 1991. Additionally, the Final Design phase was advanced for reactivation of the high-level Mail Platform, which will serve as the station’s first level-boarding, accessible passenger platform.
—Washington Union Station: According to Amtrak, the Metropolitan Lounge and concourse restrooms were renovated, and efforts continued to advance other station improvements.
—Art at Amtrak: Amtrak said it expanded the Art at Amtrak public art program in its first full year to new locations: New York Penn Station; Moynihan Train Hall; Philadelphia’s Gray 30th Street Station; Washington Union Station; and Block 675 in Manhattan, where construction of the Hudson Tunnel Project will take place in partnership with the Gateway Development Commission.
• NEC INFRASTRUCTURE: More than $124 million was invested in annual track improvement work as part of a long-term effort to ensure the railroad operates at a peak level of performance, Amtrak said. This work, for example, replaced 44 track switches and updated 28 miles of track.
—New York City: Amtrak launched the procurement phase for the East River Tunnel Rehabilitation project, which it said will “improve safety, service capacity, reliability, and security” and bring the infrastructure used by Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and MTA Long Island Rail Road to a state of good repair. Amtrak also provided support for the MTA’s Penn Station Access project that will construct four new Metro-North Railroad stations in the Bronx and upgrade infrastructure along Amtrak’s Hell Gate Line, allowing Metro-North trains to access New York Penn Station for the first time “later this decade.”
—Baltimore, Md.: Amtrak joined President Biden, elected officials and partners to execute the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program kick-off agreement and celebrate the signed Project Labor Agreement with the Baltimore-DC Building and Construction Trades Council. According to Amtrak, early construction work began, including replacing aging wooden ties with approximately 13,500 new concrete ties; 28,000 feet of new rail; and other upgrades associated with the NEC Track A, Winans to Bridge Improvement Project. Additionally, the first of three major construction contracts was awarded to deliver a new ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC Station, new tracks and rail systems from the MARC station to the new tunnel, replacement of several bridges and more, Amtrak said.
—Washington, D.C.: Reconstruction of Track 22 advanced, which Amtrak said will increase rail capacity, improving operations and service at one of the nation’s busiest transportation hubs.
• THE GATEWAY PROGRAM:
—Portal North Bridge Project: Amtrak, in partnership with New Jersey Transit, advanced to the 36% construction mark this project that replaces a century-old, moveable span with a high-level, fixed bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey.
—Hudson Tunnel Project: Amtrak said it joined President Biden, elected officials and partners to celebrate a federal Mega grant awarded to Amtrak by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Additionally, the project received Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approval for entry into the Engineering Phase of the Capital Investment Grants program, and Senator Schumer and USDOT announced eligibility for approval of up to a $6.88 billion grant, Amtrak reported. Early work kicked off on both sides of the Hudson River, it said. In Manhattan, Hudson Yard Concrete Casing construction is under way; in New Jersey, the Tonnelle Avenue Bridge and Utility Relation Project is under way.
—Highline Renewal State of Good Repair Project: Accordng to Amtrak, the Dock Bridge rehabilitation project in Newark, N.J., progressed toward 90% design.
—Sawtooth Bridges Replacement Project: Preliminary engineering advanced for the new bridge design in Kearny, N.J.
—Harrison 4th Track Project: The project, which will add a fourth main track to the NEC in Harrison, N.J., progressed toward 90% design.
• PRODUCT UPGRADES: Among other upgrades, Amtrak has invested $28 million to refresh Superliner and Viewliner cars. The Superliner project will improve nearly 400 passenger cars, and nearly half of the refreshed bi-levels are now in revenue service. The Viewliner I Sleeping Cars are slated to receive new seat cushions and upholstery, as well as new carpeting, curtains, LED lighting and tables.
• SUSTAINABILITY AND CLIMATE RESILIENCE PROJECTS:
—Amtrak issued its FY22 Sustainability Report.
—Pacific Surfliner and Capital Corridor trains transitioned from fossil diesel to renewable diesel, in partnership with Caltrans, LOSSAN, CCJPA, SJJPA, and others, achieving an estimated 63% greenhouse gas emission reduction versus conventional diesel, Amtrak said. Additionally, new “internal energy and sustainability tools to reduce idling and related emissions” were deployed.
• SAFETY: Amtrak said it continued its “commitment to safety with zero employee and customer fatalities; zero NTSB incidents; and a significant reduction of injuries to employees (down 20%) and customers (down 40%) year-over-year.” Additionally, Amtrak reported observing a 50% year-over-year increase in employee voluntary safety reports submitted through its safety reporting tools. Among other efforts: the Amtrak Police Department and Operation Lifesaver mobilized “Operation Clear Track” to reduce deaths and injuries surrounding railroad tracks and crossings, with 149 organizations in 27 states across the U.S. signed up to participate; Amtrak conducted a “comprehensive Gulf Coast safety campaign to prepare for launching new service between New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala., next year”; and Amtrak progressed with the modernization of mobile communications for its police department and introduced new video surveillance cameras.
• ACCESSIBILITY: Amtrak said it dedicated more than $114 million to its ADA Stations Program, which has now brought 119 stations to full compliance and another 65 to compliance excluding platforms, which require additional work. It achieved substantial completion at 16 stations: Fremont, Martinez, Oakland-Coliseum (California); Homewood (Illinois); Connersville (Indiana); South Shore-South Portsmouth (Kentucky); Jefferson City (Missouri); Yazoo City (Mississippi); Salisbury, Selma-Smithfield, Wilson (North Carolina); Del Rio (Texas); Green River, Helper (Utah); Wishram (Washington) and Thurmond (West Virginia). Additionally, 56 accessible ramps were deployed on Superliner I cars; and a newly designed accessible bathroom is being added to 23 Superliner I Coach Cars. Lastly, new Passenger Information Display Systems (PIDS) are being added at 21 Amtrak stations: Tucson (Arizona); Salinas (California); DeLand, Miami (Florida); Ann Arbor (Michigan); Kansas City, Kirkwood (Missouri); Jackson (Mississippi); Whitefish (Montana); Albuquerque (New Mexico); Buffalo-Depew St., Hudson, Saratoga Springs (New York); Rocky Mount (North Carolina); Columbia (South Carolina); El Paso (Texas); Lynchburg, Williamsburg (Virginia); and Bellingham, Edmonds, Kelso (Washington).
• CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IMPROVEMENTS: Amtrak said it has improved customer communication during service disruptions and delays, launching in the spring a new delay notification service to relay key updates to customers via email, text message, and push notifications to the Amtrak mobile app. Among other enhancements: Amtrak provided riders with access to near-real-time Amtrak train arrival and departure information status on services like Google Maps and Apple Maps, with the launch of “General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) Realtime feeds”; and improved the Amtrak website and app to offer self-service booking and modification features for customers with disabilities.
• DIVERSITY & INCLUSION: Amtrak reported hosting its inaugural CEO Diversity and Inclusion Summit, which was attended by more than 70 executives, human resources leaders, and diversity and inclusion practitioners from federal agencies, state departments of transportation, regional rail providers and private-sector companies. Additionally, it said it received “the highest score possible on the Disability Equality Index (DEI®) for the second straight year” and published its third-annual Diversity Report.
• WORKFORCE: Amtrak said it hired 4,800-plus new employees and held hiring events to strengthen its workforce. Additionally, it completed contract negotiations for more than 60% of its frontline employees, providing wage increases and enhancements; exceeded the FRA grant-funded Mechanical Apprenticeship Program participation rate target with 117 apprentices in four crafts; received a federal grant from the FRA that will support the development of a comprehensive training and apprenticeship program for new track foreman/inspector employees to ensure proper mentorship and skills transfer; partnered with the Delaware Department of Transportation via a Department of Labor grant to launch a pre-employment training program; and signed the first Project Labor Agreement (PLA) under a 2021 Memorandum of Understanding between Amtrak and the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) that Amtrak said “will govern terms and conditions of employment for workers delivering various portions of the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program.”
• MARKETING PARTNERSHIPS: According to Amtrak, it continued to expand multicultural marketing efforts and engage in media partnerships honoring major cultural initiatives such as Black History Month, Asian American Pacific Islander Month, Pride Month, Juneteenth and Hispanic Heritage Month. The railroad introduced Amtrak “Train to Table,” an influencer-led, social media video series spotlighting minority-owned restaurants and food destinations with culturally diverse cuisines located near Amtrak stations in multiple major cities. Among its other work to reach new audiences and attract new customers: “elevating partnerships with MLB, NBA and WNBA teams along the NEC; continuing in-stadium and in-arena signage; increasing tactical promotions of fare offerings, including popular Share Fares; integrating sustainability messaging; expanding service opportunities for Amtrak employees, highlighted via team venue and social promotion; partnering with official destination marketing organizations to promote passenger rail as the smarter and more sustainable way to travel across the NEC; and participating as the official travel partner for cultural and athletic themed events such as DC Jazz Fest, DC Bike Ride and Philly Bike Ride.” According to Amtrak, Amazon’s Alexa BEA (Branded Experience on Alexa) promoted Amtrak’s benefits to prospective travelers through at-home devices.
• COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND CUSTOMER COMMITMENTS: Amtrak reported launching Amtrak Gives Back, a community engagement program “focused on being a good neighbor and valuable partner to the communities Amtrak serves.” Additionally, it announced its On Track for Good program, which supports non-profit organizations around the country with a limited number of complimentary trips, putting excess capacity to good use; and expanded the Office of Community Engagement’s outreach.
“Amtrak ridership continues to set post-pandemic records thanks to our customers who were anxious to travel again and attracted to the many benefits of train travel,” Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner said. “This resurgence was made possible by our dedicated employees, our many state and host railroad partners, and ongoing support from the Biden Administration and Congress. We’re inspired by the soaring demand for intercity passenger rail and are eager to continue connecting more people and places.”
“The best is yet to come!” said Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia. “As we build a new era of passenger rail with more modern trains, expanded routes, more frequent service, upgraded stations, and renewed infrastructure, Amtrak will continue to deliver major improvements for current and future Amtrak customers over the coming decade.”