Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

California train ridership at record levels

This certainly confirms an ever-expanding trend. Americans want and demand transportation alternatives.

Last update: 3:57 p.m. EST Nov. 10, 2008
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Nov 10, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Californians are leaving their cars, SUVs, vans, and trucks at home and riding trains instead in unprecedented numbers. Today, Caltrans and Amtrak reported a record-setting 5.5 million passengers rode California’s state-supported intercity passenger trains in federal fiscal year 2008.
“Intercity rail travel provides Californians a welcome alternative to a dependence on gas prices, relieves congested freeways, and improves our air quality in comparison to auto and air travel,” said Caltrans Director Will Kempton.
Caltrans provides about $80 million annually to Amtrak to operate three routes for the state, including the Pacific Surfliner (San Diego to San Luis Obispo), which is the second busiest line in the nation. In 2007-08, the Pacific Surliner carried more than 2.89 million passengers, a seven percent increase from the preceding year.
In Northern California, Capitol Corridor (Auburn to San Jose) trains carried 1.69 million riders, an impressive 16.8 percent jump from the previous 12 months. Meanwhile nearly one million passengers (949,611) rode the San Joaquins service (Bakersfield to Sacramento/Oakland). This past July, ridership shot up a whopping 32 percent over July 2007, rising above 100,000 for the first time. The Capitol Corridor and the San Joaquins ranked as the nation’s third busiest and sixth busiest lines, respectively.
Amtrak ridership in federal fiscal year 2008 increased to 28,716,407, marking the sixth straight year of gains and setting a record for the most passengers using Amtrak trains since the National Railroad Passenger Corporation started operations in 1971. Amtrak California Thruway motor coaches provide service to more than 175 additional destinations throughout California from the three state-supported routes.
“The Governor’s Proposition 1B funding, plus $190 million included in the High Speed Rail bond passed on November 4, will give California a competitive edge seeking federal matching funds. California’s intercity rail program is the model for the nation,” said Eugene K. Skoropowski, the Managing Director of the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority.
Proposition 1B, the transportation bond championed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and approved by voters in 2006, provides Caltrans $400 million to improve California’s intercity rail service, including $125 million to purchase more rail cars and locomotives.
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SOURCE: Caltrans

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

Private developer builds his own Amtrak station

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, a developer in the far reaches of Chicagoland has put up his own money to build a station for Amtrak in downtown New Buffalo, MI. The rail provider currently stops at a station a few miles out, but Jimmy Gierczyk saw the economic potential for a new station right next to his luxury developments.

Gierczyk, who designed the Tinley Park World Music Theatre, broke ground on the new train station Oct. 31 and hopes to complete it before Christmas. He spent $1.5 million on parking lots and a 250-foot railroad platform, right by his condo and luxury townhome development.

“You can walk out the door of my condominium and you can catch the train,” he said.

This is the only privately developed Amtrak station in recent memory, according to Mike Franke, assistant vice president of state and commuter partnerships for Amtrak. He called the station a “great opportunity to service a growing area.”

It may sound like a greedy misappropriation of a public service such as Amtrak, but this sort of developer driven expansion is how America’s historic network of trains and streetcars grew up. I’m not sure catering to private whims is a great way to create a modern train system these days, but if a developer is willing to build Amtrak a brand new downtown station in an area it already services… that’s hard to say no to.

Filed under: Amtrak

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November 2008