Although the recent surge in Amtrak ridership may have been sparked by high gas prices, it doesn’t seem to be ending there. Gas where I am is a ridiculously cheap $1.58, but many people seem to be sticking with rail, according to this article from the Philadelphia Business Journal, which understandably mostly focuses on commuter rail and Amtrak in Pennsylvania. These figures are all compared to Q3 of 2007, which was record breaking to begin with:
SEPTA’s commuter rail ridership increased 7.86 percent, heavy rail (subway and elevated trains) increased 1.55 percent, bus ridership increased 0.45 percent, purchased bus services increased 20.17 percent and light rail, considered to be modern streetcars, trolleys and heritage trolleys by APTA, was up 7.86 percent. Overall, ridership is up 3.93 percent for the quarter and 6.56 percent year-to date.
Ridership on Amtrak’s Keystone Line, which provides 90-minute service between Harrisburg, Lancaster and Philadelphia and a direct connection to New York City, also rose by 21.65 percent for the quarter and has experienced an increase of 18.88 percent year-to date.
Hopefully, as more figures like this start to come in, lawmakers will begin to see that these increases are no fluke. People are discovering the benefits of traveling by rail, regardless of the cost of oil at the moment. It’s an exciting time to be an advocate for these issues, let’s just hope we can put enough pressure on our politicians to encourage investment in our increasingly popular rail systems.
Update: On a similar note, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a piece about how increased Amtrak ridership is growing support for a faster rail line between the Twin Cities and Chicago. This is exactly the sort of logic that can get the Midwest HSR plan built, and that we need to be seeing more of across the country.