While Amtrak ridership, generally speaking, has continued to look fairly healthy despite the poor economy and lower fuel prices, the same cannot be said of the its Acela high-speed service on the Northeast Corridor. The recession has led to a decrease in business travel, prompting the company to reduce Acela fares in order to bring in more leisure travelers. From Bloomberg:
Amtrak will offer one-way nonrefundable Acela business-class tickets for as low as $99 between New York and Washington, down from $133 or more, and as low as $79 between Boston and New York, from $93 or higher. The prices are available for travel from March 3 through June 26 and tickets must be purchased 14 days in advance.
Acela ridership dropped about 14 percent in January from the same month a year ago, and about 10 percent for the four months ending in January from the same period last year, spokesman Cliff Cole said in a telephone interview from New York.
If anything, this highlights the huge variation in the services Amtrak runs. Standard routes, and in particular those considered long-distance, have continued to see high levels of ridership. One wonders if many travelers aren’t fleeing air carriers and high-speed services like Acela for a cheaper, if longer, journey on a train. It will be interesting to see what the Amtrak numbers look like when people do have money to spend on air fares again, especially if gas stays cheap (doubtful). Hopefully by that point Acela won’t have to be the only fast train competing with air travel for much longer.