U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak to increase trains as demand returns

By David Shepardson for reuters.com

U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak said on Monday it is boosting train service ahead of an expected busy summer travel season and as rail demand returns, with high gasoline prices encouraging more people to take trains.

Amtrak said it planned to operate about 80% of pre-pandemic level Northeast Regional train departures that serve the Boston to Washington corridor. It will also boost the number of its higher-speed Acela trains that cater to business travelers along the same route and is adding trains to other routes.

Amtrak said in March Northeast Regional ridership was at about 70% of pre-pandemic levels and added the trains were made possible after it has hired more than 1,500 new employees this year.

With gasoline prices soaring, other U.S. transit services have also reported rising ridership.

On Thursday, the New York City subway system set a pandemic-era record for single-day ridership, carrying nearly 3.497 million riders. That topped a pre-pandemic ridership figure of 3.491 million on the subway on March 13, 2020.

Prior to the pandemic, average weekday ridership totals routinely exceeded 5.5 million in the New York City subway system.

The Washington, DC-area subway system said that in March rail ridership was up 126% over year-earlier levels to 187,250 average daily passengers but still only one-third of prepandemic levels on weekdays as many still work from home.

On Monday, Metro said ridership is ahead of projections by nearly 40% in its 2022 budget year as a result of “people returning to offices, higher gas prices, the return of large-scale events, and robust tourism are driving the resurgence.” Last week, average weekday rail ridership Tuesday through Thursday was 230,000.

In Houston, ridership hit a new post-pandemic high of 35,675 per average weekday in March, up 49% over the same month in 2021.

Congress gave $3.7 billion in emergency funding to Amtrak and in 2021 lawmakers awarded public transit systems $30.5 billion in emergency assistance after giving them $39 billion previously.

An Amtrak train is parked at the platform inside New York’s Penn Station, the nation’s busiest train hub, which will be closing tracks for repairs causing massive disruptions to commuters in New York City, July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
Updated: May 11, 2022 — 8:45 AM

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