Amtrak reported its highest-ever train ridership Monday: 31.6 million travelers took to the rails in the past 12 months, the 10th increase in 11 years.
Ticket revenue rose to a record $2.1 billion.
Ridership on Amtrak's busiest route, the Northeast Corridor -- Washington to Boston, through Philadelphia -- was 11.4 million passengers, which was the second-best year ever, Amtrak said.
The record for the Northeast Corridor happened despite the serious service interruptions, including the flooding of tracks and tunnels, created by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.
The popular Keystone service, which is Amtrak's fourth-busiest route, had a record 1.5 million travelers between Oct. 1, 2012 and Sept. 30, 2013. That represented a 3.2 percent increase from the 1.42 million the year before.
Two California routes were the second- and third- busiest.
Trains between San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego carried 2.7 million rail passengers last year, while trains between Auburn, Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose transported 1.7 million.
"In towns all across America, Amtrak brings economic opportunities for people, es and communities to grow and prosper," said Tony Coscia, chairman of Amtrak's board of directors.
Amtrak boasts that it returns nearly $3 to local communities for every $1 dollar of federal investment.
Amtrak president and CEO Joseph Boardman said the rail system has seen a growing ridership "not just on the Northeast Corridor, but out in Denver, Salt Lake, Albuquerque and across the country."
"There is demand to reduce the amount of travel by automobile, and, in some cases, by airplane in the Northeast Corridor," Boardman said.
It's a generational trend: as young folks replace baby-boomers who are retiring, "they want connectivity to their computers and smartphones," he said. They take trains.
"We are seeing a different kind of client," Boardman added.
Ten to 12 years ago, 30 percent of business travelers took a train between East Coast cities, and 70 percent chose to fly. Today it's just the opposite. More than 70 percent travel by train, and 30 percent fly, Boardman said.
In parts of rural America, bus systems and airlines have all but disappeared. "So what's left? The 525 stations that Amtrak operates," Boardman said. "In over 300 of them, Amtrak is the only available service for those communities. We're moving people where they want to go."
(c)2013 The Philadelphia Inquirer
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Amtrak, nationally and in region, sets ridership record
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