Amtrak has announced that this year’s ridership reached the second-highest mark in its history, despite a decline of more than 1 million passengers over the past year.
Amtrak officials say a decrease in business travel in the Northeast was what prevented the railroad from keeping up with last year’s surge in riders, which represented the highest number of Amtrak passengers ever recorded.
Keep reading to find out the latest on Amtrak and the American train system …
The drop in passengers also caused ticket revenue to dip 7.8 percent compared to last year. However, last year’s record number of passengers corresponded with record-high gas prices.
In a year of declining revenues, Amtrak was planning to lean heavily on its $1.6 billion federal subsidy. But in a surprising vote, the Senate threatened to withhold this much-needed support unless Amtrak ends its ban on handguns in checked luggage.
The vote was a landslide, with Democrats and Republicans alike pushing for Second Amendment rights. Proponents also pointed out that airlines allow unloaded handguns in checked baggage.
Amtrak officials say they do not have the manpower to safely enforce this new policy within the six-month deadline. The railroad, which claims it would have to shut down if it does not receive the federal funding, hopes that the House or President Obama will overturn the measure.
Meanwhile, Amtrak has announced that it will increase service from Washington to Vancouver, B.C., in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics. To mark the occasion, the state of Washington and Amtrak are offering 25 percent off all fares to and from Vancouver until December 31, 2009.
Amtrak officials hope the added service will make it possible for more people to see the Winter Games.
Intrigued by train travel? Even though Amtrak often gets heat for its delays, the railroad’s on-time performance improved dramatically during over the past year, averaging 80 percent on-time across its various routes.
If you’re thinking of taking a train trip soon, keep in mind which routes are notorious for delays, and which ones have the best shot of getting you there on time. (All figures are year to date.)
Get previous figures with Amtrak’s Top 5 & Bottom 5 On-Time Train Routes
Top Five Routes (as of September 2009)
This train runs once per day west from New York to Pittsburgh via Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA, and connects much of Pennsylvania to the Amtrak network.
Capitol Corridor- 92.2 percent
This route links many cities in Northern California, including Auburn, Sacramento, Emeryville (San Francisco), Oakland, and San Jose.
Keystone- 91.3 percent
Amtrak’s Keystone Service makes multiple trips every day between New York City and Philadelphia, with continuing service to Harrisburg, PA.
Heartland Flyer- 90.7 percent
This route runs between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. In Fort Worth, connections are available to Dallas, Chicago and San Antonio via the Texas Eagle.
San Joaquin- 90.1 percent
The San Joaquin route runs from Sacramento south to Bakersfield in central California, through much of the area known as the Central Valley.
Learn more in our Train Travel section.
Bottom Five Routes
The Michigan Services is a sort of umbrella term for what is actually three different routes traversing Michigan from the Amtrak hub in Chicago. The Wolverine runs between Chicago and Pontiac, Michigan, just outside Detroit, the Pere Marquette between Chicago and Grand Rapids, while the Blue Water connects Chicago to Port Huron, MI.
Ethan Allen Express 53.3 percent
The Ethan Allen Express runs between New York City and Rutland, Vermont, by way of Albany.
Cardinal/Hoosier State- 55.7 percent
Adirondack- 55.9 percent
The Adirondack travels daily from New York City, through the wine country of the Hudson Valley, into Montreal.
Maple Leaf- 64.7 percent
This line connects New York City to Toronto via the Hudson River Valley, New York’s wine country, and the Finger Lakes region.
For more information on the on-time records of America’s trains, visit this page on Amtrak.com.
By Dan Bence for PeterGreenberg.com.
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