Amtrak traffic down – but last year was a record

Ridership on Amtrak fell by more than a million passengers since last year. Now, we could turn around and blame the financial crisis, talk about a decline in travel and so on, but to be fair, 2008 was the best year in the railroad’s history for passenger traffic. Even with the decline, we’re talking about the second best year. So, let’s give a little credit where it’s due.

For the 12 months ending on September 30, 2009, 27.2 million passengers responded to the “all aboard!” cry, compared to 28.7 million for the previous 12 months (which happened to include that period where gasp prices surged). Ridership is up 5.1 percent from the 12 months ending on September 30, 2007, which is the only fair benchmark. From 2002 to 2007, passengers on Amtrak grew steadily (the number of them, that is), with a jump occurring in 2008.

Ticket revenue was $1.6 billion for the 12-month period ending in September. That’s down 7.8 percent from last year but up 5.3 percent from the 12-month period ending two years ago.

While the economy is cited for some of the decline in Amtrak travel, some of the shorter-distance routes – and even some of the longer rides – have seen increases. Travelers have been evaluating their alternatives, and many have give Amtrak a shot.