Amtrak Ridership Reaches Record Levels

If you've been on an Amtrak train lately, you've probably already suspected increased ridership, but now the company offers more numbers to prove it.

Amtrak ridership in fiscal year 2008 increased to 28,716,407, the agency reported, marking the sixth straight year of gains and setting a record for the most passengers using Amtrak trains since the National Railroad Passenger Corporation started operations in 1971.

Total ticket revenue for the fiscal year reached $1.7 billion, a 14.2 percent increase over the $1.5 billion the previous year.

Revenue was greatest along Amtrak's northeast corridor, but the central region of the country saw big gains, as well.

Ridership between Chicago and destinations in downstate Illinois surpassed the one million mark for the first time, and Amtrak's Hiawatha service, between Chicago and Milwaukee, increased 25 percent. Nearly 750,000 passengers rode the seven daily round-trips between the two cities last year.

Amtrak said it has posted six consecutive years of growth in ridership and revenue, carrying more than 28.7 million passengers in the last fiscal year.

The numbers weren't a surprise, with high fuel prices, traffic congestion and an increased awareness of global warming pushing people out of their cars and onto the rails. The federal government took note and passed the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which almost doubled the federal funding provided to Amtrak to about $13.1 billion over five years.

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