Amtrak Northeast Ridership, Challenges Way Up

Amtrak’s Northeast ridership was up nearly 8 percent annually in July, following a national trend of increasing ridership on the passenger rail carrier. Amtrak is on pace to carry a record 28 million passengers nationwide in 2008, a jump from the previous record of 25.8 million set last year, according to this morning’s Wall Street Journal.

But the ridership jumps are straining a decidedly creaky infrastructure. From the Journal:

On a recent Wednesday afternoon train, travelers boarding at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station toward Washington discovered passengers were already crammed together between cars. Crowding is also a problem on the higher-priced Acela Express service in the Northeast Corridor, which Amtrak launched in 2000.

“We’re literally beginning to bump up against some of the capacity limits on Acela,” [Amtrak president and C.E.O. Alexander] Kummant said. “We have basically no equipment left to start new services.”

In the Northeast Corridor alone, he said, it will take upwards of a decade and $3 billion to replace Amtrak’s rolling stock, including its 20 Acela train sets.

I traveled to Washington this week (by Amtrak, of course) to interview Mr. Kummant. That interview will be in next week’s print Observer.

Amtrak Northeast Ridership, Challenges Way Up