State of U.S. Passenger Rail – New Hampshire

Amtrak ridership in New Hampshire has grown 134% from 2003 to 2014, making it the fastest growing state in the nation for rail ridership over the last dozen years. The irony is that New Hampshire has that honor while being the ultimate railroading freeloader. The State of New Hampshire does not contribute financially to costs of operating the two Amtrak routes that serve its residents and visitors, the Downeaster, which is paid for by the State of Maine and is the source of New Hampshire’s ridership growth, and the Vermonter, which as the name might imply is paid for by the State of Vermont. So of all 50 states, the state where ridership is booming the most depends entirely on the benevolence of its neighbors for its train service.

New Hampshire has four Amtrak stations. Three are served by the Downeaster and opened when the route began service, on December 15, 2001, or within a year or two of that date. Ranked by 2014 ridership, the stations are Exeter, Durham-UNH and Dover. The fourth Amtrak station in New Hampshire is Claremont, on the Vermonter, which has been in service since the 1920s. This pie chart shows the ridership at the four stations, highlighting the relative busyness of each.

As you can see the three stations on the Downeaster account for nearly all the state’s ridership. In fact, 99% of it as of 2014. This is mainly due to the frequency of service. The Downeaster stations each receive 10 trains per day (five in each direction) while Claremont receives only two per day, one in each direction. What it means is that the launch of Downeaster service dramatically, dramatically increased ridership to and from New Hampshire, again, thanks to Maine. Now let’s look at that ridership growth over time. This line graph shows each station’s growth.

The 2003 to 2014 growth rates are as follows: Durham-UNH, 329%; Dover, 111%; Exeter, 88%, and Claremont, 36%. They all contribute to the state’s total, as shown in the following stacked column chart.

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