North Carolina Amtrak ridership is the second-fastest growing in the country, with ridership up 125% from 2003 to 2014. We’ll look at the causes of that growth in a bit. But first, let’s do a quick overview of the characteristics of North Carolina’s train service.
The state has 16 train stations that are served by six Amtrak routes: the Silver Meteor and Silver Star, which operate through North Carolina as they travel between Florida and New York, the Crescent, which operates through North Carolina between New York and New Orleans, the Palmetto, which operates through North Carolina between New York and Georgia, and two trains that account for the majority of the state’s ridership, and ridership growth: the Carolinian, a 704-mile route that runs once a day in each direction between Charlotte and New York, and the Piedmont, a 173-mile route between Charlotte and Raleigh that now offers two departures daily in each direction.
Unlike the No. 1 fastest-growing state, New Hampshire, which owes its position to no good deeds of its own, North Carolina is at the top of the pack because of smart investments made by the state’s leadership. Working with Amtrak, the state created the Piedmont in 1995, then doubled its frequency, which took effect on June 5, 2010. This graph shows the ridership result of the increase in service.
You might think that doubling the number of trains on a route would lead to a doubling of ridership. In fact, ridership quadrupled, surging 302% from an average monthly ridership of 3,443 in December 2003 to 13,851 in May 2015. The route carried a record high 17,319 passengers in November 2012. The Carolinian, serves the Piedmont’s stations plus three others in North Carolina, and its ridership has grown as well. Here’s the graph:
Ridership on the Carolinian is up 39%, rising from 18,285 in September 2005 to 25,490 in May 2015. Now let’s look to the station-by-station analysis. This line graph shows annual ridership in North Carolina by station, highlighting the eight stations that were busiest as of 2015.
If we look to those eight busiest stations, we see phenomenal growth rates. Charlotte has virtually doubled over the time period, from 98,767 passenger arrivals and departures in 2003 to 194,115 in 2014. Raleigh is up 69%, to 161,342 in 2015 from 95,466 in 2003. Greensboro is up 155%, rising to 134,191 in 2014 from 52,690 in 2003. Cary surged an astounding 509%, rising to 87,548 from 14,378. Durham is up 182%; Wilson is +117%; Fayetteville is +91%; and Rocky Mount is +56%.
Looking at the eight quieter stations that are in grey in the graph above, High Point was the stand-out, growing at a phenomenal 838% percent, from 4,112 in 2003 to 38,573 in 2014. Kannapolis was +188%; Burlington, +152%; Selma-Smithfield, +108%. Even the slowest-growing of the state’s quieter stations, Salisbury, doubled ridership, from 14,752 in 2003 to 29,338 in 2014. And even the stations that are not on the Piedmont and Carolinian grew significantly as well, as the entire state benefited from a rail renaissance. Southern Pines was +154% and Hamlet was +107%. Only one station saw a reduction in ridership, Gastonia, on the Crescent, which was -20% over the time period, falling to 1,463 in 2014 from 1,835 in 2003.
This graph shows the same information in stacked column form.
And finally, this graph shows the same information in pie chart form, with only the busiest four stations broken out separately.