State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Rhode Island

Passenger rail ridership is booming in Rhode Island as it is in most of the rest of the country. Amtrak ridership in the state is up 63% from 2003 to 2014, making the state the 17th fastest growing in the nation over that timeframe. And regional rail service on MBTA Commuter Rail‘s Providence/Stoughton Line has been extended south deep into Rhode Island with two new stations that have opened recently: T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, which opened on December 6, 2010, and Wickford Junction, which opened on April 23, 2012.

Besides those two new stations, there are three long-standing stations in the state. Providence, was the terminal of the MBTA’s Providence/Stoughton Line prior to 2010, and which is also served by Amtrak’s Acela and Northeast Regional trains. In 2014, Providence accounted for 77% of the state’s Amtrak riders. To the south, Kingston and Westerly also have Northeast Regional service. Kingston accounted for 18% of the state’s Amtrak riders, and Westerly, 5%. This pie chart shows the relative ridership distribution. Click on the tabs to follow it backward in time.

Mirroring trends at most other states, Ridership at stations in Rhode Island has been increasing more quickly on a percentage basis at the quieter stations, and on a numerical basis more quickly at the busier stations. Westerly ridership is up 98% over the past dozen years, growing to 39,299 in 2014, from 19,822 in 2003. Kingston is up 74%, growing to 154,497 in 2014, up from 88,747 in 2003. And Providence is up 58%, growing to 665,670 in 2014, up from 420,015 in 2003. This line chart shows the growth of each station over that time frame, comparatively on the same scale.

Finally, let’s see that same information in the form of a stacked column graph, which aggregates the stations for an annual total for the whole state.

Finally, let’s turn to the Acela, Amtrak’s premier high-speed rail service, which serves Providence and attains its fastest speeds in the southern part of the state. Ridership on the Acela (also included in the Metroliner) is up 17% since 2003. Note the dip in 2005 which was attributable to equipment problems with the Acela trains.

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