State of U.S. Passenger Rail – Six Sterling Stations


Ridership goes up. Ridership goes down. With all the fluctuation, it could go up quickly for four years and then take a pause for one year, then go up again. The six stations in the graph above have attained a rare thing indeed. Of the more than 500 Amtrak stations in the country, they are the only ones to never have registered an annual ridership decline from 2003 to 2014. For the record, they are: Alexandria, Va. (which grew 143% over the time period), Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (83% growth rate over 12 years), Joliet, Ill. (230% growth), Yonkers, N.Y. (65%), Summit, Ill. (360%), and Rantoul, Ill. (540%).

What do they all have in common? Luck certainly plays a role. So does the general rising tide of ridership increases that the country experienced over the past dozen years that has lifted all boats.

Whether it’s related or not is unclear, but five of these six stations also enjoy regional railroad service in addition to their Amtrak trains. Alexandria is on Virginia Railway Express’ Fredericksburg Line and Manassas Line. Both New York stations are on Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line. Summit and Joliet are on Metra’s Heritage Corridor, and Joliet is also on Metra’s Rock Island District. That leaves Rantoul as the exception among these exceptional stations, as it is the only Amtrak-only station in the group.

It’s also notable that these stations are concentrated in just three states. The Illinois stations benefited from the big service increases that Illinois’ state-sponsored routes experienced. Ridership in the state was already increase when service was effectively doubled, in October 2006, which yielded years of continuing ridership gains. Alexandria has benefited from Amtrak’s gradual and ongoing expansion of Northeast Regional service south of Washington. The New York stations did not benefit from increase in train frequencies or the addition of new destinations. These two stations, rather, grew only from increasing popularity of existing trains on New York’s empire corridor.

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