Amtrak on Pace to Break Annual Ridership Record

Amtrak carried 13.6 million passengers over the past six months, putting it on pace for a record-breaking ridership year, according to a statement released today by officials at the national inter-city rail system.

371487850_3908ba93fb_thumb_461x500.jpgAmtrak's Acela line carried 13.5 percent more riders last month than in March 2009. (Photo: Flickr/pgengler)

Every one of Amtrak's lines recorded an increase last month relative to 2009 figures, with the northeastern Acela line recording a 13.5 percent uptick. Acela is often referred to as the closest thing to high-speed rail on offer in America, thanks to its top achievable speed of 150 miles per hour.

During the past six months -- Amtrak measures performance in fiscal years, which typically begin in October -- five short-haul lines recorded double-digit ridership increases, including the northwestern Cascades route and the Lincoln, which connects St. Louis and Chicago.

Amtrak recently made a pitch for $446 million in new funding from Congress, including aid to help replace its older fleet of locomotives with more fuel-efficient models. If lawmakers agree to the rail network's request, General Electric's transport division stands to benefit from new business for its diesel-electric rail cars, thanks to a coordinated lobbying effort by the company and its main labor union.

In a statement hailing the record ridership, Amtrak President Joseph Boardman ascribed the increase in part to "a slowly improving economy and continued high fuel prices." The fuel-efficient fleet upgrade, he added, remains the system's "most urgent unfunded need."