Amtrak logs record number of riders

By Staff
CHICAGO -- More than 24 million passengers traveled on Amtrak in Fiscal Year '03 (ending September 30), the highest annual ridership ever experienced by the nation's intercity passenger rail service in its 32-year history.
Despite a number of adverse conditions this year, including a lagging economy that has hurt the travel industry overall, the Iraq war, the Presidents' Day blizzard, the Northeast blackout and Hurricane Isabel, Amtrak's ridership topped the previous record of 23.5 million passengers set in 2001 and was 2.7 percent better than last year's result of 23.4 million.
Most of the corporation's long-distance trains pass through Chicago.
Amtrak President David L. Gunn, in a visit to Chicago Oct. 8, credited ridership increases on the overnight trains for helping Amtrak to reach the 24 million-trip record.
Company-wide, long-distance ridership is up by more than five percent, versus about two percent for short-distance trains. The system-wide total for Fiscal Year 2003 (Oct. 2002-Sept. 2003) is 24,028,119, an overall increase of nearly three percent.
The largest percentage increase in ridership on an overnight train was on the Chicago-San Antonio-(Los Angeles) Texas Eagle, with a 20 percent gain. The New York-Miami Silver Meteor showed an increase of more than 15 percent.
Among other increases, the Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans was up by more than 14 percent and Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder ridership was up by nearly 13 percent.
Many of the Chicago-based short-distance trains reported large ridership increases in the year-end figures, including an improvement of more than 22 percent for the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette and a 13 percent increase for the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.
Other Chicago-based trains with double-digit ridership increases include the Chicago-Carbondale Illini, with an increase of more than 11 percent and the Chicago-Quincy Illinois Zephyr, with a 10 percent gain.
The Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service trains posted an increase of more than three percent and had the best-in-company on-time performance of more than 95 percent, including 99.3 percent in September.
Improvements in service introduced during the year included new menus on the long-distance trains so that passengers traveling more than one night would have more dining options.
Additionally, Amtrak's award-winning automated voice response system for 800-USA-RAIL, called "Julie," was upgraded to handle credit card transactions and more complex reservations. Julie currently assists approximately 40 percent of all callers to the toll-free number.
Amtrak passengers enjoy rail service in more than 500 communities in 46 states across a 22,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and reservations, visit Amtrak's Web site at www.amtrak.com.

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