The recession that struck the airline and cruise industries was bound to hit Amtrak. So it was no surprise that today the rail operator reported a loss of 1.5 million passengers, or around 5.2 percent, for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, but the agency didn't seem that torn up about it.
While the drop was blamed on the usual suspects -- recession and job loss -- even with the million-plus decline, it's still the second-highest ridership year in the agency's history. Its 27.2 million passengers are still 5.1 percent higher than 2007's numbers, and 2009 garnered $1.6 billion in revenue.
According to Amtrak:
While ridership in the Northeast Corridor on Acela Express and Northeast Regional services did not keep pace with last year, several short-distance routes did achieve new highs, including the Chicago-St. Louis corridor (up 6 percent), the Harrisburg-Philadelphia-New York Keystone Service (up 2.7 percent), the Raleigh-Charlotte Piedmont(up 3.8 percent) and the Washington-St. Albans Vermonter (up 1.9 percent).Amtrak is also looking to benefit from the $1.3 billion earmarked for the rail operator in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. (A prominent link on its Web site lists construction and non-construction opportunities for potential bidders.) So why should they sweat a million riders? While the agency is becoming increasingly self-reliant, it still uses federal funds. And its latest injection of cash (after a few years of neglect) could signal its renaissance, at least in several lonely train depots across the country.