By Meredith Martin Richards
Intercity passenger rail in America is riding the crest of renewed popular interest. More people are choosing to take the train over driving or flying than at any time in the past 50 years. Rail transportation has re-emerged as a viable alternative for millions of Americans who are seeking a fast, safe, comfortable, and affordable alternative to driving on congested and unsafe highways, or flying on crowded, uncomfortable, and frequently inhospitable commercial airplanes. A new generation of rail users has emerged as millennials migrate away from cars and suburbs towards urban lifestyles and multimodal transportation, according to the author. She demonstrates how Virginia is leading the way.
Ridership has grown not only between states on Amtrak’s national passenger rail network, but also within individual states on the company’s state-supported train routes that provide regional passenger rail for millions of Americans.
Due to its bipartisan leadership and geographic location, Virginia has emerged as one of Amtrak’s most successful state partners and is moving steadily toward developing a statewide network of passenger trains that will be within convenient reach of every Virginian. During the past year (FY2017), 1.6 million trips were taken on Amtrak in Virginia, with over 851,000 trips on Virginia’s own regional trains.
In terms of ridership, the Lynchburg-Charlottesville-Washington-New York train is Virginia’s best-performing single daily train among the state-supported regionals. The best-performing station on the route is Charlottesville, with more boarding and alighting passengers annually (84,394 in 2017) than any other station on the entire route, including Washington, DC, and New York.
This Virginia News Letter is Part 1 of a two-part series that also examines evolving state and national transportation policies and the potential for expansion of passenger rail. The second part of the series is to be published in June. The author, Meredith Richards, a former Charlottesville city councilor and vice mayor, is founder and chair of CvilleRail and the Piedmont Rail Coalition.
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Author: Meredith Martin Richards
Editors: Bob Gibson, Billie Easton and Michael Scheid
VOL. 94 NO. 1, MAY 2018 The Virginia News Letter (ISSN 0042-0271) is published by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400206, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4206 Copyright ©2018 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.
The views expressed are those of the author and not the official position of the Cooper Center or the University.
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