The latest report from Amtrak shows that traffic this past March increased by 1.9 percent over March 2012—and that ridership in the first six months of 2013 is up overall. Moreover, ridership is at a high despite the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy.
But, to be realistic, the Amtrak story is not an unqualified success. The anemic growth this year is much lower than the 7.5 percent growth in inter-city bus traffic, as reported by USA Today. Air travel, on the other hand, is also growing slowly—total passenger counts for 2012 increased by just 1.3 percent over the previous year—and the industry has not yet recovered the pre-recession passenger levels of 2007.
Amtrak’s plans for growth are modest, with the main focus last year on moderate extensions of Northeast Corridor service to additional points in Virginia and North Carolina. And the budget crunch in the federal government and in individual states is likely to slow things down—not speed them—up this year.
A country gets the quality of rail service it wants. Clearly, at least in terms of what it will pay for, the U.S. wants a lot less than most of Europe and much of Asia.
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