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VA To D.C. Trains Surprisingly Popular

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New Amtrak train service from D.C. to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley has been much more popular than expected.
David Schultz
New Amtrak train service from D.C. to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley has been much more popular than expected.

By David Schultz

Amtrak trains have been arriving at D.C.'s Union Station daily from Lynchburg, Richmond and Charlottesville. Virginia's Department of Transportation funded this new rail service as an experiment to gauge demand. They thought it would eventually attract 51,000 riders a month. But since it began in October, that monthly ridership number is at 55,000 and climbing.

Aleen Carey is boarding a train here that's taking her home to Charlottesville.

"The train's just easy," she says. "For the most part, I can catch a train whenever I want to and just be here and not have to worry about the drive."

With ridership booming, Virginia has plans to expand its passenger rail services. VDOT just completed an environmental study on daily, high-speed rail service to Raleigh, N.C. - a project that could cost more than $3 billion.

"The roads are really clogged in that Northern Virginia area coming out of D.C.--so, so clogged," says Carey. "So to have this option would be wonderful and I bet a lot of people would do it."

If the project receives final approval next year, trains would run between Raleigh and D.C. at an average of 86 miles an hour.

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