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Amtrak Ridership Hits Record 30M

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It used to be planes, not trains, and roadways, not railways that dominated business and leisure travel in the last part of the 20th century. But since the year 2000, Amtrak ridership is up nearly 44 percent.

The Northeast Regional train service is one of the most traveled lines in the system. More than 7 million people rode between Washington and Boston in the past year -- that's out of more than 30 million passengers overall who rode Amtrak's railways over the past 12 months.

"On the Northeast corridor, fiscal year 2011 was the best year ever for the Northeast regional service between Boston and Washington, and was the second best year for the Acela Express, which also runs between Boston and Washington," says company spokesperson Christina Leeds.

John Townsend of AAA-Mid Atlantic credits the increase in rail transportation to high gas prices.

"When crude prices reached near record levels this year, we saw people scrambling for other modes of transportation," Townsend says.

This is the highest total ridership since Amtrak started operations in 1971. And factors contributing to the continuing success of Amtrak include high gasoline prices, continued growth in business travel, specifically with the addition of free Wi-Fi on the Acela Express.

This is far cry from the railway that faced serious financial troubles a few years ago. Since that time Congress has been keeping a close watch on Amtrak's spending. In September, the House Appropriations Committee on transportation voted on policy reforms to the railway's funding.

Amtrak pulled in nearly $2 billion dollars in ticket sales in fiscal 2011.

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