would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Governor Robert
McDonnell and the State of Virginia for the newly announced Amtrak
service to Norfolk scheduled to begin this winter. For the first time,
Virginians will be able to board Amtrak trains in
Norfolk and reach Richmond, Washington, D.C. and the many other
destinations along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
And at the northern end of this vital corridor, the State of Maine expects the new Amtrak Downeaster extension from Portland to Brunswick to begin service later this fall.
This news comes at a time when Amtrak is more popular than ever. Since 2000, Amtrak’s ridership has increased 43 percent, with annual ridership records set eight out of the last nine years. Last year, America's passenger rail carrier reported 30 million passengers. And with one month to go in its fiscal year--and a very busy summer 2012 under its belt--Amtrak is squarely on track to set yet another record.
Between Washington and New York, 75 percent of those traveling by air or rail choose Amtrak, freeing up some of the busiest airspace in the nation for important long distance flights. In fact, if not for the region’s Amtrak service, our aviation network would face certain gridlock.
But Amtrak's astonishing ridership growth is not at just limited to the Northeast Corridor.
- In the Southwest, ridership between Oklahoma City and Texas has increased 28 percent;
- In Michigan, ridership between Detroit and Chicago has increased 57 percent;
- In the Pacific Northwest, ridership between Seattle and Portland has increased 68 percent
- In Wisconsin, ridership between Milwaukee and Chicago has increased 91 percent;
- In California, ridership between San Jose and Sacramento has increased 123 percent;
- In Pennsylvania, ridership between Harrisburg and Philadelphia has increased 128 percent;
- And in North Carolina, ridership between Charlotte and Raleigh has increased 155 percent.
The rail carrier's overall performance is equally eye-opening. On-time performance is at an all-time high and continues to improve steadily. Long-term debt has been reduced to just 39 percent of what it was only a decade ago. And the net cost per passenger mile is at an all-time low of one nickel, down more than 85 percent since 1981.
This turnaround was no accident. It was a concerted effort to identify and conquer new markets. To revitalize customer service. To forge new partnerships with the states to provide regional services. To wisely reinvest in rail infrastructure.
And that concerted effort is paying tremendous dividends. Norfolk, Virginia, knows it; Brunswick, Maine, knows it; and riders across the country know it, too.