www.tidewaterreview.com/features/travel/bs-bz-amtrak-growth-20131014,0,394466.story

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Amtrak sees ridership bump in Maryland, nationwide

Ridership in U.S. hit record 31.6 million in fiscal 2013

By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun

6:03 PM EDT, October 14, 2013

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Amtrak saw record ridership in fiscal year 2013, including tens of thousands of additional riders out of Baltimore's Penn Station, the company said Monday.

Total national ridership reached 31.6 million, about 400,000 more than in 2012, the company said. The system has seen ridership growth in 10 out of the last 11 years, the exception being 2009.

The system logged slight ridership bumps along its northeast corridor and in Maryland, with more than 2 million riders at the state's five largest stations, the company said. Nearly all of the 40,000-rider increase over 2012 was seen at Penn Station.

In 2013, Penn Station was Amtrak's eighth busiest station and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport was its 12th, out of more than 500 stations nationwide, said Christina Leeds, an Amtrak spokeswoman.

Joe Boardman, Amtrak's president and CEO, pledged to keep operating despite federal funding drying up under the government shutdown. He said the company's financial results show it is relying on federal subsidies less than ever.

"We have strong numbers today in comparison to the past and we are an essential service that people need," he said. "We're going to keep operating."

The company reported about $2.1 billion in total ticket revenue for 2013, Boardman said on a conference call Monday.

The system's Northeast Regional service had more than 8 million riders — about 30,000 more than in 2012, and a system record — for a 6 percent increase in ticket revenue, to nearly $569 million.

Acela Express ridership declined by about 50,000 riders, but ticket revenue increased by 4.5 percent, to more than $530 million, the company said.

"We've been growing no matter what's happened with the economy because we're meeting the needs, I think, of those who want to travel on the northeast corridor," Boardman said.

The company would benefit from having the budgetary leeway to use more of its revenue to address system damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, but will be limited in its ability to do so if Congress uses revenue increases as an excuse to diminish subsidy levels, Boardman said.

Leeds cited ongoing work to improve Penn Station and other investments in the Amtrak system as signs the company is dedicated to maintaining its role as a major transportation option, both on the East Coast and across the country.

"We're not only providing a transportation option getting people to family, friends or work, we're putting people to work," Leeds said.

krector@baltsun.com

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