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Amtrak's overall traffic up but Cardinal route dips

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While Amtrak carried a record 31.6 million passengers in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, ridership on its Cardinal route saw a slight decline for the year, according to figures released by the national rail passenger service Monday.

Nationally, Amtrak set its 10th ridership record in 11 years, drawing 31,559,945 passengers, up 1 percent, or 319,380 riders over the 2012 fiscal year. Since 2000, ridership nationally is up 151 percent.

However, passengers on Amtrak's Cardinal service between New York City and Chicago, with eight stops in West Virginia, fell 2.8 percent to 113,103, down 3,270 passengers from 2012.

In its report, Amtrak cited a slight downturn in ridership on the Northeast corridor from Washington to Boston for the decrease in Cardinal passengers. The Cardinal operates in the Northeast Corridor for 225 miles between Washington and New York.

Amtrak attributed the Northeast drop to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath last October. Also, a subsequent snowstorm that hit the Mid-Atlantic region forced Amtrak to suspend Cardinal service, with four runs limited to operating between Chicago and Indianapolis only.

The downturn ended a stretch of ridership growth for the tri-weekly Cardinal, which had seen passenger numbers increase from 107,053 in 2010 to 116,373 last year.

Even with the downturn, total revenue for the Cardinal from ticket sales and onboard dining and café services, increased 2.6 percent in 2013, to $7.73 million.

The other Amtrak train serving West Virginia, the Capitol Limited, had a 1.2 percent increase in ridership in 2013, with 229,668 passengers. The Capitol Limited operates daily between Washington and Chicago, with stops in Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg.

A 2010 Amtrak performance improvement plan recommended increasing the Cardinal from three days a week to daily service, calling the tri-weekly service inconvenient and confusing to travelers, and inefficient since it leaves equipment and crews idle during turnaround days. The plan has yet to be implemented.

Meanwhile, Monday's report shows that Huntington remains the busiest Amtrak station in the state, with 11,186 passengers boarding or detraining in 2013, followed by Charleston, with 10,038 passengers, and Martinsburg, with 9,331.

Hinton was the fourth-busiest station, with 8,897 passengers, followed by Harpers Ferry, with 6,287.

Nationally, Penn Station in New York is Amtrak's busiest station, with 9.56 million passengers, followed by Washington's Union Station, with 5.03 million passengers.

The data uses the federal fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.  


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