Amtrak announced yesterday that it projects to have 30 million riders in FY2011 which ends on September 30th. This will be Amtrak's biggest year and follows a FY2010 which had over 28 million riders.
My question is how many riders COULD Amtrak have if it was properly funded and had been given the money it needs to purchase equipment to keep up with demand?
Most of the long-distance trains such as the California Zephyr or Empire Builder sell out of sleeper space (which has high margins, if low capacity) months in advance for peak travel seasons. If Amtrak had additional cars, then it would be able to add sleepers to increase availability much like the railroads did in the day of Pullman.
Pullman keep a fleet of extra sleepers which they were able to move meet demand. In the fall, they were used to ship snowbirds to Florida. In the Summer, they worked the cross-country trains to the National Parks such as the Empire Builder, etc...
Amtrak on the other hand has to scratch to put together full sets of passenger equipment. There are cars waiting for repairs at their Beech Grove facility, but they do not have the money to repair them all. Every wreck or derailment causes more cars to be sidelined nd more passengers to be turned away.
With increased funding, Amtrak could purchase needed additional equipment (creating American jobs) and expand their services. More services would mean increased demand and increased ridership.
Then what would the Amtrak annual ridership numbers be?
Be sure to tell your Congressman and Senators to keep the funding for Amtrak during the current budget negotations in Washington, DC.