Local News

Train ridership increases as gas prices skyrocket

Posted May 9, 2008

— As gas prices continue to skyrocket across the country, residents in North Carolina are finding an alternate way to travel – by train.

The state-sponsored Amtrak Service had a more than 20 percent increase in ridership over this time last year. North Carolina’s number is double the country’s increase in ridership since last year.

“More and more travelers are finding that our trains provide a timely, safe and environmentally-friendly alternative means of transportation,” N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said in a press release Friday.

Tippett said the state had double digit growth in ridership and passenger revenues in the past six months.

Compared to March last year, nearly 8,000 more people took the train in March this year.

Statistics showed more than 31,000 travelers rode either the Piedmont or Carolinian in March. Ridership was strongest on the weekends.

On the Piedmont, which runs daily between Raleigh and Charlotte, ridership was up almost 28 percent from last March.

The Carolinian, which runs daily between Charlotte and Raleigh and continues to the Northeast, had a 41 percent increase in ridership from last March.

The Henninger family, of Rocky Mount, had never taken the train before, but decided to use it to visit relatives in Washington D.C. Mark Henninger said his family usually drives to Washington D.C. but with gas running above $3.60 a gallon the train is a better value.

Athenia Mann, of New Bern, said she also opted to take the rail line for a trip North because of high gas prices.

“It’s much, much better to ride in comfort, by train,” Mann said.

The increase in train ridership can be attributed to the market sensitivity to the price of fuel and state investments to improve the quality of service, said NCDOT Rail Director Pat Simmons.

NCDOT has partnered with local communities to build new or restore existing historic train stations along the Raleigh to Charlotte route. Also the department has worked on improvements to the route which has shortened the travel time to just over three hours.

The increased attention in train travel prompted the DOT rail division to hosting open houses this weekend at the train stations in Raleigh, Durham and Cary.


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  • RLW May 9, 2008

    I find it quite funny that w/ gast at $3.60/gal, we still have folks complaining about the fact that rail service is subsidized even though you may not use it. You probably don't drive on US 301 in Delaware either, but you are helping to pay for it. The purpose of the gov't regarding transportation is to provide options. For those who travel I-95 north to NY/NJ, construction outside of Wilmington,DE or rush hour on I-95 in Northern VA will still result in possibly a five-hour delay. How about getting your plane ticket cancelled while you're waiting in the airport b/c the airline is shut down due to maint. Eventually Americans are going to have to embrace alternative forms of transportation. We are going to need to adjust our lifestyles and utilize public transportation, rail, and so forth. Its inevitable. With highway construction costs skyrocketing and fuel prices leading the way, mass transit in urban areas and regional rail services are going to be the most attractive form of travel

  • Leonardo May 9, 2008


    Amtrak will never be profitable on it's own. It will always need government subsidies to exist. However, this is no different than automobile transportation....roads need to be subsidized by the government too.

    Also, I doubt that it's cheaper to use Amtrak even at $3.60/gallon of gasoline (except perhaps for a single person).

  • Fun May 9, 2008

    ridership is up...no talk of revenue up...much less profit. must be another government sinkhole

  • smitty May 9, 2008

    I took the train to DC last year, the train was 5 hours late.

    The last time I had ridden Amtrak was probably 1980, they haven't changed anything since then, except everything in the cars is broken now. I would do it again, if I wasn't in a hurry.

  • dohicky May 9, 2008

    That is great if you don't need transportation when you are getting where you have to go. Nice taxpayers are paying for this. As usual, we pay even if we don't use the service.