Local News

Train ridership increases as gas prices skyrocket

Posted May 9, 2008 4:13 p.m. EDT
Updated May 9, 2008 5:44 p.m. EDT

— 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.