More people across the nation are riding the train this year and Amtrak reports Iowa ridership is up as well. Amtrak’s Marc Magliari says Iowa’s sharing in the business upturn the passenger railroad is seeing nationwide. The California Zephyr passes through Iowa and Nebraska enroute between Chicago and San Francisco — and that train’s ridership is up, about three-point-eight percent, a little better than the railroad’s overall increase. Magliari says one reason is improved support for the physical infrastructure of the train routes. They’ve given more attention to equipment, doing more preventive maintenance, and freight railroads have cooperated in letting the passenger trains use their tracks more on time, marketing stresses fares and destinations instead of just “the train experience,” plus he adds in some parts of the country the economy’s improved too. The Chicago-based spokesman says gas prices are clearly a factor in some increased train travel.Magliari says while he hasn’t seen scientific research to confirm it, ticket agents tell him they’re getting more inquiries as gas prices rise from travelers thinking about taking the train instead of driving. He says unlike some other carriers, Amtrak has not imposed fuel surcharges. Part of Amtrak’s new customer-service revamp also includes using the Internet to plan trips, buy tickets, and even save money. In recent weeks with the launch of the new website, you’ll get an automatic ten-percent discount just for using the website. Surf to Amtrak-dot-com to see the regional and cross-country routes covered by the passenger train, and to test the programs for planning trips and buying tickets. In addition to the Zephyr, which goes through Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Ottumwa, Osceola and Creston., the Southwest Chief also operates daily in both directions in extreme southeast Iowa, with one stop in Fort Madison.
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