Amtrak is having its best year ever. The passenger railroad’s fiscal year ended September 30th, and spokesman Mark Magliari says revenue hit a record level and ridership of the trains went up, too. Amtrak passengers paid one-point-37-Billion dollars last year for tickets, a total up from the year before by about 132-Million dollars. Ridership was up too, about 300-thousand from the year before to total about 24-point-three-Million passengers.
One of the Amtrak trains passing through Iowa gained travelers, but the other, the California Zephyr, lost some ridership. He says the Zephyr’s had trouble west of Denver with congestion on the freight rails it uses, and ridership was down about three and-a-half percent from the previous year. But the “Southwest Chief,” which passes through Fort Madison, saw ridership rise this past year by one-point-seven percent. He says like other travel choices, the cost of your ticket depends in part on how long in advance you buy it.
When you buy an Amtrak ticket, he says you’ll pay some range of varying fare, ranging from a lower price if you buy early to higher fares for those who purchase tickets shortly before the trip. He says that’s one reason the railroad’s seen a revenue increase. Other routes across the country have seen larger increases in ticket sales, and Magliari says the government-owned passenger railroad’s making money.
In the last year he says the line’s been working with a firm that puts together vacation packages, offering travelers a train trip that includes hotels, tourist destinations and rental cars at “Amtrak-vacations-dot-com.” A local station-master at an Amtrak depot in Iowa, who didn’t want to be identified, said travel’s up in the state and it’s not so much the price of gas as it is a new generation of Iowans who’ve never ridden the train.
The Iowa train-station worker also says older people welcome the train as a way to avoid the stress of driving, and many riders tell him airport security sent them looking for an alternative to flying.