By JIMMY D. BUS
Guardian Transportation Correspondent
Like the politicos, when the Daily Paper recently ran a story about the possible return of AMTRAK service to southern Idaho they simply got derailed when it came to facts. Enthusiasm trumps information every time.
The Daily has since run a correction which basically says the Eastern Idaho group mentioned in the original article isn’t trying to rebuild the old RAIL line to West Yellowstone. They just want to coordinate BUS service in the area. But wait, there is more!
Senator Crapo’s press secretary is quoted as saying that AMTRAK ridership is up 20%. AMTRAK did have a record setting ridership for its fiscal year ending September 2008. System wide ridership was up about 11% over the previous fiscal year (which was a bad year even for AMTRAK). HOWEVER, as of June the system-wide ridership is DOWN almost 5% for the current year.
When the article discussed the AMTRAK Cascades train running between Eugene and Vancouver, B.C. it claimed ridership is up 82% since the service started in 1997. Overall the stock market and the U.S. economy are positive when viewed over 10 years too!
An AMTRAK press release in March of this year indicates Cascades ridership is up 71% since service started 10 years ago. That same press release also notes the service began with one train daily and now there are four trains daily. More trains, more riders. Not rocket science. A 400% increase in trains with only a 71% ridership increase probably isn’t all that good in a business sense. Nonetheless it points out that frequent service can indeed increase ridership.
We simply can’t trust statements made by the so called “experts” who are pressing a particular viewpoint. We need to ask serious questions and should expect the media and politicos to do the same. Until those questions are answered it is premature to get excited about trains–or anything else.
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