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Top Cities for Amtrak Service

Updated on January 19, 2013
In the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's popular Acela service provides a large chunk of transportation between Boston and Washington.
In the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's popular Acela service provides a large chunk of transportation between Boston and Washington. | Source
Heavy Amtrak ridership in Chicago.
Heavy Amtrak ridership in Chicago. | Source

In its 41+ years of operation, America’s passenger rail service, Amtrak, has taken a lot of hits. Its struggles with on-time performance and the fact that many of its routes are still heavily subsidized are often cited as evidence of failure, particularly from those who putatively object to government involvement in transportation. Never mind that the federal government heavily subsidizes the Interstate Highway and aviation sectors—Amtrak funding has been a prime target of naysayers to government involvement, but also in public transit in any form.

But in spite of the noise and distortions, Amtrak has had many successes. In Fiscal Year 2011, Amtrak received a 5% increase in passengers, 8% increase in ticket revenue, and topped 30 million riders for the first time. In several corridors, Amtrak has quietly become a major component of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

In the northeast corridor from Boston to New York to Washington, Amtrak carries millions of passengers per year, taking pressure off the Interstate highway and airline infrastructure. The popular Acela service, which delivers passengers between the downtowns of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington has reduced air shuttle traffic between those cities by estimates that range from 25-40%.

On the West Coast, the corridor from Seattle to San Diego receives heavy use, supplanting some of the service by defunct regional air carriers like PSA and Western Airlines. Five of Amtrak’s 20 busiest stations are in California, and Seattle and Portland also rank within the Top 20.

In the Midwest, the Milwaukee-Chicago-St. Louis corridor includes two stations in Amtrak’s Top 20 and four stations in the Top 50. The new station in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois is the fourth busiest in the Midwest and the second-fastest growing station in travel among the Top 50 Amtrak stations.

Stations that form an interface between air and rail travel have been extremely successful. In 1980, Amtrak opened a station serving Baltimore-Washington International Airport, now the nation’s 17th busiest, and in 2005 a new station serving Milwaukee International Airport opened. The Milwaukee Airport station now serves over 160,000 passengers a year.

Amtrak stations serving college towns are also extremely successful. Stations in New Haven, CT (11th), Irvine, CA (16th), Providence, RI (18th), Davis, CA (28th), Fullerton, CA (29th), and Bloomington-Normal (45th) all rank within the Top 50 busiest Amtrak stations. Four stations in Boston rank between Amtrak’s 6th and 31st busiest stations. Champaign-Urbana, IL served 164,404 passengers in Fiscal Year 2011, Ann Arbor, MI 148,911, and Eugene, OR had 112,528 passengers in 2011.

The following is a list of Amtrak's 49 busiest stations, those carrying more than 200,000 passengers per year, and their ridership increases or declines over the previous year:

Rank
Station
ST
FY 2011
FY 2010
% Change
1
New York
NY
8,995,551
8,377,944
7.37%
2
Washington
DC
4,850,685
4,572,878
6.08%
3
Philadelphia
PA
3,872,392
3,787,331
2.25%
4
Chicago
IL
3,393,695
3,288,054
3.21%
5
Los Angeles
CA
1,606,121
1,517,342
5.85%
6
Boston-South
MA
1,360,162
1,311,205
3.73%
7
Sacramento
CA
1,175,046
1,107,220
6.13%
8
Baltimore
MD
953,170
926,245
2.91%
9
Albany
NY
769,626
737,259
4.39%
10
San Diego
CA
753,739
715,043
5.41%
11
New Haven
CT
740,902
723,287
2.44%
12
Wilmington
DE
717,772
696,979
2.98%
13
Newark
NJ
683,626
658,089
3.88%
14
Seattle
WA
672,485
677,953
-0.81%
15
Portland
OR
665,677
672,608
-1.03%
16
Irvine
CA
664,263
630,190
5.41%
17
BWI
MD
662,453
654,151
1.27%
18
Providence
RI
625,995
602,474
3.90%
19
Milwaukee
WI
617,800
588,617
4.96%
20
Emeryville
CA
583,865
529,965
10.17%
21
Harrisburg
PA
543,423
547,257
-0.70%
22
Lancaster
PA
539,338
514,971
4.73%
23
Boston-Back Bay
MA
479,951
445,074
7.84%
24
Bakersfield
CA
476,767
413,172
15.39%
25
Boston-North
MA
456,198
418,993
8.88%
26
Martinez
CA
446,507
410,968
8.65%
27
Solana Beach
CA
443,386
408,060
8.66%
28
Davis
CA
443,168
409,611
8.19%
29
Fullerton
CA
436,383
411,489
6.05%
30
Trenton
NJ
424,068
420,533
0.84%
31
Boston-Route 128
MA
419,822
394,674
6.37%
32
Metropark
NJ
396,902
388,371
2.20%
33
Stamford
CT
385,069
355,232
8.40%
34
Oakland
CA
379,851
355,128
6.96%
35
Fresno
CA
371,875
352,737
5.43%
36
Anaheim
CA
352,363
331,666
6.24%
37
Richmond
VA
320,239
266,343
20.24%
38
Santa Barbara
CA
317,617
295,079
7.64%
39
Oceanside
CA
311,834
293,012
6.42%
40
St. Louis
MO
310,859
321,629
-3.35%
41
Richmond
CA
276,114
271,486
1.70%
42
Stockton
CA
260,115
238,868
8.89%
43
Lorton
VA
259,944
244,252
6.42%
44
Sanford
FL
259,944
244,252
6.42%
45
Bloomington-Normal
IL
244,566
209,629
16.67%
46
San Juan Capistrano
CA
230,481
223,580
3.09%
47
San Jose
CA
224,756
202,512
10.98%
48
New Orleans
LA
210,465
200,249
5.10%
49
Portland
ME
208,979
180,465
15.80%
 
 
 
 
 
 

Largest Cities Without Amtrak Service

The following is a list of the largest metropolitan areas that currently lack Amtrak service:

Phoenix, AZ (Metro Population 4,281,899)

Las Vegas, NV (1,865,746)

Columbus, OH (1,773,120) *

Nashville, TN (1,550,733)

Louisville, KY (1,244,696)

Tulsa, OK (916,079)

Dayton, OH (848,153)

Allentown, PA (808,210)

Baton Rouge, LA (774,327)

McAllen, TX (710,514)

Akron, OH (699,935)

Knoxville, TN (691,152)

Colorado Springs, CO (617,714)

Wichita, KS (603,716)

Boise, ID (599,753)

Youngstown, OH (570,704)

Madison, WI (561,505) *

Source: Wikipedia

*State governor turned down federal investment to establish Amtrak service to these cities in 2010-11.

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  • torrilynn profile image

    torrilynn 4 years ago

    thanks for this hub. it was very informative. i rarely ever take trains but when I do I will know which one to take and why. thanks for the useful information. Voted up.