Amtrak adds capacity on Northeast Regional service

Amtrak is adding more trains to its schedule along the busy Northeast Corridor, owing to major strides in ridership after pandemic setbacks between 2020 and 2022. This week the rail operator launched four additional weekday round trips between Moynihan Train Hall at New York Penn Station and Union Station in Washington, D.C. It’ll mean more trains and more seats between the two major East Coast hubs, and along the critical corridor that stretches from Washington to Boston. Amtrak is also adding an additional weekday morning departure from Philadelphia to New York. Altogether, it’s a 20% spike in weekday capacity along the corridor, Amtrak said.

“More people are taking the train than ever before and we’re proud to offer our customers additional travel options,” Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Eliot Hamlisch said in a statement announcing the news.

Ridership rebound

Indeed, after the pandemic and remote working patterns hurt capacity for a couple of years, Amtrak made distinct progress in 2023. Over the full fiscal year, which ended in October, ridership on Northeast Regional trains was up 29% over 2022 levels. The longer the year went on, the better it got. Full Northeast Corridor ridership in the final quarter of the fiscal year — in July, August, and September 2023 — was up 8% over pre-pandemic levels. In fact, ever since early last summer, the corridor consistently exceeded pre-pandemic passenger levels, said Laura Mason, Amtrak executive vice president for capital delivery, in a November interview with TPG.

“We have less of a commute ridership pattern, and much more of a leisure travel pattern,” Mason noted at the time. “We’re seeing a little less business travel, a lot more leisure travel, so we’re adapting our routes and our pricing to meet that need.”

Weekend service boosted, too

To that end, it’s not just Amtrak’s weekday service getting a boost. The company is also adding a new weekend trip from Philadelphia to Boston’s South Station, helping to grow Amtrak’s Sunday seat capacity by around 10%, the company said.

Major growth plans

Collectively, these additional frequencies will boost Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor capacity by more than 1 million annual seats. This significant growth in train capacity along the Northeast Corridor is just the latest step for Amtrak amid an ambitious growth plan. In late January, the company announced a goal to double nationwide passenger capacity by 2040, to an annual 66 million passengers. Helping with that growth, no doubt, is the billions of dollars in infrastructure grants doled out by the Biden administration in recent months. That money will support the construction of new tunnels under the Hudson River in New York and the building of a new Frederick Douglass Tunnel in Baltimore — both key chokepoints. Meanwhile, after years of delays, Amtrak says its new Acela trains, which are undergoing live testing, remain on pace to be in service by the end of this year.

Amtrak’s expansion and improvements along the Northeast Corridor are a welcome development for travelers in the region. With increased capacity, more frequent trains, and enhanced service, passengers can expect a smoother and more efficient travel experience. As leisure travel continues to thrive and business travel slowly returns, Amtrak’s efforts to accommodate changing travel patterns are commendable.

In conclusion, Amtrak’s decision to add more trains to its schedule and increase capacity along the Northeast Corridor is a positive sign of recovery and growth for the rail operator. With ridership rebounding and ambitious plans for the future, Amtrak is poised to meet the increasing demand for train travel in the region. As infrastructure upgrades and new train models come into play, passengers can look forward to a more convenient and efficient travel experience on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor routes.

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