Amtrak recently announced that the railroad broke their all-time annual ridership record for the ninth time in 10 years in fiscal year 2012, carrying 31.2 million passengers, surpassing the previous record, set last year, by one million trips. More people rode Amtrak trains in July 2012 than during any other month in the company's history. Since 2000, Amtrak ridership has grown by nearly 50%, as people seek out alternatives to highway traffic congestion, and hassles and delays at airports. However, these are not the only milestones that Amtrak has achieved of late.
Aside from increasing ridership, the average on-time performance of Amtrak trains also reached a new, all-time high. As rail ridership continues to rise across the country, it is now more important than ever to improve the reliability of Amtrak's trains. Amtrak also has been steadily expanding and upgrading the nation's rail infrastructure and services. Last month, they opened the new Niantic River Bridge in East Lyme, Conn., on schedule after three years of work replacing the 105-year-old span. Amtrak also recently announced the long-awaited extension of Northeast Regional service to Norfolk, Va., where service was eliminated way back in 1977. When the service begins in December, riders in Norfolk will have a one-seat ride as far north as Boston.
Furthermore, Amtrak has made all of this progress while requesting less operating support from Congress each year. Amtrak is requesting 44% less federal funding for rail operations than it did in 2004 and now says that it covers 85% of its costs using ticket revenue. This is an impressive feat given that the average farebox recovery ratio for public transit agencies in the U.S. is less than 30%.