RAIL: Iowa Amtrak rideship dips, but national average holds steady

Low gas prices could be a key cause behind a slight dip in Iowa Amtrak ridership

Transit News November 23, 2015
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Amtrak ridership has dipped to an all-time low in Iowa due to low gasoline prices in the state. A total of 57,611 people took Amtrak trains at six stations in southern Iowa over the past year, according to data from the National Rail Passenger Corp.

That was up less than 1 percent over a year earlier when 57,238 people rode Iowa’s rail system. But it also represented a decline of 16 percent compared to a peak five years ago, when 68,744 train riders were reported in Iowa.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari in Chicago said there were some periods over the past four years where reliability of passenger rail service was eroding because of issues related to high volumes of freight cars on the tracks used by Amtrak trains. Those issues have been addressed, and the most significant competitive factor now is competition from people driving automobiles, he said.

“When gasoline prices get into the low $2 or lower per gallon, it tempts people to drive, even though the cost of driving is not always reflected solely in the gasoline price,” Magliari said.

Southern Iowa is served by two Amtrak passenger trains that operate daily in each direction between Chicago and the West Coast.

From a national perspective, Amtrak’s ridership and revenue remained steady for the 12 months ending Sept. 30 with more than 30 million passengers carried for five straight years. Both ridership and ticket revenue were down 0.1 percent compared to the prior year. However, several trains set new ridership records over the past year.

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