Amtrak plans to expand new nonstop Acela service from New York
Amtrak has plans to expand the nonstop Acela service it launched on the Northeast Corridor this fall and grand plans for the expansion of short-haul passenger service nationwide.
The nonstop Acela service currently operates with just one round-trip between New York's Penn Station and Washington Union Station, but Amtrak plans to add nonstop trains in both directions during peak hours, CEO Richard Anderson said Friday during Amtrak's fiscal year 2019 earnings call. In addition, it wants to expand the nonstop service north between New York and Boston South Station.
The additional nonstop trains would be part of a tiered service plan for the Northeast Corridor. Limited-stop Acela trains would be a tier below, followed by Northeast Regional trains, and finally a new tier of service that makes all local stops on routes between Richmond, Virginia, and Maine.
“The idea needs to be to serve every municipality that we touch up and down the corridor," said Anderson.
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Anderson's vision for Amtrak in the Northeast is part of a larger strategy to get the national railroad on firmer financial footing. He sees a future where Amtrak self-funds its operations, with federal and state funding going exclusively to capital investments, like a new tunnel between New Jersey and New York under the Hudson River.
Amtrak shrank its annual operating loss dramatically to $29.8 million during the fiscal year ending in September, compared to $171 million the year before.
Amtrak also sees growth opportunities outside of the Northeast Corridor. In the coming year, there are plans to add frequencies to the busy routes between Chicago and Milwaukee, Los Angeles and San Diego and Seattle and Portland, Oregon.
Anderson's ambitions for Amtrak do not stop at added frequencies on a few routes. He espoused a vision where, on corridors up to 300 miles, passenger rail is a frequent and reliable alternative to flying and driving throughout the U.S.
"There is an inevitability that short-haul passenger rail is going to have to grow in America because we don’t have the highways," he said -- a view he also held five years ago when he was CEO of Delta Air Lines.
This vision of expanded short-haul passenger rail requires funding from both federal and state governments, Anderson said.
Anderson's latest comments come as Americans are increasingly taking the train. Amtrak ridership grew 2.5% year-over-year to 32.5 million trips during the fiscal year ending in September. The Northeast Corridor, its busiest route, saw a 3.3% increase to 12.5 million trips.
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