WASHINGTON – Ridership on Amtrak trains in the Providence-New Bedford-Fall River metropolitan area grew 137.5 percent between 1997 and 2012, according to a new report released by the Brookings Institution.
At the three Amtrak stations in the metro area - Providence, South Kingstown and Westerly - boardings and disembarkations increased from 368,117 in 1997 to 874,436 in 2012, a 137.5 percent change.
In 2012, the metro area accounted for 1.4 percent of all Amtrak passenger traffic, according to the Brookings report, “A New Alignment: American Passenger Rail in an Era of Fiscal Constraint.”
The report, which was released Friday, added that nationally the American passenger rail is “in the midst of a renaissance” and that Amtrak’s ridership is at “record levels and growing fast.”
The Providence metro area was one of 12 metro areas that saw ridership levels double between 2007 and 2012, including: Sacramento; Indianapolis; New Haven, Conn.; Little Rock; Provo, Utah; Greensboro, N.C.; San Jose; Milwaukee; San Francisco; St. Louis; and Bridgeport, Conn.
Only six metro areas experienced ridership declines between 1997 and 2012: Worcester, Mass.; Denver; Cincinnati; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Greenville, S.C. Among those six areas, Worcester and Denver were the only metros to lose more than 20 percent of their ridership with losses of 43.2 percent and 20.8 percent, respectively.
Brookings surmised that the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas are primarily behind the 55 percent national uptick in Amtrak ridership.
According to the report, Amtrak now carries more than 31 million riders annually, an all-time high. The 55 percent five-year increase in ridership represented faster growth than other major travel modes, said the report.
Routes less than 400 miles, like the route between Boston, New York and Washington DC, carry 83 percent of all Amtrak passengers, said the report.
“States have now formalized relationships with Amtrak to upgrade tracks, operate routes and redevelop stations,” said the report. “The result is a new federalist partnership where Amtrak, the federal government and states share the responsibility for the network’s successes and failures.”