Amtrak touts ridership growth as Congress weighs budget

Amtrak is touting an increase in ridership on its trains in fiscal 2014 as lawmakers are debating a funding measure for the company. 

Amtrak said Monday that it carried 30.9 million in the fiscal year that ended in September, which the company said was an increase of 0.2 percent over the same period for 2013. 

Amtrak Board of Directors Chairman Tony Coscia said the ridership increase showed Congress should increase funding for passenger rail service in the U.S. 

“Amtrak is clearly selling a product that is very much in demand,” Coscia said in a statement.  

"Achieving strong ridership and revenue despite the challenges with aging infrastructure and freight rail congestion demonstrates Amtrak's commitment to improving its financial and operating performance, and is a credit to Amtrak's management and staff,” he continued. “It is now time to leverage Amtrak's successes in increasing ridership and improving performance by making much-needed investments in our nation's passenger rail system." 

Amtrak has traditionally received about $1 billion per year for a combination of operations and construction from the federal government since its inception in 1971.

Lawmakers in the House unveiled a measure earlier that would maintain most of the company’s operation budget, but cut Amtrak’s authorization for construction projects by 40 percent. 

Amtrak President Joe Boardman said the ridership figures released on Monday showed that congressional spending on rail construction should be increased, not cut. 

"As more and more people choose Amtrak for their travel needs, investments must be made in the tracks, tunnels, bridges and other infrastructure used by intercity passenger trains particularly on the Northeast Corridor and in Chicago," Boardman said in a statement. "Otherwise, we face a future with increased infrastructure-related service disruptions and delays that will hurt local and regional economies and drive passengers away."