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Transportation

Late Trains Aren't Amtrak's Biggest Problem

A new analysis points to an even bigger impediment to ridership.
relates to Late Trains Aren't Amtrak's Biggest Problem
AP Photo/Molly Riley

Amtrak has broken lots of ridership records lately, and it’s especially popular relative to air travel in the Northeast Corridor. But America’s train service recently announced that passenger trips fell (if only slightly) in 2015, and that revenue was a bit down, too. It’s dangerous to draw too many lessons from a single year, especially one that involved a terrible wreck, but there are two larger trends working strongly to Amtrak’s disadvantage.

The most obvious culprit is on-time performance. Amtrak has struggled with late train since a 2013 court decision ended the track priority it was granted by Congress over freight operators in the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA). The Supreme Court remanded that decision last year in Amtrak’s favor, but the updated ruling isn’t expected for quite some time, and until then many passenger trains will continue to wait for cargo hauls.