If you've been on an Amtrak train lately with crappy snacks, non-working power outlets, and faulty wifi, you might not agree with the claim that "American passenger rail is in the midst of a renaissance." But that's the word from the folks at the Brookings Institution, which has released a new report detailing how Amtrak is "well-positioned for the future" after seeing massive growth over the last 15 years. Growth in ridership, that is, not in service.
"Ridership grew by 55 percent since 1997 and is now at record levels, with over 31 million travelers annually," according to Brookings. "That's faster than other travel modes like aviation and far outpaces the growth in population and economic output during that time." The study also found that 100 of the country's biggest metro areas are responsible for almost 90 percent of Amtrak's ridership, with 10 of those making up almost two-thirds of it.
Brookings has a sweet interactive map with data about Amtrak routes nationwide, with a focus on some of those most train-crazy big cities, and a look at which are the cheapest and most expensive rides in terms of operating costs. Here's a static version:
Compare, though, Brookings' map to this map showing how much the U.S. passenger rail network has shrunk since 1962, and that "renaissance" looks a little less golden.