Rail ridership rebounding
RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- More and more people are taking the train, and the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority says ridership set a record for January.
According to a release, 87,300 passengers used passenger trains in Virginia for the month, the highest January ridership numbers since Virginia launched its state-supported service in 2009.
The last record was set before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“The strength of these January ridership numbers, during what is usually a slow travel month, shows that demand for rail service across the Commonwealth continues to grow,” said DJ Stadtler, Executive Director of VPRA. “It also reveals that more and more travelers are looking for alternatives and will choose rail when the service is reliable, safe, and on time.”
When comparing January 2020 to January 2023, every major passenger rail route in the Commonwealth saw an increase in ridership, especially the one that travels between Norfolk and Washington, D.C. (Route 50).
Between the two years, total ridership increased by nearly 28 percent.
For Route 50, ridership increased by 62.5 percent, while the route that goes through Charlottesville (Route 46) went up by 35.7 percent.
The increases are even more dramatic when comparing 2022 and 2023, which VPRA says shows there is a strong rebound taking place in post-pandemic travel numbers.
January 2022 reported more than 33,700 passengers, so the increase to this year was 158.5 percent.
The route that connects Richmond and Washington, D.C. (Route 51) saw the largest increase jumping nearly 182 percent.
Route 47, which connects Newport News to D.C., reported an increase of nearly 163 percent.
Route 50 reported an increase of a little more than 160 percent, and Route 46 saw an increase of 144 percent.
The release says these dramatic increases are in part due to a decline in ridership caused by the COVID-19 Omicron variant in 2022.
VPRA also says January's numbers follow a strong year for Amtrak service in Virginia with more than one million passengers using all state-supported trains during 2022.
That set a record for yearly ridership, surpassing the previous record set in 2019.
There are eight daily roundtrips offering service at 17 stations along four corridors across Virginia with plans for more service expansions in the coming years.