Transport Trains

Where Americans Ride Amtrak for Work and Play

@SamShankman

May 27, 2014 4:00 pm

Skift Take

Although many Americans would scoff at the idea of taking a train instead of a plane on vacation, rail travel is making a comeback both for its views and the unique experience it provides travelers. Amtrak might now make its name as the digital detox of transportation.

— Samantha Shankman

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Loco Steve  / Flickr

Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder crosses the trestle over Two Medicine River in Montana. Loco Steve / Flickr


Amtrak‘s business and leisure ridership is split along the coasts with business travelers boosting the Northeast Corridor’s passengers to its second highest levels in 2013 and vacation-goers opting for long distance routes out west.

Amtrak had a record year for ridership in 2013 with 31.6 million passengers boarding trains across the country. More than a third of those passengers, 11.4 million riders, were on the Northeast Corridor. Although the high ridership resulted in record-high ticket revenues, it still isn’t enough to make the service profitable.

On the other side of the country, long distance routes, combined, had the best ridership in 20 years in 2013 with just 4.8 million passengers.

According to global rail travel and tours provider Vacations By Rail (VBR), most of those long-distance riders are travelers seeking a more romantic mode of movement this summer.

According to VBR’s survey of its 55+ customers, national parks and the west coast are the most popular destinations for rail vacations.

More than a third of rail travelers, 38 percent, intend to travel to National Parks, 23 percent plan to travel the California coast and 13 percent are interested in visiting the Pacific Northwest.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 12.26.02 PM

Popular routes to national parks include Chicago and Seattle to Glacier Park, Chicago and San Francisco to Yellow Stone and Yosemite, and Chicago and Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon.

Other top destinations for summer train travel include the Canadian Rockies, the Great Lakes, and of course Europe where a much faster and smoother rail system is in place.

According to the survey, fares for Amtrak sleeper cars are up 15 percent compared to 2011 matching an increase in demand. Eight days is considered the ideal length of a rail vacation.

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