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Area Amtrak route posts fifth straight record year

By Richard Yeakley
Oct. 17, 2013 at 10 p.m.

The Amtrak route that runs through Longview posted its fifth annual ridership record in as many years and set a monthly ridership record in July.

Griff Hubbard, revenue manager for Amtrak's Texas Eagle route, said the route carried 340,081 passengers in fiscal year 2012-13, which began Oct. 1, 2012, and ended Sept. 30.

The volume was a 0.6 percent increase in ridership - about 2,000 passengers - and led to a 5.1 percent increase in revenue for the route as a whole. In July, the Texas Eagle posted a 39-year monthly record of 35,655 passengers.

"This train is really (in) real time putting Longview on the map," said Hubbard, who also serves as the product line manager for the route's East Texas stations. "(In July), 1,150 people per day passed by this sign that says Longview, Texas. That's a lot of publicity."

The route was second among 15 routes in revenue during the year and seventh in ridership.

The Longview station experienced what Hubbard said was the busiest year he could remember.

In fiscal year 2013, the Longview station was the boarding or de-boarding station for 41,305 passengers, making it the 182nd busiest of Amtrak's 532 U.S. stations.

That number equates to about 110 passengers using the station each day.

"Here is what is astounding to me. Longview, Texas beat Austin, which is 191st. ... It is the fourth-most patronized station in the state," Hubbard said.

Marshall's depot saw 10,555 passengers and was ranked 343th, while Mineola's station was ranked 387th with 7,213 passengers, Hubbard said.

Price and convenience may be a reason for the increases.

"I like the price. That and if you have a lot of baggage, you don't have to worry about what is in your bags or go through all the lines like at an airport," said Texas Eagle passenger Kelly Schaub, who left the train Thursday in Longview for a break as she traveled from San Antonio to Chicago.

Schaub said it was her first time to ride the train in 30 years, but it was nicer than she remembered.

The record numbers for the Texas Eagle in fiscal year 2012-13 corresponded with national records.

Railroad officials said the Amtrak system carried a record number of passengers in the year ending Sept. 30 despite Northeast service that was temporarily knocked out by Superstorm Sandy.

The nation's passenger railroad network carried 31.6 million riders in 2012-13. Amtrak's long-distance routes recorded their best ridership in 20 years with 4.8 million passengers.

Ridership for all of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington reached 11.4 million passengers, the second-best year for the corridor. That was despite service interruptions when Sandy slammed into New York, New Jersey and Connecticut this past October, flooding tunnels and tracks.

Ticket revenues also increased to a record $2.1 billion. Amtrak relies on federal subsidies for a small share of its operating expenses.

<em>- The Associated Press contributed to this report.</em>



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