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Brookings Institution Press: A New Alignment: Strengthening America's Commitment to Passenger Rail

Authors: Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, Adie Tomer, and Joseph Kane
March 1, 2013


Intermetropolitan passenger rail is a vital component of the country's national transportation network. Amtrak carried over 31.2 million passengers in 2012, making it the fastest-growing domestic transportation mode over the last fifteen years.

American passenger rail is in the midst of a renaissance. Ridership on Amtrak—the primary U.S. carrier—is now at record levels and growing fast. This research shows that the country's 100 largest metropolitan areas are primarily behind this trend, especially ten major metros responsible for nearly two-thirds of total ridership.

Driving the connection between these metropolitan areas are short-distance corridors, or routes traveling less than 400 miles, that carry 83 percent of all Amtrak passengers. States now have formalized relationships with Amtrak to upgrade tracks, operate routes, and redevelop stations. The result is a new federalist partnership where Amtrak, the federal government, and states share responsibility for the network's successes and failures.

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