NC Intercity Passenger Rail Ridership Keeps Growing

After reporting record breaking ridership in 2022, NC By Train – an intercity passenger rail service operated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation – set another ridership record during the first quarter of 2023.

[Above photo by the NCDOT]

​The NCDOT said NC By Train ridership January, February and March all broke monthly records and, for the quarter as whole, ridership witnessed a more than a 30 percent increase over 2019 pre-pandemic first quarter levels. The rail service witnessed similar passenger upticks in September 2022 and October 2022.

Photo by NCDOT

“Last year we had the highest ridership that we’ve ever had in our 32-year history of providing intercity railroad service here in North Carolina,” said Jason Orthner, NCDOT’s rail division director, in a statement. “We are starting out very well for another record year for ridership on NC By Train.”

NCDOT said some of the advantages of its NC By Train service include large seats, charging outlets at each seat, and free WiFi.

NC By Train also offers a variety of everyday discounts for children, students, active military personnel, veterans and seniors and Share Fare, which allows groups of up to eight people to save money with each additional ticket that is purchased.

Photo by the NCDOT

The agency noted that NC by Train – in operation since 1990 – provides multiple trains throughout the day between Raleigh and Charlotte with stops in the cities of Cary, Durham, Burlington, Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury, and Kannapolis, as well as daily service connecting Charlotte, Raleigh, and New York via the Carolinian.

To meet the increasing demand, NC By Train launched a fourth daily round trip between Raleigh and Charlotte in 2018, making passenger rail even more convenient for travelers seeking additional transportation options.

Amtrak’s Roger Harris. Photo by AASHTO.

Roger Harris, president of Amtrak, believes passenger rail service in the United States is poised to greatly expand – especially in terms of long-distance routes – due in no small part to funding from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA enacted in November 2021 and via its partnerships with state departments of transportation.

“As we stand here today, we are entering a much more exciting time for Amtrak and for passenger rail,” he said during remarks at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Council on Rail Transportation 2023 Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., with Amtrak “seeing a lot of demand for leisure travel and auto train demand surpassing all of our expectations.”

Harris noted that, in 2022 Amtrak logged seven million new riders, which he called “an incredible marker for the growth of our business.”

However, he stressed that what is different going forward in light of the added funding from the IIJA is how its enhancing the partnerships Amtrak has with state transportation agencies.

“That’s where the real transformation is occurring,” Harris explained. “It is allowing us to open things up and think about new services.”

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