NCDOT Intercity Rail Service Sets Passenger Record

The North Carolina Department of Transportation said that more people rode its intercity passenger rail service, known as “NC by Train,” in September than any previous month in that rail division’s 32-year history.

[Above photo by NCDOT]

NC by Train’s Carolinian and Piedmont rail lines – operated by Amtrak – handled 48,488 passengers in September, which marks an increase of 32 percent over the average pre-pandemic monthly ridership levels from 2014 to 2019.

Photo by NCDOT

“It’s great to see record ridership on North Carolina’s passenger rail,” noted Governor Roy Cooper (D) in a statement. “A strong and growing state needs efficient transportation options and it’s clear that more people are choosing NC by Train. We should continue to invest to connect our communities with high-quality passenger rail.”

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.

NCDOT is also planning to expand its passenger rail service along the S-Line; a high-performance passenger rail corridor under development between Raleigh and Richmond. That line will better connect rural and urban communities and increase passenger rail services with shorter travel times between North Carolina, Virginia and the Northeast, the agency noted.

Eric Boyette. Photo by NCDOT.

“Riding the train is an affordable, easy way to travel across the Piedmont,” noted Eric Boyette, NCDOT secretary. “If you don’t have access to a vehicle or you don’t want to worry about getting behind the wheel, you can remove the stress and take the train.”

State departments of transportation play a critical role in providing passenger rail service across the country.

For example, the conjunction with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Amtrak recently completed Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA-related improvements to the Westerly Rail Station in Westerly, RI.

Meanwhile, in conjunction with the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the New York State Department of Transportation, Amtrak is now selling Ethan Allen Express tickets for daily travel between Burlington and New York City that begins July 29 – a route that includes new stops in Vergennes and Middlebury, VT.

Amtrak’s Stephen Gardner. Photo by AASHTO.

In February, Stephen Gardner – Amtrak’s CEO – said that the national passenger railroad operator has “been able to create a national network together with tons of state support.”

Yet with new funding from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in November 2021, he said Amtrak seeks to “create new opportunities” for its state DOT partners.

“IIJA includes unprecedented investment support to grow [passenger] corridors and create new opportunities for Amtrak-state collaboration,” he explained in the luncheon keynote speech at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Council on Rail Transportation’s legislative meeting on in Washington, D.C.

“Now we need to build much greater scale with the investment dollars we’ve been given, addressing decades of underinvestment,” Gardner pointed out. “We also must find the best ways to enable your vision for corridor growth – so we want to be a better partner for planning.”

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