Virginia sees record train ridership as passenger rail expands

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia is seeing a record number of residents riding the rails amid increased investment in Amtrak and other passenger services.

The state operates four state-supported routes that connect Roanoke, Richmond, Norfolk and Newport News to DC and points North. Over the past two years, the state has expanded those routes, adding new trains to increase capacity, as well as renovating stations along the routes.

The Virginia Passenger Rail authority’s new report, compares ridership in January 2023 to data from last January and January 2020, before COVID shut down most of Amtrak’s services. The report shows strong growth in all four routes compared to last year. Ridership on all four lines more than doubled.

(Source: Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA))

But growth compared to pre-pandemic levels was more measured, reflecting a long recovery in services bolstered by a $3.7 billion investment under former Governor Ralph Northam.

(Source: Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA))

The report also found that in 2022, Virginia broke the previous record for annual ridership with 1,021,452 trips. While the Roanoke route exclusively serves the Shenandoah Valley, the Newport News and Norfolk routes both currently serve Richmond’s Staples Mill Station, with the Newport News route also stopping at the historic Main Street Station in Shockoe Bottom.

“The strength of these January ridership numbers – during what is usually a slow travel month – shows that demand for rail service across the Commonwealth continues to grow,” said DJ Stadtler, Executive Director of VPRA.

That’s part of the reason Richmond’s dedicated route departing from Main Street sees lower ridership than the commonwealth’s other rail lines.

The VPRA has also announced plans to expand passenger service by opening a rail line South to North Carolina and an East-West line that would connect the capital city to Charlottesville and Clifton Forge.

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