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Vermont Amtrak Costs Going Up

Amtrak’s northbound Vermonter leaves Washington D.C.’s Union Station shortly after 8 in the morning.  For the first several hours the view from the window provides a fascinating study of the sheer volume and variety of litter and industrial detritus that lies behind urban factory yards and warehouses.

Eventually blight gives way to suburban back yards until about eight hours after leaving D.C., the train crosses into Vermont.  Rivers, wooded hillsides and villages pass by as it makes its way to St. Albans.  These bucolic scenes are what draw visitors to Vermont.  The visitors and the dollars they spend are what the state hopes justifies the $7.6 million dollars Vermont is budgeting to keep Amtrak running after October 1. The figure represents a $3.1 million increase over the current state subsidy.  

Vermont isn’t the only state providing financial support for Amtrak, but it’s about to get a lot more company.  As this New York Times story explains, state governments everywhere are now going to have to foot part of the bill if they want to keep their passenger train service. 

Massachusetts and Connecticut will begin to contributing to the cost of the Vermonter sometime after October 1, and the state is current working on an agreement with New York to share the cost of operating Amtrak's Ethan Allen which operates between Rutland and New York City.

This Brookings Institute interactive shows ridership and the overall cost of operating each of Amtrak’s passenger lines.

The Brookings data shows ridership decreasing on the Vermonter in 2012, but as usual there’s more than one way to slice a pie chart.  The numbers in recent years actually show an upward trend.  According to the state, ridership is up from 50,000+ in fiscal 2006 to more than 80,000 in fiscal 2012.

The Ethan Allen carried more than 54,000 passengers in fiscal 2012 – its highest number in recent years.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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