What’s bad news for motorists at the gas pump is excellent news for Missouri’s AMTRAK trains that have been struggling with sagging ridership for months. AMTRAK ridership in Missouri had been declining because of nagging on-time problems on the Kansas City to St. Louis trains.
But as fuel prices have escalated this spring, ridership has taken off. The state transportation department’s Rod Massman says ridership increased by 15 percent in April…and by 80 percent in May, even with continued scheduling issues. He says, "That kind of an increase pretty much can only be explained by the increase in gas prices."
He’s waiting for the June ridership numbers. Even if they continue the trend , he thinks total ridership for the just-finished fiscal year will be about the same as the last year because of declines earlier. And for the next year? "If April and May are any indication….we could have a banner year in 2008 and beyond," he says.
He thinks ridership will keep increasing if fuel costs stay up and as track improvements are made that improve on-time performance.