The Case for Passenger Rail

Improving Virginia’s transportation system is going to continue to be a major need for many years to come, and enhancing our rail network is a vital part of those improvements. Every day, thousands of Virginians ride our Amtrak Regionals to Washington, New York, or Boston because they offer them an opportunity to get out of traffic and be productive while they travel. 

The opportunity is greater than just getting people off the roads. It is about the Regional Corridor Mapsability to create economic opportunities for all Virginians by offering improved connections to destinations along the Northeast Corridor. North of Washington, the same seat that a passenger sits down in when they got on at Norfolk, Newport News, Lynchburg, or Richmond reaches speeds upwards of 125 mph. In the Commonwealth, our Regionals have the ability to reach 110 mph, but cannot due to infrastructure limitations. Further, there is the ability to expand service beyond the six Regional trains that serve the Commonwealth today. Every day in Washington, 18 Regional trains stop at Union Station and never cross the Potomac River. That is a lot of service that could one day serve the communities of Virginia. 

The goal is simple. We need to invest in our rail infrastructure to improve and expand our Amtrak Regional service to connect our citizens to destinations along the east coast in a reliable, efficient, and effective manner.  

Connecting a changing Commonwealth

  • Virginia’s population grew 36.9% between 1990 and 2017 with 84.2% of new residents are moving into Virginia’s Urban Crescent.
  • Since 1990, Virginia’s highway system has grown 27.8% while vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on our highways grew 88.3%.  i95
  • Flights at Virginia’s major airports have decreased 30.8% since 1990, while passenger per flight has increased 187.1%.
  • The price of gas has increased 99.5% since 2000 and the IRS mileage reimbursement rate has grown 67.7% since then.
  • In 2015, Virginia Urban Crescent commuters wasted 53 hours and $1,026 annually due to traffic congestion.
  • 26% of Virginia’s Millennials doesn't have a driver's license.

The change is increasing

  • By 2045, Virginia’s population will increase by another 24.3% resulting in another 1.9 million vehicles on our roadways.
  • This will increase traffic on our highways by nearly 40% over the next two decades.

Why Passenger Rail in Virginia is Beneficial: 

Virginia’s Amtrak Regional trains connect (2017): amtrak passengers

  • 81.2% of Virginians and 84.9% of the Commonwealth’s jobs and economy.
  • 88.8% of Virginia’s college students and 50 institutions of higher education. 
  • 30+ military installations and 8% of our nation’s armed forces.    
  • Our Amtrak trains use 32% less fuel per passenger mile (PPM) than driving and 26% less fuel PPM than flying.

Our Amtrak trains make a difference (2017):

  • Removed 568 million potential passenger miles off our roads.
  • Reduced fuel consumption by 10.5 million gallons.
  • Eliminated the burning of 106,000 metric tons of CO2.
  • Generated nearly $1.1 billion in economic benefits including $207 million in tourism spending.
  • Created or sustained over 11,000 jobs.
  • Handled over 1.5 million trips in 2017.

Our trains are doing well:

  • Ridership on our Amtrak trains has grown 101% since 2003.Amtrak ridership growth in VA 2003 to 2017
  • Our Amtrak Regionals ran 73.5% percent on-time in 2018. 
  • They made a profit of $17.51 per passenger in 2018. 
  • Virginia has 4 of the top 75 largest (out of 500+) stations by passenger volume in Amtrak's system. They are: Alexandria, Charlottesville, Lorton, Staples Mill.
  • Virginia had 4 of the top 5 most successful Regional corridors in Amtrak’s network for FY 2018 (out of 30): 
    1. Roanoke/Piedmont Regional Corridor
    2. Newport News Regional Corridor
    4. Richmond Regional Corridor
    5. Norfolk Regional Corridor

Enhanced and high-speed passenger rail will help:

  • If the DC-Richmond-Hampton Roads high speed rail corridor was already built, rail travelers in VA would've saved over 947,000+ hours in 2017.
  • Allow for the expansion of service to Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk, North Carolina as well as Christiansburg, Roanoke, and Lynchburg.
  • Reduce trip times by up-to 35%.
  • Increase reliability to over 90%.
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