Northwest region's Amtrak routes setting records

More folks are taking the train in the Northwest, according to Amtrak. Amtrak's Cascades service saw a 16.7 percent rise in ridership in the last six months - the largest increase in ridership of any train route in the country.

The Cascades service stops in Tacoma. It runs between Vancouver, B.C., and Eugene, Ore.

From October to March, 384,692 passengers rode Amtrak Cascades trains, compared with 329,616 in the same period in fiscal year 2009.

That compares with an average 4.1 percent increase for all of Amtrak’s short-distance trains and a 5.2 percent increase for the national rail passenger corporation’s long-distance trains.

Overall, Amtrak posted a 4.3 percent increase on all its routes, a pace that will set a record for train patronage if it continues through the summer.

The two long-distance trains that serve the Northwest — the Empire Builder between Seattle, Portland and Chicago, and the Coast Starlight between Seattle and Los Angeles — showed passenger traffic increases over the same period in fiscal year 2009. The Empire Builder, the nation’s most popular long-distance train in the first six months of this fiscal year, posted a 3.3 percent traffic increase. The Coast Starlight, Amtrak’s third most popular long-distance train in the first half of this year, showed a 7 percent jump in passenger traffic.

Cascades has four daily roundtrips between Portland and Seattle, with service between Bellingham and Portland, via Seattle. There’s also service between Eugene and Seattle, via Portland; and between Portland/Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

Meanwhile, freight railroads also reported more traffic. In March, U.S. railroads reported 6.9 percent railcar loading increase in March this year over March last year.

On average, railroads handled 288,793 railcars a week in March, the most since November 2008.