Amtrak ridership climbs 55% from 1997-2012

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Amtrak's ridership increased 55 percent from 1997 to 2012, and much of that growth was driven by the nation's 100 largest metro areas, according to a report by the Brookings Institution. Major cities served by state-supported passenger train corridors in California, Washington, Missouri, Illinois, Pennsylvania and North Carolina posted large ridership gains during those 15 years, McClatchy News reported.

In Washington state, the Cascade Corridor trains from Portland to Vancouver, B.C. accounted for a nearly 60 percent increase in ridership in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area. "Simply put, short-distance routes are the engines of Amtrak ridership," said the report by the center-left research group.

Yet Amtrak, which always has required a federal operating subsidy since its inception in 1971, faces automatic spending cuts and ongoing efforts to reduce or eliminate federal support.