Intercity rail services in the United States – statistics & facts

Intercity rail services are typically express passenger train services covering much longer distances than commuter or regional trains. With growing rail passenger traffic in the United States, annual passenger-kilometers for passenger rail services generally surpass 25 billion. Since early 2020, the number of rail passengers in the United States has dropped significantly due to the impact of the global pandemic.

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U.S. passenger rail: then and now

Prior to the late 1900s, there was a dense system of intercity railways in the United States, which experienced a huge decrease after the decline of passenger railroad in North America in the 1960s. Today, the capital investment in passenger/transit railroad infrastructure and rail equipment is starting to experience a steady rise. The system is currently operated by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, popularly referred to as “Amtrak.” Amtrak operates across the United States with the exception of Alaska, where Alaska Railroad is in operation.

Key players

Founded in 1971, Amtrak is government-owned and funded but operated and managed as a for-profit corporation. The number of passengers who travel aboard Amtrak’s railcars typically amount to over 30 million passengers per year. The number of passengers traveling aboard Amtrak’s long-distance railcars usually exceeds four million passengers. Amtrak’s railcar fleet comprises over 1,300 passenger cars. Amtrak is currently headquartered at Union Station in Washington, D.C., although its leading passenger station is New York’s Penn Station.

Alaska Railroad is a Class II railroad, owned by the state of Alaska, which carries both freight and passengers throughout its system. The routes operated by Alaska Railroad's scheduled services include: Denali Star, Coastal Classic, Grandview Cruise, as well as Glacier Discovery. In 2019, around 522,000 passengers traveled aboard Alaska Railroad's railcars.

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Intercity rail services in the United States

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Alaska Railroad

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