Top 10 Busiest Amtrak Routes

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A Northeast Regional train, Amtrak’s busiest route by far. Photo by Dan Malouff.

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A Southwest Chief train between La Junta and Trinidad. Photo by Loco Steve on flickr.

Rail use in America continues to climb ever higher. In July, Amtrak posted its busiest ridership month ever. But what are the busiest individual routes?

Let’s take a look. Here are the 10 highest ridership Amtrak routes, as of July, 2013:

Number 1: Northeast Regional (Boston, New York, Washington – regular)
July, 2013 ridership: 687,331

Number 2: Acela Express (Boston, New York, Washington – high speed)
July, 2013 ridership: 276,477

Number 3: Pacific Surfliner (Southern California)
July, 2013 ridership: 271,517

Number 4: Capitol Corridor (Northern California)
July, 2013 ridership: 140,533

Number 5: Keystone Service (NY to Harrisburg, PA)
July, 2013 ridership: 123,874

Number 6: San Joaquin (Central California)
July, 2013 ridership: 117,348

Number 7: Empire Service (Upstate New York)
July,2013 ridership: 99,801

Number 8: Cascades (Pacific Northwest)
July, 2013 ridership: 85,565

Number 9: Hiawatha (Chicago to Milwaukee)
July, 2013 ridership: 79,423

Number 10: Lincoln Service (Chicago to Saint Louis)
July, 2013 ridership: 66,461

Two routes run through Colorado. The California Zephyr, which stops in Denver, Fort Morgan, Fraser, Granby, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction on its route from Chicago to the San Francisco area, and the Southwest Chief, which cuts through southeastern Colorado on its route from Chicago to Los Angeles, stopping in Lamar, La Junta, and Trinidad. The Zephyr carried 39,591 passengers in FY 2013, making it Amtrak’s 18th busiest route overall, and 4th busiest long-distance route. The Chief carried 35,488, good for 22nd overall and 8th among the long-distance lines.

By | 2016-12-27T21:39:46+00:00 August 16, 2013|Categories: Infrastructure, Sustainability, Transit, Transportation|Tags: |8 Comments


  1. John D August 16, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    The problem is, the ridership numbers alone do not give a good idea on the performance of the route. For example what is the average ridership per train on those lines? What is the average load factor of those trains? How much revenue per train is earned? What is also interesting is that the number 3, 4, 6, and 8 corridors were largely where they are because of the states and often Amtrak often has been a hindrance to the success of those corridors.

  2. Joe August 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks for this, Dan!

    If you go to, specifically this:, it will explain why the Southwest Chief may likely bypass Colorado for the TX panhandle, leaving La Junta and Trinidad without this line that has served Colorado since the Chief began in 1937.

    Probably too much info, except for passenger train buffs, but here is this from Amarillo, TX newspaper article last May:

  3. Nathanael August 17, 2013 at 2:15 am

    You may notice a trend among the highly popular routes. They’re not extremely long, and they run multiple times per day.

    Ft. Collins to Denver to Colorado Springs could do quite well….

    • Dave Barnes August 19, 2013 at 10:07 am

      Let’s see.
      Drive your car to the rail station in Fort Collins. Park it. Maybe have to pay for parking.
      Spend $x to take the train to Colorado Springs. 2-3 hours.
      Arrive in Colorado Springs with no car. Take taxi or rent a car.


      Drive your car from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs.
      Same total transit time. Maybe less, due to train schedules.
      Marginal cost (not average cost) for car.

      Oh yes, the train will have lots of riders. Not!

      • Nathanael August 21, 2013 at 11:07 am

        OK, so maybe the car-crazy oil-worshippers in Colorado Springs wouldn’t take the train.

        People going between Denver and Fort Collins would take the train. Period. It would be faster than driving *and* more pleasant *and* cheaper, even marginally.

        Most people in Fort Collins, being clustered around the University, could walk to the train station; most of the rest could take the bus. Even more true going to Fort Collins, where the train station would be within walking distance of *every* attraction in Fort Collins.

        You’re just mouthing the same empty falsehoods which caused people to claim that nobody would take the train from New York to Albany, or from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, or from San Diego to Los Angeles. It’s just bullshit.

      • Larry August 21, 2013 at 6:18 pm

        You know, if I had to make a long front range trip on a regular basis, I would never take a car in lieu of the train. Driving a long distance at high speed can be very tiring. I used to drive from the DTC to Longmont and even hated that short of a drive. This is coming from someone who actually likes to drive. The thing is, if I’m on a train, I can read, do work, take a nap, watch the scenery, or just generally relax. I can’t do any of that in a car. Just a big waste of my time. In addition, I just might move to Ft. Collins to enjoy that environment a bit more.

      • Brennan Walter August 22, 2013 at 10:51 am

        Check out the New Mexico Rail Runner in Albuquerque. It’s a one hour trip from Santa Fe to downtown Albuquerque, and it turns out lots of people love the convenience the trains offer for their commute. You can sit back, plug in, and connect to wifi, turning that forty-five minute drive into an hour of productivity or relaxation – and it eliminates the stress of driving on the interstate.

        Plus, it helps drivers. Two hundred people on a train can be seen as two hundred people not driving!

      • John D August 22, 2013 at 9:22 pm

        Using your logic Mr. Barnes, no one would ride the Surfliner Corridor, the Cascades Corridor, the Capital Corridor, or any of the other highly successful rail routes.

Comments are closed.