VRPI President Meredith Richards'

Articles on Rail Public Policy

Published by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. 


Intercity Passenger Transportation: More Virginians Are Riding The Rails

Vol. 94 No. 1 May 2018



Introduction to Part One

Intercity passenger rail in America is riding the crest of renewed popular interest. More people are choosing to take the train over driving or flying than at any time in the past 50 years. Rail transportation has re-emerged as a viable alternative for millions of Americans who are seeking a fast, safe, comfortable, and affordable alternative to driving on congested and unsafe highways, or flying on crowded, uncomfortable, and frequently inhospitable commercial airplanes. A new generation of rail users has emerged as millennials migrate away from cars and suburbs towards urban lifestyles and multimodal transportation.1

Ridership has grown not only between states on Amtrak’s national passenger rail network, but also within individual states on the company’s state-supported train routes that provide regional passenger rail for millions of Americans. Due to its bipartisan leadership and geographic location, Virginia has emerged as one of Amtrak’s most successful state partners and is moving steadily toward developing a statewide network of passenger trains that will be within convenient reach of every Virginian. During the past year (FY2017), 1.6 million trips were taken on Amtrak in Virginia, with over 851,000 trips on Virginia’s own regional trains.2 In this, the first of a two-part series, we review the resurgence of Virginia’s intercity passenger rail service and investments being made for its future.



Fueling the Renaissance: Public Policy and Intercity Passenger Rail in Virginia

Vol. 94 No. 2 July 2018


Introduction to Part Two

Virginia has been a leader in a national revival of intercity passenger rail, but critical policy questions must be resolved if a decade of progress is to continue.

     A key to ongoing progress is the Commonwealth’s relationship with Amtrak, the nation’s public passenger rail carrier. Amtrak now operates three business lines of services defined by their location (Northeast Corridor routes), length (National Network long-distance routes) and funding source (State-supported, short-distance routes). Together they provided intercity transportation for 32 million passengers in FY2017.

     Virginia is one of 18 states that partners with Amtrak to provide funding, equipment, and infrastructure support for intrastate and interstate routes of 750 miles or less. The results in Virginia are impressive: restored intercity rail service to two of Virginia’s largest cities (Norfolk and Roanoke) and expanded Northeast Regional routes that have increased ridership by 75 percent since 2006.

     So where do we go from here?