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Another Profitable Route

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  • Another Profitable Route

    Amtrak’s five-car train, the Downeaster, set new records for ridership and revenues in July, bringing the service just $280,000 shy of its revenue projections for the first year of operation.

    This month, the Downeaster will surpass its projection of $3.3 million in ticket sales with nearly four months to spare, said Nate Moulton, deputy director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

    Ridership numbers are tracking closer to projections, with 60 percent of the projected 320,000 passengers by July 31, according to the AP.

    “Ridership looks to be on pace to meet or exceed projections, as well. Obviously, we’re very pleased. There are people who said we’d never come close to that,” Moulton said August 20.

    Revenues have far outpaced expectations because the average ticket price has exceeded expectations. In July, the average ticket was $15.70, compared to the projection of $10 before the service began. That was because the majority of people riding the Downeaster travel the full length between Portland and Boston. Also, first-class seating for an extra $8 has been popular with riders.

    The Downeaster has continued to ply between Portland and Boston largely oblivious to problems afflicting Amtrak, which is suffering from money problems and equipment shortages elsewhere.

    In July, 29,683 passengers rode the Downeaster with ticket sales of $465,914. Both figures beat the previous best month of April, which was bolstered by school vacations in Maine and New Hampshire.

    The July numbers were given a boost by the addition of stops in Old Orchard Beach and in Woburn, Mass.

    The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority has made adjustments by adding another car to each four-car train to boost seating capacity from 216 to 276, and negotiating new arrival and departure times at Boston’s North Station. This fall, the rail authority hopes to begin running later departures on weekends from Portland and Boston, allowing people to stay longer in those cities before returning home, Moulton said.

    The Downeaster went into operation on Dec. 15 with four daily trips in each direction between Portland and Boston.