More in California riding Amtrak

With gasoline prices spiking in mid-summer, ridership on the Amtrak San Joaquins and other California intercity trains hit a record in the year ending Sept. 30, Caltrans officials announced Monday.

A total of 949,611 passengers rode the San Joaquins last year. Ridership in July was 32% higher than the same month in 2007. The route from Bakersfield to Oakland and Sacramento is the sixth-busiest Amtrak line nationwide.

The announcement came six days after Californians narrowly approved a $9.95 billion bond issue, Proposition 1A, which provides initial funding for a planned high-speed train system linking the state's major cities. If built, the new trains have the potential to further boost traffic on other rail lines, said Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham. "Once this thing gets off the ground, all rail in California will benefit."

Elsewhere in the state, the Capitol Corridor line from Auburn to San Jose carried 1.7 million riders, an increase of 16.8% over the previous 12-month period. That line is Amtrak's third busiest. Second busiest is the Pacific Surfliner from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, which carried 2.9 million. In all, 5.5 million people rode Amtrak's California trains last year.

In a prepared statement, Caltrans Director Will Kempton said train travel provides "a welcome alternative to a dependence on gas prices, relieves congested freeways, and improves our air quality in comparison to auto and air travel."

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