This editorial appeared in The Fresno Bee.
Amtrak ridership soared in the Valley during the summer, when gas prices hit record highs. Now the question is whether that's a one-shot thing, destined to fade as fuel prices fall, or does it represent a more fundamental change in transportation choices?
Ridership on the Valley trains, the San Joaquins, was up 32% in July, compared with July 2007. In all, nearly 1 million riders took the San Joaquins last year, part of the 5.5 million passengers statewide. The Valley route is the sixth-most heavily traveled rail corridor in the country.
Similar results were reported nationwide. Amtrak served a record 28.7 million riders in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, an increase of 11% over the previous year. National ridership has increased for six straight years.
It isn't just gasoline prices that persuade people to take the train. Increasing highway congestion and the rising cost and inconvenience of air travel also make train travel relatively less expensive and more comfortable.
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