As travelers at New York airports see the familiar “canceled” notification on scheduling monitors, Amtrak officials expect these and other displaced voyagers to turn to a new form of travel in the coming weeks.
In response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and yesterday’s crash of American Airlines Flight 587, air travelers have increasingly opted to travel by train in recent months. As a result, Amtrak is preparing for increased passenger volume and has implemented safety measures to put riders at ease.
Amtrak President and CEO George Warrington said before a Senate transportation subcommittee last month that figures from early October indicate that business on Amtrak’s Acela Express is up as much as 45 percent. He added that Amtrak’s business nationally was up 10 to 15 percent, and long-distance travel was up 12 percent.
In light of Monday’s plane crash in Queens, N.Y., Amtrak is bracing itself for an even bigger surge in ridership. As of Monday, the railroad company was running regular service in and out of New York. To make plans easier for displaced travelers, Amtrak has started exchanging plane tickets for rail tickets.
A press release distributed Monday afternoon said Amtrak is “prepared to add seats to existing trains to assist displaced travelers” as the need may arise. Officials hope the recent delivery of eight new Acela Express trains, which will offer service between Boston and Washington, D.C., will also help meet the demand created by the recent air travel safety scares. But Amtrak spokeswoman Kajal Jhaveri said the new trains were not purchased as a response to increased travel demands following the Sept. 11 attacks.
New Haven’s Union Station is a stop on the Boston to Washington, D.C., route. Officials at the station were unavailable for comment Monday.
Despite the new initiatives, Amtrak has not increased its prices since Sept. 11 and has no plans to do so in the near future.
To make its own passengers feel more at ease, Amtrak has implemented new security measures.
“We’ve been on high security alert since Sept. 11,” Jhaveri said. “The Amtrak Police Department has been monitoring and inspecting tunnels, looking for any unusual activity.”
Jhaveri added that individual train cars and tracks were also being inspected.
Travelers must now present photo ID and answer security questions to purchase Amtrak tickets. They also face questioning when checking baggage.
Warrington said before the Senate subcommittee that the company intends to “consult with [its] colleagues, study every angle, and take every appropriate measure to counter threats to [passenger] security and safety.”